Julia Park Tracey was always close to her great-aunt, Doris Murphy. Park Tracey thought she knew a lot about her aunt. She knew that her aunt grew up in Portland in the 1920’s. She went to Reed college and then moved to the Bay area just before World War II. There, she went to graduate school at UC Berkeley and later met and married labor organizer, Joe Murphy. Doris had joined a writing group in her later years. Her self-published autobiography was released just a couple of years before she died at age 101.
Park Tracey says she was surprised to find the raw diaries contained so much more of her aunt’s personality and voice than her later autobiography. She got absorbed by her aunt’s vivid descriptions of her teenage years.
This evening we went to a prize-fight and talk about thrills. I’ve never been so excited before. Just to see them trying to kill each other. They got all bloody and everything. I yelled till I was hoarse. Lots worse than a football game. Hal Hibbard won. He was the cutest boy, too, and it was so thrilling to see him clench his teeth and go after that man.” —July 3, 1926
The more time Park Tracey spent with the diaries the more fascinated she became with how her great-aunt’s experience reflected the historical era. But she says The Doris Diaries project was born as she was transcribing the diaries and posting snippets of them on her Facebook page — her friends always clamored for more, and eventually she set up a separate Facebook page for the project.
If you’ve had access to a close relative’s diaries, what personal or historical meaning did they have for you?
- Julia Park Tracey: Writer and journalist, creator of the Doris Diaries.