J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Spinning bee in Chelmsford, 21 May

The annual spinning bee at the Garrison House in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, will take place on Sunday, 21 May, from 1:00 to 5:00. (As with everything in Massachusetts right now, weather permitting.) Judy Cataldo has posted photos of past bees here, and I believe the photo accompanying this notice came from the webpage of an even earlier event.

In honor of this year's spinners, I quote a description of a spinning bee that Boston-born playwright, novelist, and judge Royall Tyler (1757-1826) wrote in his manuscript The Bay-Boy, published first in The Prose of Royall Tyler (Vermont Historical Society, 1972):

In due season on some appointed day might be seen groups of young maidens accompanied by their younger brothers bearing on their shoulders spinning wheels great and small, the distaffs of the latter well replenished with well hatchetted flax, and with hand reels and clock reels and all other appurtenances of the spinning bee. So in every apartment of the house was heard the buzz of the small and the mimic thunder of the great wheel, every damsel animated with the design of compleating her skein or run in time to present it to madam before supper.

Toward sunset appeared the matrons of the parish, everyone bearing a basket of crockery including various delicacies for the table, not omitting the nut cakes, cymbals which bear a homelier name, the apple and plum tart, custards, whitpot and the indispensable pumpkin pie. Suddenly the ample table was spread, covered with a fair profusion of rural dainties, but ere the repast began the fair spinners presented madam with the produce of their labors and while receiving from her the tribute of well earned praise the delighted mothers stood by eyeing with complacency the manufacture of their daughters which gave such certain presage that they in their day would be fitted to fulfill the duties of good wives. The repast was then eaten with abundance of kind criticism on the production of the bee, while each of the young women as they retired from the table crossed her hands upon her apron string and making a low curtsey gravely thanked madam for the goodly treat, and the knot of provident matrons in a snug corner in committee were discussing ways and means to have the yarn bucked, woven, bleached, and prepared for family use.

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