This letter written by Anne to Aunt Bess gives a glimpse into family life and relationships in the Kaine family in 1865. Anne still hoped in vain for Aunt Bess to arrive in Canada. As many family members expressed, Anne wrote about how she misses her aunt and wants to see her. “I wish I could see you once more and we would find something to say, we would not be lonely for some time. I am in hopes every letter you send that you will say you are on your way but that news has not arrived yet.”

Page 1 Letter from Anne Fraser to Aunt Bess July 24, 1865
Page 2 Letter from Anne Fraser to Aunt Bess July 24, 1865

22 Kaine Letter  July 24, 1865 Transcribed from the original by Kerrin Churchill January 4, 2020

Anne Fraser to Aunt Bess from Morris, Ontario Canada to Freshford, Kilkenny, Ireland

Dear Aunt

I take up my pen to write a few lines to you. I would have written when Mary wrote but I did not know until it was away. I was sorry to here that you were not well when you wrote but I hope by this time you are all better. You must feel very lonely now to be living all alone. I wish I could see you once more and we would find something to say, we would not be lonely for some time. I am in hopes every letter you send that you will say you are on your way but that news has not arrived yet. we would all be glad to see you, and poor Mary I feel sorry for her I wish she had to come out with us and I would not be afraid but she could do better then she has done. I loved Mary as a sister and I am sorry she is treated so bad. I would write to her but I do not know what I would to her in her present state. If she was here I am sure she could make out her living but what about her Children, you did not say anything about them. Poor thing, may the Lord comfort her. I do not know what I would do if I had an unkind husband but thank god I have a kind one, I will say no more about that subject at present. I pity poor Mary and her Mother. Give my love to Mary and to Aunt Mary and tell Mary to write to me and then I will write to her. Well Aunt I am much obliged to you for not forgetting Lissy. She sends her Aunt Bess a kiss for sending her a new dress. She has got ten dresses given to her since she was born so you see I had not to buy many for her. We are all well here at present. Father has not got any thing to do at his traid since he went to Bluevale. They are living near Eliza. Her husbands name is Duncan Stewart. He is a very kind man. Father gets very good health but mother is troubled a great deal with rheumatism. we have very nice weather this summer not near as warm as we were used to have it and we have very good crops of every kind. Thank God for all his goodness to us. I believe I have no more to say but write soon and send me all the news. James joins with me in sending our love to you. 

No more at present from your fond niece Anne Fraser

Tell Marry not to forget writing

In this letter, Anne expressed many of her thoughts regarding a relative, Mary, and the bad marriage that Mary was experiencing. It remains unclear how Mary is related to the rest of the family however the answers to that mystery will need to wait until I can travel to Ireland and look more into the church records of births and marriages etc. I did find one record online that documents the marriage of a Mary Kaine in Freshford, Ireland in 1854. Not sure if this is the same Mary.

It is interesting that in various Kaine letters, a good husband is often described “kind”. Someone who is kind behaves in a gentle, caring and helpful way towards other people. That quality was very important in Victorian times when women had very few rights of their own and were dependent on their husbands.

Coverture (sometimes spelled couverture) was a legal doctrine in common law whereby, upon marriage, a woman’s legal rights and obligations were subsumed by those of her husband, in accordance with the wife’s legal status of feme covert. An unmarried woman, or feme sole, had the right to own property and make contracts in her own name. Coverture arises from the legal fiction that a husband and wife are one person.

Women in Canada have more rights in the present day however the changes were a long time coming!

On to a more lighthearted subject…Anne was very happy that her daughter, Lissy who was only three years old had been given ten dresses in her lifetime. Even Aunt Bess sent her a dress from Ireland. Fabric was not easy to come by in the pioneer world so Lissy was indeed a lucky young lass!

5 thoughts on “Letter #22 July 24, 1865: Lissy Has Ten Dresses

  1. Yes indeed. It’s a bit confusing to have so many Mary in your family. It sounds to me that there is one in Ontario mentioned at the beginning of the letter (she could have written at the same time) ; one in Ireland which is unhappily married and who couldn’t come to Canada and a second older one refered too as Aunt Mary also in Ireland. Am I right in my reading?
    I agree with you that kindness in a man is an important quality. It’s still very valued nowaday especially in Canada. Thanks for the research about the terms “feme covert” and “feme sole” which seems to come from the French “femme seule” which means a woman alone. I learned something 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Kerrin. This letter is a good illustration of how limited the rights of women were in the 19th century and you are right to say that change was slow. We have come a long way since then, but with further to go!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting to see the actual marriage certificate and the way Mary Kaine and her husband were both identified by their fathers’ names and occupation. And interesting research on the rights of single women (permitted to own property) as different from those of married women and the rationale–that husband and wife were considered to be one person. A first step in viewing women as persons under the law!

    Liked by 1 person

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