Along The Banks Of My River is a body of work based on my research about the life of Anna Blackwood Howell, a New Jersey woman who lived from 1769 until 1855. In 1818 her husband Joshua died and she inherited their farm and fisheries located along the banks of the Delaware River across from Philadelphia. Mrs. Howell kept records of the family fishing business, agricultural notes and other household and farm information in yearly almanacs. In addition she recorded the weather on a near daily basis. The Howells had eleven children and Mrs. Howell outlived six of them.
My research began with a fellowship at the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) in 2013 where I read their collection of her diaries and viewed other related materials. I also spent time at the Princeton University Library and the Gloucester County (N.J.) Historical Society reading other records, letters and documents related to the family.
To explore weather and rural life from the perspective of an early nineteenth-century woman interested me, especially as her writing, though not lengthy, was engaging. Weather played a significant role in the daily lives and fortunes of most people at the time, and she remarks upon and addresses its effects in these almanacs. Much of the information contained within them seems commonplace—her accounts, what she plants, the fishing haul— and it is, but she writes some more personal thoughts as well, and her choice of language, her voice, and the emotions carried within all her writing are thought-provoking. I like to think of Mrs. Howell as my collaborator in this project. The series thus far includes books and wall pieces using both paper and textile based materials. I continue to make new work and bring her words out from the archives.