The World of Hannah Heaton: The Diary of an Eighteenth-century New England Farm Woman

An ordinary eighteenth-century New England woman, Hannah Heaton left as her legacy an extraordinary piece of history. The diary of this unusually sensitive farm wife and mother spans a period of 40 years, from the Great Awakening through the Revolutionary War. Now published for the first time, Heaton's diary offers an unparalleled revelation of the inner life of a woman who was devoutly religious and intensely self-aware. Much of her diary records Heaton's spiritual struggles. She was converted during the Great Awakening and later separated from the established Congregational church. Pious by nature, she recalls her childhood fears of the Devil, who at night tempted her away from prayer and told her in a whisper to hang herself. Deeply concerned over her own salvation and that of those she loved, Heaton found comfort in the act of writing, feeling that such self-examination brought her closer to God. Spiritually isolated from her husband and children, and often at odds with her neighbors and church community, Heaton found solace in her journal, which was at times her only friend. She loved her husband deeply, but nonetheless regretted marrying a nonbeliever and yearned for him to become a true spiritual partner. He tolerated her religious convictions but occasionally grew frustrated, even hiding her spectacles so that she could not read the Bible. Heaton was a staunch patriot who carefully recorded her impressions of the Revolutionary War. Believing the fight for independence was part of God's plan, Heaton, who before the war had scarcely taken note of the political world around her, began to write at length about imperial policy and military engagements. As she wrote of these national struggles, however, she remained equally interested and absorbed in the intricate details of her own private life: her relationships with kinfolk and neighbors, her domestic struggles, and her personal experiences with disease and death. Heroic, self-reliant, lonely and alienated, Heaton lived intensely in a private world. Her unabridged diary, edited and annotated by Barbara E. Lacey, is an extraordinarily valuable source for scholars and students of colonial history, women's studies, and religion in America.