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Island adventures at DTL

By Madison Butkus

Hometown Weekly Reporter

Sponsored by the Corning Foundation and the Friends of the Library, the Dover Town Library shared an online event titled, A Boston Harbor Islands Adventure, this past Wednesday, July 19th. Author Stephanie Schorow discussed her newest book, “A Boston Harbor Islands Adventure: The Greatest Brewster Journal of 1891”, to over 100+ people streaming live. 

According to the Dover Town Library, “The book was written by volunteers with the Friends of the Boston Harbor Islands, a non-profit organization that encourages public use of the islands, balanced with the need to protect their fragile ecosystem and historic environment.” While all members of the Friends of the Boston Harbor Islands chipped in, Schorow was the project coordinator of this specific book. 

Schorow has an impressive resume including being a veteran journalist who worked for the Boston Herald, the Associated Press, and other media types. She described this book as, “A wonderful story about a very interesting group of women, who in 1891, went out to one of the far islands in Boston Harbor, Great Brewster Island. They kept a journal, a record of what they did, which has come to us in a very mysterious fashion, and now after 132 years, they are still speaking to us.” 

This journal that Schorow mentioned was found by Harvard professor, John Stilgoe, in a used bookstore on Cape Anne. Upon finding this, Stilgoe quickly realized it was of great historical value and immediately bought the book to preserve it at Harvard. 

This journal was so interesting to researchers because it acted like a documentary in which these four women chronicled their living quarters of their ramshackle house, visually recorded the landscape of Great Brewster, and noted everything they did and ate. Schorow went on to state that it was equivalent to being the Facebook of 1891. 

When making this book, they reproduced basically every single page in the journal so one can read exactly what these four women documented throughout their trip. Although they had great information within this journal, the hardest part was identifying who these four women were for they never specifically stated their names. Instead, they went by intricate nicknames that they came up with for one another.  

Upon some tough research, they finally found out who these women were: “Ye Artistic Acrobat” was Isabella “Bella” Coburn, “Ye Autocrat of ye Great Brewster” was Helen Frances Ray French, “Ye Gentle Aristocrat” was Sarah Elizabeth “Lizzie” Dean Adams, and “ Ye Veracious Scribe” was Helen Agusta Whittier. 

These four women belonged to the XV (15) Club in which they would often take trips together. There is an abundance of incredible information these women wrote about and it can all be found within this amazing book, along with the fantastic photos they took. Most notably, the house in which they stayed can no longer be found on the island.

For more information on this read / where to find it, please visit the Dover Town Library. 

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