The first paragraph of Eleanor Early's 1938 book, And this is Boston, goes like this:"Boston is like a nice old lady. If you don't know her very well, you might think her prosy, and a little dull. Old ladies are frequently misjudged, and Dame Boston--dear old thing-- doesn't always put her best foot forward. There is nothing loud about her, nor blatant. She's quiet and conservative, and she clings to her old fashioned things, and tucks them away in quiet corners, and shows them only to those who really love her." Sound familiar?
After visiting my 94 year old great-uncle Oliver in Maine, my parents gave me a copy of the book. Oliver is from Arkansas and visited Boston for the first time in 1941, while on leave from the Coast Guard (during WWII). It was there that he met his future wife Trina, and her sister Billie, gave him a copy of And this is Boston as a guide to the city. It was first published in 1930, and the second addition (the one I have) was completed in 1938.
Eleanor Early is opinionated and her prose is brazen. Along with being a guide book, it reflects the gender, racial, political, and economic realities of the time. It's a fun read and makes you think about how historical cities like Boston change throughout the years. If Eleanor was alive, maybe she would be a contributor for Bostonology. She describes her book as "just a friendly little thing--that's all."
A native of Newton, Eleanor Early was a journalist and travel writer. Her works include Ports of the Sun, Lands of Delight, And this is Cape Cod!, and And this is Washington! In 2006, Boston College organized an exhibition about her life and work. You can read more about her here.