Indiana Magazine of History Image
Indiana Magazine of History Logo

A Visit to Aunt Louisa's


Purpose of Lesson: This lesson (1) introduces students to a primary document that describes a young girl's summer activities at her relative's Indiana farm in 1880 and (2) familiarizes students with the concept of a literary society and the process of journal keeping.

Objectives: At the end of this lesson, students should be able to:

  • Analyze a primary source document from the 1880s
  • Describe children's summer activities in rural Indiana in the 1880s
  • Explain the activities of a literary society
  • Identify a journal or diary and explain why people might keep one
  • Write a personal/journal diary entry

Correlation to Indiana Standards (for Fourth Grade Social Studies)

Social Studies

4.1.15 Using primary source and secondary source materials, generate questions, seek answers, and write brief comments about an event in Indiana history.

4.5.1 Identify ways that social groups influence individual behavior and responsibilities.

4.5.2 Identify the different types of social groups to which people belong and the functions these groups perform.


4.4.2 Select a focus, an organizational structure, and a point of view based upon purpose, audience, length, and format requirements for a piece of writing.

4.5.1 Write narratives (stories) that:

•  include ideas, observations, or memories of an event or experience.

•  provide a context to allow the reader to imagine the world of the event or experience.

•  use concrete sensory details.

4.7.1 Ask thoughtful questions and respond orally to relevant questions with appropriate elaboration.

4.7.11 Make narrative (story) presentations that:

•  relate ideas, observations, or memories about an event or experience.

•  provide a context that allows the listener to imagine the circumstances of the event or experience.

•  provide insight into why the selected event or experience should be of interest to the audience.

4.7.13 Deliver oral summaries of articles and books that contain the main ideas of the event or article and the most significant details.

Historical and Methodological Context for the Lesson:

This lesson itself does not need much broad historical context, as a general understanding of the summertime activities that children enjoy would seem somewhat universal across time and space. However, a few of the specific activities in this lesson should be identified and contextualized:

Literary Society:

a group formed to read, discuss (and sometimes write) books. These societies reflected the political and artistic climate of the regions in which they were located and were often formed around particular social or cultural commonalities (women, African-Americans, college students, children or adolescents). Within these societies, members would read a particular book in common and come together to discuss it. They might also meet to share and discuss individual members' favorite books (the specific activity undertaken by this lesson).

Journal keeping:

Writing in a journal (or a diary) allows people to document (narrate and analyze) the events and experiences of their lives, on a daily, weekly or yearly basis. In the late 19th century, journal keeping was a popular means of self expression among those who were literate.


Lesson Activities:

1. Read the following text aloud to students:

“…a day spent at Aunt Louisa's was one of our summer pleasures…. On the day planned for such an outing, our steady white mare, Jane, would be hitched to the surrey, and, after breakfast, served promptly at seven o'clock, for which on this day, even I, was in prompt attendance, my mother or eldest sister would take up the reins and Jane would start out at a brisk trot up and down hill for the twelve miles or more to the George McCulloch farm. Unless some misfortune befell us, we would arrive shortly before noon to sit down at a table groaning under its load of fried chicken, every vegetable in season, hot biscuits, jellies and preserves, sweet pickles and several kinds of sour pickles, along with berries, pie and cake for dessert. After this repast, we children would find our way to the big barn. If it was the haying season, we would go out to the meadow, where the men would swing us up on top of the loads of hay and let us ride back to the barn. While we went haying, our elders sat about in rocking chairs and talked and sewed or crocheted. Five o'clock found us on our way again in order to reach home before dark.” (excerpted from “Out at Aunt Louisa's” IMH 30, no. 1 (March 1934): 62-65.)

After reading the introduction, have students compare their visits to family or friends with the author's. (You may wish to make a comparison chart on the board.) Compare such things as:

a. The students' means of travel to visit their relative or friend [versus the author's travels by surrey]

b. The location (rural or urban) and type of dwelling (house, farm, apartment) the students visited [versus the author's rural farmhouse lodging]

d. The types of things the students ate during their visit [versus the author's description of her noon meal]

c. The types of activities the students engaged in during their visit [versus what the author did]

2. Read the following text aloud to the students:

…At Cousin Emma's suggestion, and with her help, (Cousin) Lulu and I kept journals. We did nothing wonderful or unusual nevertheless this visit has stood out in my memory as one of the happiest experiences of my childhood. Long ago my own diary disappeared, but the one kept by Lulu McCulloch during that wonderful week when she was only seven years old, I have in my hand.” (excerpted from “Out at Aunt Louisa's” Indiana Magazine of History 30, no. 1 (March 1934): 62-65.)

3. Have the students read aloud the following excerpts from the journal:

“April 15 th . 1880—It was 7:30 P.M. when Aunt Emma and Corinne came home. It was muddy, and the spring wagon got stuck in the mud so they had to walk up hill and the rest of the way home. Today was Friday and what did we do the first thing, when we got up and were dressed and had breakfast, we attended to our babies, because they were sick. Frank was mine, and Daisy was Corinne's….We sewed carpet rags, next we took our babies to ride and ate bread and butter and apples. This evening we had a literary society. I like the reading best and so did Corinne and Grandma.”


“Saturday, April 16 th . It was a real pretty day. Corinne took Daisy for a ride to the barn and every where. I went too, but didn't take Frank. We sewed carpet rags and played croquet. And it is fun to get money for sewing rags, but it is not a bit of fun to sew them. We colored eggs and it is Easter tomorrow. Purple and yellow ones, 13 eggs….”


“Thursday. We had a little girl's party. Fannie Clevenger came first in the morning and we played croquet and dolls in our playhous. After dinner Effie Wallick and Emma Paugh and Hattie Kirkpatric came at 3'oclock. We played and looked at picture books. We had our supper at 5 o'clock and had float and cake and rice. Corinne and I were at the end of the table and Aunt Emma waited on us. After supper some gypsy wagons came. They never begged a bit, but she had such pretty lace to sell. She said she made it herself but I don't believe it. They camped right above our house, and they stayed there and it rained too. The little girls went home at 6 P.M. Fannie and Hattie stayed and Hattie told us a story at childrens hour.”


1. After reading aloud the excerpts, you may wish to revisit a few of the specific entries and have students complete one or more of the following activities:Using the April 15 entry, discuss a literary society. Organize students into groups of four. Each student should be prepared to discuss their favorite book or a recently-read book. Use this worksheet to assist with the discussion.

2. Discuss with the students the popularity of journal keeping during the late 19 th century. Using the author's journal as a guide, have students write a journal entry that narrates the highlights of their activities over the previous 24 hours.

Optional Extended Lesson Activities:

Time and facilities permitting, other forms of assessment may be used for this lesson, drawing from the text of the source.

A. Using the April 16 journal entry, organize a game of croquet. You may wish to work with the physical education teacher to set up a game.

B. Drawing from the entire source narrative, assign students to create a picture book (6 to 8 pages), highlighting Corinne's visit to the farm. You may with to work with the art teacher to complete this project.

These extended activities correlate to the following Indiana Standards:

Visual Arts

4.7.2  Create artwork that communicates personal ideas and experiences.

4.7.3 Demonstrate ability to successfully generate a variety of symbols and select and refine a symbol that communicates the idea

4.9.2  Identify and control different media, techniques, and processes to effectively communicate ideas, experiences and stories.

Physical Education

4.7.1 Participate in physical activities that are enjoyable.

4.7.2  Interact with classmates and friends in physical activities.

4.7.3  Participate in new and challenging physical activities.