I appreciate that Laura Hamilton Murray’s journaling is typified by how she seemed not only aware of herself but also present for what she was experiencing–at least enough to write it down. Did she think anyone would be reading her journals 200+ years later? Probably not. And yet, her feelings resonate with me today because she immortalized them through documentation.
After her baby was born Laura Hamilton Murray experienced issues with her breasts. It’s not clear the medical title for her agony but her entries detail the dilige
I read entries like this in Laura Hamilton Murray’s journal and, though I’m empathetic to her pain, I am also proud to read of a Black woman who was able to have agency over her body; to feel and “own” her pain, and then to be comforted in it. Laura had a (privileged) experience not many Black women in 1885 would have: having a sensate body and soul which was able to freely feel joy, pain, birth, sadness, exhaustion, etc. and being literate so as to document it along the way.
Many of Laura’s journal entries are laced with little moments of weighty introspect; examples of what I call “journaling the truth to ones self”. Journaling moments such as these are raw, tough, and gutsy spaces. Laura enters these spaces to pen her thoughts about her body’s physical changes, questioning her faith, preparing for motherhood, and even pondering death.
Encountering such entries I think of how necessary it is that we don’t censor ourselves from approaching subjects that are tough for us to work through. Such journeys cultivate a mind that can handle substance in other areas–especially a mind necessary to (re)write history.
One particular of Laura's entries from October 10, 1885 (above, left) is particularly powerful to me. It reminds me of how, in our plebeian experiences as teastained women, we continually make the decision to “keep on keeping on” even at the expense of deeply reflecting on what our endurance means to us. I’m not trying to read too deeply into this, but it’s one of the reasons why these sentences in Laura’s journal stuck out to me so much.
Honestly, it’s interesting that she went from pondering “Oh the changes” to quickly mentioning hurrying through work. She did’t talk about the changes. She didn’t narrate through the mental shifts she felt she’d experienced. This entry feels like a moment of tension that she perhaps felt too apprehensive to touch upon.
Don’t suffer from not validating yourself. Don’t be one who doesn’t dance with your inner tensions to explore what you’ve seen and done, even if it’s reflecting over a year. There’s always richness to what you’ve been through. Document it.
Laura's encouraging insights only exist because she gathered her strength to write them all down. Thank you, Laura Hamilton Murray.
Where are OUR Journals? is an ongoing project unearthing the writings
of teastained women's journals.