What did young women like Doris Sparrell (1892-1985) who lived in Massachusetts, USA do for entertainment as "teenagers"?

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    The strict answer is nothing: she was never a teenager, as the word didn't come into use until circa 1941. (Teenage as an adjective was first used in a publication in 1921). – user104 Jul 4 '13 at 10:11
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    I've downvoted, not because of the mistaken use of 'teenager' because that's easily fixed, but because I think this is thinly-disguised cousin bait. Adding more information about Doris might make it less so, such as: where she lived; and what was her socio-economic situation. Alternatively, it could be generalised to ask about the activities of young women of a particular class in a certain time and place. – user104 Jul 5 '13 at 11:02
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    what is a 'thinly disguised cousin bait'? This was an honest attempt at meta.genealogy.stackexchange.com/questions/1661/… and the suggeston for more self-answered questions. – Duncan Jul 6 '13 at 13:55
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    1) What searches are likely to find this Q high on their answers? Only searches for Doris Sparrell 1892-1985. 2) Has any effort been made to generalise the Q or the self-A to be of use to anyone other than descendants or relatives of Doris Sparrell? No. So what we have is a Q that is almost entirely the name dates and location of an ancestor/relative, and a self-A that is basically 'I found this out about Doris' without explaining how, or how it might benefit somebody else. – user104 Jul 6 '13 at 17:56
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    It's a pity, because with a little work it could be a decent question - generalised to ask what sources are available to understand how young women of that class/place/time spent their leisure hours, and then answered with a detailed example about Doris Sparrell and how the information was found. – user104 Jul 6 '13 at 19:44

The ideal source for information on how a particular person spent her time at a particular time and place will be her diary -- an original record made by the participant immediately after the event.

Sadly, few of us have the luxury of access to such a source and are forced to rely upon accounts of what was "typical" of the community. A local newspaper will contain reports of the activities undertaken by young people in the area and may even include references to individual names. Do not overlook advertisements as excellent indicators of what was happening in the area.

Published histories of the town or county frequently include "colour" by using extracts from those same newspapers or other contemporary documents to illustrate the broader trends in employment, education and recreation across time.

Of course, whether a particular individual took part in those activities depends upon the extent to which she was "typical" of her place and time. The enormous variations with location and time are overlain with socio-economic factors. If the person you are researching was the sole support of a widowed mother and several younger siblings in the period 1905-1913 then there is a very high probability that what she did was WORK long and hard and then for entertainment she slept. On the other hand, a young lady in a comfortable middle-class family might have read widely, played music and sang, or produced beautifully embroidered pieces of fancywork.

You have highlighted the fact to get a fully rounded picture of the life of an ancestor we need to collect a wide range of information across several dimensions of his or her life. Any single, simple answer is almost certainly inadequate or even misleading.


The following was found in an article in the Cambridge Sentinel (Volume 6, Number 31, 19 June 1909) that is available online thru the Cambridge Public library:

Tuesday evening a large sized audience attended the entertainment in the vestry of the Universalist church, given by the young ladies of the Y. P. C. U. … The little comedy, "No Men Wanted," was liberally interspersed with jokes and caused much laughter. The characters were Isabel Granger, Doris Sparrell; Elizabeth Rawley, Elfreda Veazie; maid, Corrinne Thies. Masters Raymond and Frankie Thies made a decided hit with their songs, as did also Miss Mabel Butler, who played the overture and officiated at the piano.

The newspaper shows the play as ‘No Meu Wanted’ but I believe it was actually “No Men Wanted”, A Sketch in One Act, published in Baker’s Edition of Plays in 1903.

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    Hi Duncan, I've down voted this answer, because it's really not an answer at all. It's a quote, just sitting there. You haven't even said "They participated in theatre projects." I agree with everyone that this question AND ANSWER could be so much better if you filled it out more. Tell us, what is her family's income like, what is her neighbourhood like, what are the major political issues going on as she hits teen years? This will flesh out the characteristics that affect her decisions for leisure. – Canadian Girl Scout Jul 10 '13 at 3:23

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