Life Geographies of Philadelphia Women

Caroline Hahn Wood, from the Image Collection of the Library Company of Philadelphia

This project examined the diaries of three women: Elizabeth Ingersoll Fisher, Anna M. Fahnestock, and Katherine Johnstone Brinely Wharton. Each woman resided in Philadelphia, PA during the later half of the 19th century. The individual sites include the call number at the Historical Society of Philadelphia, diary entries, addresses and places metioned in the diaries and correspondence files, images, and links to further information resources. It must be understood that the Historical Society of Philadelphia contained a number of women's diaries and these sources were chosen randomly. If one is to continue researching these subjects, they should first locate other resources at this and other historical societies.

It is the goal of this project to trace the every-day activities of the women through their diairies and cross-referencing the places mentioned with maps and research. This website serves as a research tool, as these three examples reflect the 19th century daily patterns of mid-upper class women. Each diary page contains an 1870's Bird's Eye View of Philadelphia and Vicinity. To view a PDF of the map, click below.


The first step in the research process for this project was to investigate the individual diary volumes to see what types of information they included. The three journals studied may be accessed by requesting them from the restricted reading room at:

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania

1300 Locust St., Philadelphia, PA


Since the project focused on the “life geography” of the three 19 th century women, we paid special attention to the many places mentioned in the diaries associated with their daily activities. We noted these places so that we could further investigate these specific locations.

Once relevant places were distinguished, points were added to an historic map of Philadelphia. The map ties together all of the various pieces of information about the women, in order to visually represent where these women lived, worked, and interacted. The three womens’ different “geographies” shows how they might have interacted in elite 19 th century society.

We also decided that a related places page would help put the diaries in context by presenting images of what contemporary 19 th century Philadelphia might have looked like. The images focus on a few examples of the major monuments of the time, which are not necessarily mentioned in the diaries.

Our research culminated at the Library Company of Philadelphia where we “accidentally” found a compiled diary volume of Elizabeth Ingersoll Fisher’s husband. This book provided valuable information that helped fill in many of the missing links about her life.

Library Company of Philadelphia
1314 Locust St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107-5698
(215) 546-3181; fax (215) 546-5167