Mary Paul letters, 1845-1862
Mary Stiles Paul was born in Hanover, New Hampshire, on January 26, 1830. A year later her family moved to Woodstock where they remained until 1840 when they moved to Barnard, Vermont. Mary's mother died a year later and she and her brother, Henry Strobridge Paul, were "put out" to earn their board. In the fall of 1843 she went to work in the cotton mills of Lowell, Massachusetts, and stayed there for three years. After a period in Claremont, New Hampshire, she joined the North American Phalanx, a communal, utopian society based on the philosophy of French philosopher Charles Fourier in Monmouth County, New Jersey. In 1855, she returned to New England and married Isaac Orr Guild (1831-?) on October 7, 1857. They lived in Lynn, Massachusetts. Their children were Irving Tracy Guild (b. Dec. 30, 1860) and Sydney Paul Guild (b. Aug. 31, 1862).
In November 1845, Bela Paul’s sister, Sarah, wrote to him that his daughter, Mary had left Woodstock, Vermont, for Lowell, Massachusetts and assured him that she had money, had help to get “a place,” and was “comfortably prepared for her journey.”Mary’s letters to her father begin in the summer of 1845, when she expresses her desire to go to Lowell and requests his consent (she is only fifteen years old). She worked in Lowell for four years and her letters during this period reflect her increasing social and economic independence.
After a short period spent in Brattleboro, Mary joined the North American Phalanx, a utopian agricultural community in Red Bank, New Jersey, where she worked until its failure in 1855. In April 1855, before she left the Phalanx, she wrote her father “that many will exalt the downfall of this place but such are shortsighted – Charles Fournier’s doctrines, although they may contain many absurd ideas have enough truth in them to keep them alive until the world shall be ready for them.”
The Mary Stiles Paul letters are part of a larger collection of family papers known as the Paul Family Papers (MSA 478-479).