Medora Espy Diaries
Washington State Historical Society
Medora Espy's crush, Alec Bell. From Medora Espy diary, May 19-August 24, 1915, page 11.
Medora Espy (1899 – 1916) was the oldest daughter of Harry Albert and Helen Richardson Espy of Oysterville, Washington. Harry A. Espy was a dairy farmer, who was also involved in other business enterprises in southwestern Washington's Pacific County. He served as a senator in the Washington state legislature from 1911-1913. Medora's mother, Helen, was from East Oakland in the San Francisco Bay Area of northern California. Medora was often separated from her parents while her mother was in a city giving birth to Medora's brothers and sisters, when her father was away on business or in the legislature, and during those parts of the year when Medora was attending school in either Olympia (1911-1913) or the Portland Academy in Portland, Oregon (1913 – 1916). During these absences, Medora wrote frequently to her mother, father, and other relatives, and both she and the family saved most of those letters. Medora was popular with her schoolmates and had many friends. She maintained a lively correspondence with many of them during times when they were separated, especially during the summer months. Unexpectedly, just several weeks after she left Oysterville to return to Portland to finish her last year in school in early January 1916, Medora died. The weather that month was extremely cold, almost equal to the devastating Northwest winter of 1892. Her death was a shock to everyone, and her mother was almost inconsolable.
The Washington State Historical Society digitized eight diaries and a scrapbook from the Medora Espy papers. Medora kept the diaries during her time as a school girl in Olympia, as a boarding school student at the Portland Academy in Portland, Oregon, and during her summer vacations. The diaries reflect the activities and interests of a teenage girl in the early 20th century, including school work, daily activities, sewing and clothes, boys, relationships, social activities, outings, dances, and parties. Medora's scrapbook documents her visits to the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, California.
In addition to the diaries and scrapbook, the Medora Espy papers contain over 900 letters and cards, including those exchanged between her and her mother and father, relatives, and many friends, most written between 1908 and 1915. The Medora Espy papers finding aid details the contents of the collection.
- Medora Espy's mother, Helen Richardson Espy recieved a mailing from the Women's Christian Temperance Union in relation to the Vote Washington Dry, Nov. 3, 1914 campaign.
- Medora Espy's niece, author and historian Sydney Stevens, published Dear Medora: Child of Oysterville’s Forgotten Years in 2007. The book tells the story of Medora and the Espy family, steeping family letters, diaries, and photographs in historical context.