Eliot Eldridge Macy (ed.)

The captain's daughters of Martha's Vineyard, as recalled by the Eldridge sisters

The Chatham press

Riverside (Conn.), 1978
bibliothèque insulaire
N.E. of America
The captain's daughters of Martha's Vineyard, as recalled by the Eldridge sisters / edited by Eliot Eldridge Macy. - Riverside (Conn.) : The Chatham press, 1978. - 163 p.-[12] p. of plates : maps ; 21 cm.
ISBN 0-85699-142-2
NOTE DE L'ÉDITEUR : For those who would like to know what it was like growing up on the island of Martha's Vineyard in the 1880s and '90s, these verbatim recollections of the four Eldridge sisters will be a treasrure to read and savor. In recent years « The Vineyard », seven miles from the Massachusetts mainland, has been one of America's most popular summer places for artists, writers, and other creative people — as well as for vacationners and sailing folk in general.

The daughters who tell of the island's past are Nina, Mary, Ruth and Gratia, born between 1878 and 1885 in Vineyard Haven. The « Captain », their father, was a freethinking visionary, teeming with ideas, among them publishing charts and a Tidebook that continues as a family enterprise to this day. Their Ohio-born mother was an activist who took for granted that she, a woman, was a person as much as any man — an early suffragette. The upbringing of the girls was healthy and purposeful, full to overflowing with events and excitements. As one of them said about their evening jaunts to Cottage City (now Oak Bluffs) — all of three miles away — « anything and everything might happen at any moment ».

A great deal did happen, too, without benefit of television, movies, automobiles, electricity, and the many other props on which existence today seems to lean and depend. For one thing, Vineyard Haven was then an important port-of-call on the New England coast, with a harbor where as many as 35,000 seagoing vessels might drop anchor in a year. And their crews inevitably stopped in the Captain's chandlery for whatever they might need, from rope and lanterns to newspapers and mail, and, of course, the charts and Tidebook to assure them of safe navigation through New England waters. The world, in a sense, journeyed to their door.

Fortunately, the girls did not forget what it was like, and, though three of them are now gone, they wrote or tape-recorded these reminiscences of a time and an environment that embodied qualities and values we view today with nostalgia — and perhaps some regret that it cannot still be a little like that.


The narrative has been skillfully edited, with interpolations and an afterword […] by Eliot Eldridge Macy, son of the second sister, Mary, and himself a longtime resident of the island. Photographs of the family from the period, and detailed maps of Vineyard Haven as it was then enhance the graphic vividness of this memorable book.
EXTRAIT I remember our first visit to the general store [at Menemsha] when we saw several people sitting around not making a sound, only smiling, just smiling away. It was awhile before we realized they were deaf and dumb 1. At that time there werre seventeen deaf-and-dumb people at Menemsha. They were born there and mostly related. Interestingly, the deafness and dumbness has died out. The same families are there, but none of the members is deaf and dumb. Once we were walking to the center by the road, which was longer, and a man picked us up. Both his mother and father had been deaf and dumb. He made noises to his horse, the strangest noises you ever heard.

p. 110
1.Cf. Nora Ellen Groce, « Everyone here spoke sign language : hereditary deafness on Martha's Vineyard », Cambridge (Mass.) : Harvard university press, 1985

mise-à-jour : 23 février 2007