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Gardner Family Collection
Catalog Record
Mss 899 1780-1934 G226
Box 1; volumes B-1, B-5, B-6, BA-1, BA-2, and G-1

The records of the Gardner family of Boston and Salem, Massachusetts, dating from the early eighteenth to the twentieth century, contain legal papers relating to issues of dower and inheritance, trust accounts, and guardianship accounts. The collection also includes a woman's diary written on a trip to Europe in 1849, and silhouettes of women of the family.

Women and the Law > Marriage and Coverture (box 1 )
The collection includes materials related to the settlement of the estate of Captain John Gardner, Sr. (1707-1784), of Salem, Massachusetts. Some of the papers relate to the widow's third due to Mary Gardner (his third? wife) and her infant child. Included in the papers are receipts for appraising the estate and determining the widow's third, as well as a receipt written by Mary Gardner accepting $25 in moveable estate that "the judge allowed [her]." In 1792, the stepdaughters sued the estate for the dower of their late mother, Elizabeth Herbert Gardner, which was supposed to come to them after the death of their stepfather.


Women and the Law > Trusts and Guardianship (box 1; volumes B-1, B-5, B-66, BA-1, BA-2)
Among the Gardner papers are also the guardian accounts for the stepdaughters of John Gardner, Sr., dating from 1769 to 1772, as well as ledgers recording the credits and debits of the estates of Clara Endicott Payson (b. c.1853) and Fanny Lithgow Payson (b. c.1855), while they were under the guardianship of their uncle, George Augustus Peabody. The girls, who were orphaned as small children, remained the wards of their uncle until they turned twenty-one years of age. Finally, there are materials on the John Lowell Trust (1815-1816) and Gardner family trusts (1898-1930).

Catherine Elizabeth Gardner (1808-1883), whose will and the resulting trust accounts (1884-1921) are included in the collection, left all her money in trust to her sons, daughters, and daughters-in-law (including Isabella Stewart Gardner), stipulating that everything she left to her daughters should be for "their sole use and not subject to the controll of or liable to the debts of any husband." Her own husband, John Lowell Gardner, who was still alive at the writing of the will, added a codicil:

John Gardner husband of the within named Catherine E. Gardner do hereby consent to the foregoing will so far as the same relates to personal estate, but this consent shall not be construed to destroy or impair any of my rights as tenant . . . in and to any of the real estate of the said Catherine E. Gardner.


Women at Home and Abroad > Diaries (volume G-1)
The Gardner collection also contains a diary written by a Catharine Elizabeth Gardner while on an extended European trip with her husband and her son in 1849. While in Egypt, Mrs. Gardner noted down her understanding of the life of Egyptian women:

Women in Egypt are almost entirely cut off from the intercourse of society, as it exists in Christian countries; it is true that they can sometimes visit other hareems [sic], but their acquaintance with the other sex is restricted to a very few of their nearest relatives. They are said however to be very intriguing which is not remarkable from the restraints that are imposed upon them and from the circumstances of their husbands being able to divorce them at pleasure, without any legal form whatever.


Box 1
The collection also contains a series of photographs of early-to mid-nineteenth-century silhouettes of women of the Gardner and Lowell families.

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