Florence Beatrice Brown Phillips: Life in early 20th century Rhode Island

Florence Beatrice Brown Phillips, August 1, 1899-December 3, 1973.

Earle and Florence Phillips

(Earl and Florence Brown Phillips)

Florence Beatrice was born on August 1, 1899, to Samuel Francis Brown and Hattie Tyler Perkins Brown. She was an only child. When Florence was born, Samuel and Hattie lived with Hattie’s parents, George and Margaret Perkins, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. In the 1910 census, Florence was 10 years old, her father was 35, and mother 31. They had a boarder living with them, named Mary King, who was 23. Samuel worked at a wireworks, and Hattie was a nurse. In the 1920 census, Florence, age 20, is unmarried, working as a stenographer in an office in Pawtucket. When Florence married Earle A. Phillips in 1921, he was a store manager; by 1930 he was a schoolteacher; she kept house and took care of Milton, their only child; her mother Hattie lived with them. Son Milton was born in 1922. They lived at 758 Newport Ave., in Pawtucket.

Florence was a collector of news-clippings, postcards, and Christmas cards. Her postcards and diaries that survive provide a historical account of her early adulthood. For instance, a brief surviving diary from January to March, 1916, provides some interesting insights into her late teen years.

“January 2, 1916 [1917]. School again. Broke typewriter. Nobody going skating. Wonder if Earle went. . . . Mrs. Duxbury brought perfume, box chocolate, and this book [the diary] for me. Skating spoiled; all thawed. Wednesday. Bookkeeping exam. Planned to go to Rumford. Miss Burke sick. Worked till 5:10. . . . No skating. Retired 12:00. Mouse interrupted my slumber. . . .

January 16, 1917. Saw the ‘Professor’ with a girl on Main St. Said ‘Hello” instead of ‘How do you do?’ Took her to Fisk’s. Like to know who she is. . . . Thursday. . . . Ray called up to go skating. Refused—because French exam to study for. Friday. Day of fate–‘French.’ Comfortably easy. Elizabeth Ingles and I went skating. Ice great. . . . Sunday. Got up at 9:40. Went back to bed with Dream Book for ¾ hr. Breakfast at 11:00. Dinner at 3:15. . . . Fudge!! Boys spent evening. Like old times. Everybody agreeable. 2 escorts!! . . . . Wednesday. School. Walk to Park suggested. . . . Boiled dinner. Palm read 10 cents apiece. Going to marry, 4 children, 2 girls and 2 boys. Prosperity, money and happiness. . . . Feb. 25, 1917. I don’t know exactly what has happened since Feb. 2 but I do know that I have been too busy to write in this book. . . . Earle has the scholarship. Went to Borden’s two weeks ago to-night. . . . O! Forgot about my auto ride with Arthur. Brought me home from down street in his machine. Finest I have ever ridden in. Very slow driver. Very thoughtful of him. Enjoyed it immensely. . . .”

She worked for a time for Kirby-Smith Associates, a Christian fund-raising organization. Exactly when is unclear. After Earl died in 1955, for the last 18 years of her life she lived part of the time with her only child Milton and his family, both in Rye, NY, and Tulsa, OK. She died December 3, 1973.

About theamericanplutarch

Writer, thinker, historian.
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