Eadie’s autograph book features sixty entries and seventy-five people are mentioned.
More than a third of items were of verses that were often adorned by pen/pencil or
painted drawings. The poets included Burns, Kingsley, Longfellow, Tennison, Wordsworth,
Shakespeare Alice Cary, Ella Wheeler Wilcox and MF Butts – although there were no
Another third of jottings were witty or droll which were also accompanied by drawings
or paintings. Peculiar to the time and Eadie’s circle of friends, the significance
of some of these is difficult to comprehend today.
The remainder of compositions were a mixed-bag of moralistic homilies to guide her
through life, paintings, and photographs or drawings of local views. There were also
two items of a political nature – relating to the suffragette movement and the ‘experiment’
with Japan in 1902.
Of special interest in the diary are two entries from a fellow student, Charlie Mills,
who she was to marry – one of which is a pen drawing of a pretty girl and the inscription:
‘All the girls are lov-er-ly’.
Somewhat intriguingly there is also a contribution from an ‘AMs’. This is probably
Archibald Mills, my grandfather’s brother. Was he a rival to Charlie for Eadie’s
There are also verses from Eadie’s cousin, Ethel Maud Dee, and references to Bella
Jeffries, who was a fellow student at Southampton. Bella attended Eadie’s wedding
four years later, in 1909, and (together with her husband) was entertaining Charlie
and Eadie when the census was taken in 1911.
There is a list of those featured in Eadie’s autograph book at this link: Contributors.
Should you find that a family member is included, please do contact me using the
Contact Page. Link: Contact Page.
The personal autograph book was the prized possession of young middle-class girls
from the middle of the nineteenth century.
In it were recorded contributions from friends and family which were intended to
be a reminder of their relationship. The autograph book is therefore a pointer to
its owner’s life and activities while the item recorded reveals something of the
contributor’s character – why was that particular entry selected? They reveal what
the owner’s contemporaries found amusing or of interest at that time. The overall
effect is to recreate the social world of the owner and the regard in which they
The pages of autograph books were an opportunity to display creative talent and the
confidence to put paintbrush or pen to paper where there was no room for error. The
selected pieces of poetry point to a considerable degree of education.
My grandmother, Edith Annie Dee (Eadie), kept such a book from 1901 until 1912. The
majority of entries were for the period when she attended Hartley University College
at Southampton from the autumn of 1903 to 1905 – several of the contributors were
described as ‘pupil teachers’ in the 1901 census. Later entries indicate that she
was teaching at Daniel Street School, Hackney when she married in 1909.
Eadie’s autograph book and its title page
A group photograph of students at Hartley University College, Southampton 1905c.
Charlie is the fourth student from the right in the rear row and Eadie is in the
row in front, also fourth in from the right. Probably several of the contributors
to Eadie’s autograph book are pictured here such as Bella Jeffries who is to Eadie’s