When in 1800 Harriet Chew, one of 14 children of Benjamin Chew, the chief justice of Pennsylvania, married Charles Carroll Jr., only son of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, she became part of a family of prolific letter writers. And, until now, it was through this correspondence written by others that historians have come to know the wife of the builder of Homewood.
Three of Harriet's daybooks dating from 1787 to 1827 have recently been given to Homewood House Museum by a descendant of the couple, providing a glimpse of this mysterious woman.
"At last, we have a chance to meet Harriet and to hear her in her own words," says Homewood's curator, Catherine Rogers Arthur, of this important gift.
The daybooks, which will be on display at Homewood through April 30, record her education and provide a document of what a girl would have studied at the turn of the 19th century. Subjects include history, mathematics and economics. The third volume, written in 1822 when she was an adult, contains much original poetry as well as copies of poems by others.
Harriet's beautiful, flowing script is highlighted with doodles and practice in lettering her name in different styles, just the way the notebooks of young women today are often decorated.
Born in 1775, Harriet Chew Carroll died in 1861. Construction of Homewood House began in 1801.