Growing up during the Victorian era was very different than today. On Tuesday, January 31st, the Andover Historical Society is offering an opportunity for children to learn about Bessie Goldsmith, a real Andover Girl who grew up during the late 19th century at Tea with Bessie Goldsmith: An 1892 Andover Girl.
- William Goldsmith
Bessie Goldsmith was born in 1882, the daughter of William Gleason Goldsmith and Joanna Baily Holt. Bessie was born and lived at 60 Elm Street in Andover. On her mother’s side, she is a descendant of Nicholas Holt who made his home on Holt hill in 1635. Bessie’s middle name is Punchard; she was named after the Punchard Free School of which her father was principal for 25 years.
Growing up in the 19th century, Bessie was used to weekly baths on Saturday night in the kitchen. She would sit in an iron sink on a little black chair with her feet in a tub. In the morning Bessie and her family would wash their faces and hands in their bedrooms using a bowl and pitcher on a commode with a splasher behind it. A “splasher” was often a Christmas present with some form of embroidery on it.
60 Elm Street
Bessie’s house was a Greek Revival 1840s farmhouse. Across the street from her 60 Elm Street home, Bessie would fly Kites. The old kitchen, which had no cellar under it, had an open fireplace and brick oven, an iron sink and copper pump, which required much polishing with Putz Pomade and the water was from the well.
When Bessie was very young she contacted diphtheria. A disease that affects the upper respiratory tract it is associated with a sore throat, this disease is no longer a threat because of vaccines. The disease left a lasting effect on Bessie’s bronchial tubes.
After she graduated, her first job was at the Lawrence Gas Company traveling to houses by foot and trolley to demonstrate how to cook with gas stoves in 1901. Like many Andover women, she worked at a local factory making gas masks during WWI. Bessie had a small dressmaking business in addition to teaching school. She was a worker at the Andover Guild for many years, on the staff of the Andover Townsman for eleven years and wrote a column called “Siftings” over the signature “The Townswoman.” Bessie was also Andover’s second Andover policewoman and on the force for 25 years, which gave her an acquaintance with all walks of life.
Bessie was very active in the community. She was a member of the November Club, the Andover Garden club, a life member of the Andover Village Improvement Society, and of the Andover Historical Society.
Much of what we know of Bessie was written in her diaries, now part of the Andover Historical Society collection. Children ages 7-11 are invited to join us Tuesday, January 31, 3:30-5:30 for Tea with Bessie Goldsmith. Bring your favorite American Doll and come hear the stories of this real Andover Girl. Play games, make crafts, and enjoy a delightful Victorian tea. Reservations are required, please call in advance 978-475-2236.