Being Social Before Social Media exhibit spotlight: Eleanor Early

image of Eleanor Early's letterhead

Eleanor Early letterhead, Eleanor Early papers, MS.1995.005, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

Are you happy? Should you live alone? Do you wear the pants in your family?

Eleanor Early asked these questions of her readers long before Buzzfeed was asking equally clickbait-worthy questions on your Facebook feed. A travel journalist born in 1895 in Newton, Massachusetts, Early explored the world and wrote many popular books, including New York Holiday and New Orleans Holiday.

In addition to documenting her travel experiences, Early, whose papers are housed at the John J. Burns Library, penned numerous quizzes, akin to the ones you still see today in Cosmopolitan. One of these quizzes, “Should You Marry?”, is now on display in the current Burns Library exhibit, Being Social Before Social Media. The quiz, which is “founded in scientific fact,” asks such compelling questions as, “Do you like potatoes?” and “Have you wide-opened, astonished eyes?” (In case you were wondering, liking potatoes and not having wide-opened, astonished eyes are both signs that you’d make a suitable wife, according to Early.)

Image of typescript quiz

“Should You Marry” quiz, Eleanor Early papers, MS.1995.005, John J. Burns Library, Boston College

The exhibit explores many ways in which people socialized before the internet and the abundance of social media apps. While games make it easy to kill time on tablets and smartphones now, it used to require people to sit down across from each other to play together. Unless, of course, you’ve got a chess-by-mail game going like Rex Stout, but weeks could go by before your opponent made their next move!

Early wrote her quizzes back when you circled your answers in a magazine and passed it around to your friends to compare results. There was no “share now” button. And although the questions might seem, well, questionable (we’re not sure why liking potatoes means you’re ready to get married), Early’s quizzes are still a fun way to tell if you’re a sheep or shepherd, or if you have imagination.

To find out your own results for “Should You Marry?” be sure to stop by Burns Library and check out the exhibit before it closes on October 6, 2017!

  • Stephanie Hall, Archives Assistant, Burns Library
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