Seven Eggs Today: The Diaries of Mary Armstrong, 1859 and 1869


228 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88929-440-3
DDC 971.3'54102'092




Elisabeth Anne MacDonald-Murray is a private scholar, writing and
editing in Souris, Manitoba.


The increased scholarly interest in the everyday features of past lives,
and particularly of women’s lives, has led to a surge in the
publication and criticism of life writings—those personal journals,
diaries, and letters that have hitherto been tucked in drawers and hope
chests, considered to be of interest only to the immediate family of the
long-dead writer. Their very lack of historical import, and their focus
on the tedious trivia of everyday activities and personal relations, has
resulted in their failure to be recognized for their academic value, and
to their remaining in private hands. While the life writings of some
women of the wealthy upper classes have been published, their historical
import confirmed in their reference to significant personages and
events, the letters and diaries of middle-class women, with their homely
reports of household and family events and day-to-day social
interactions, have remained largely unpublished.

This explains the literary and historical significance of Seven Eggs
Today. Jackson Armstrong’s publication of his
great-great-great-grandmother’s diaries from the years 1859 and 1869
provides a rare glimpse into the life of a middle-class woman living in
Victorian-era Toronto around the time of Canada’s Confederation.
Armstrong has done an excellent job editing the diaries. While the value
in such documents lies in their recital of everyday events (“two eggs
yesterday, three today”) and personal reflections (“Father is once
more himself”), nonetheless such mundane items can easily become
tedious and trite without some historical and personal context to frame
the narration. Armstrong provides a wealth of information concerning not
only Mary’s family background, and the history of the family, but also
relevant issues such as the importance of social position and status
within Victorian Canada, the role of women in the family and society,
and the impact of faith and religion in colonial society. Nonetheless,
it is Mary herself who holds the reader’s attention as she tells her
own story of life in the young colony in her own words, bringing to life
a bygone era and society.

This volume will be of interest not only to scholars, but also to
general readers who are interested in discovering a new perspective on a
historical period.


Armstrong, Mary., “Seven Eggs Today: The Diaries of Mary Armstrong, 1859 and 1869,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024,