-- Jonah Raskin, book critic, San Francisco Chronicle, author
"History is about stories and this book has plenty of them. The Doris Diaries is part history, part personal journey of a young woman finding herself in the mid-1920s. The book captures everyday-living in Portland with a personal perspective that's both fascinating and illuminating."
--John Chilson, historian, Lost Oregon (lostoregon.com)
From the Author
The Doris Diaries are a lifetime's worth of diaries kept by Doris Bailey (later Doris Murphy), a Portland, Oregon, native (1910-2011). Doris Bailey Murphy was my great aunt. She began keeping a daily record of her life as a 15-year-old in 1925.
The diaries themselves are enchanting at first glance - filled with pen-and-ink-scrawled daily gripes about school, catching the street-car, buying a new hat, and joyous outings with friends. But very soon, her use of contemporary slang (pep, swell, and sheik, for example) and her daily occupations bring to life the rapidly changing world of the mid-1920s. Young Doris talks on the telephone with boys, she plays tennis, and dances to records on the Victrola. Her parents are bastions of the white, Protestant, upper middle class of Portland; they were born and raised in Alabama in the post Civil War era, with Victorian morals. But times were changing in the 1920s, and Doris constantly pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable behavior for a young girl. She flirts, kisses, and rides in cars with boys; she sneaks out, cuts school and chops off her hair.
Doris's disdain for stolid conventions like being ladylike or behaving properly is evident in every entry. She is privileged, vain, judgmental, fickle, passionate, fashionable, consumerist, horny, untamed, and very romantic, imagining herself in and out of love with each passing day. And yet, she knows when her behavior is "not very nice," calling herself out, in effect, when she knows she's pushed too far. In her room, at her desk, she soars into flights of fancy about the lonely hearts living in the city she loves, about an imagined idyll with her beloved Micky, and weaves a confusing tapestry of boyfriends (and a brother) named Jack.
Doris's interest in politics and culture has not yet awakened in her teen years, as is evident by her attitudes and essentially shallow thoughts. But in later diaries (college years in Portland and Arizona), her sense of injustice against the oppressed (her transformation from oppressor to liberator) grows, and she continues her growth from Portland debutante to a young social worker, literary publisher and arts champion (The Dilettante, a literary magazine in 1934, and the Skidmore Arts Center, another pet project, 1935).
Doris went on to study social work, shocking the Reed College community when she interviewed prostitutes in Portland for her thesis (the dean called her parents for a conference to discuss the scandalous behavior). She graduated from Reed in 1938. She left Portland that year for San Francisco, where she worked with World War II refugees at the Red Cross, and became active in the labor movements that were burgeoning across America. She flirted with joining the Communist Party, and began an affair with a married man. He eventually got a divorce from his wife; Doris and Joe Murphy were wed in 1948. They lived in San Francisco where Joe was in labor leadership until the 1960s, when they retired to Occidental, California, a small town in the redwoods and vineyards of Sonoma County. Joe died in 1987 and Doris wrote her autobiography, publishing at age 96.
Doris died at home, with her dog and cat nearby, at age 101 in March of 2011, and upon her death, her trustee, my mother (daughter of Doris's brother Rae), discovered another surprise -- the box of journals, kept so many years in a closet. I received these with joy and surprise, never having known of their existence. Discovering the historical settings and charming entries in these diaries has compelled me to seek publication for these gems of Americana - a glimpse at the twentieth century from a girl/woman who would not be quiet and behave. A growing following on Facebook (FB/thedorisdiaries) and Twitter (@TheDorisDiaries) further encouraged me toward publication of these diaries.
I hope you will enjoy them as much as I have.