Wednesday, July 10th 1895

Papa is much beloved in my family. Everybody likes him and says he’s a very good man and a very good husband. I like hearing it but I’m always surprised at their just saying that papa’s a good husband and never saying that mama’s a good wife. Nevertheless, from the bottom of my heart I believe that only Our Lady could be better than mama.

I don’t think anyone could be a better wife to papa or a better mother to us than she is. With papa leading a miner’s life, most of the money he gets goes back into mining; there’s not much left over for the house. We complain about things sometimes, but never a peep from mama. She never says a word that might upset my father; she just keeps telling him: ‘Don’t be discouraged; to live is to suffer. God will help us.’ But I, being less patient, built castles in the air before I go to sleep, about being invisible and taking money from the rich and bringing it home. I’ve discovered it’s a good way to get to sleep.

When I see mama getting up at five in the morning, going out to the yard in all this cold, struggling with wet, green wood to start the kitchen fire to have our coffee and porridge ready by six, I feel so sorry I could die. She begins then and goes without stopping until evening, when we sit on the sofa in the parlor. I sit holding mama’s arm on one side and Luizinha’s on the other, to keep warm. Renato and Nhonho sit on the floor beside the stove, and mama tells stories of bygone days…But this pleasant time never lasts very long. At half-past eight mama goes back to the kitchen to struggle with green firewood and get our porridge.

And yet nobody ever says mama’s a good wife.

Sarah Gristwood, Recording Angels: The Secret World of Women’s Diaries (1988)


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