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Mary Gorham Paine (b. 1843) of Yarmouth, Massachusetts, was married to Eben W. Paine (1835-1904) of Brewster, Massachusetts, a merchant ship captain in the trade between Boston and Zanzibar. They had one son, Allan Thatcher Paine (b. 1882). The collection consists of a single diary kept by Mary Gorham Paine as she traveled twice by ship from Boston to islands near Madagascar. Forty-six manuscript pages provide both a day-by-day account of her trip aboard the Sarah Hobart to Nossi-Be (present day Nosy Be) from December 25, 1879 to May 4, 1880, and a three-page, mid-journey synopsis of the passage with her young son to Reunion Island, begun on December 13, 1883. As is made clear by the text, the intent of both voyages was to join her husband who was probably located in Zanzibar at the time. Newspaper clippings chiefly concerned with literary topics, news and issues relating to Africa, and obituaries for her husband and others are pasted into 18 pages following the narrative portion of the diary together with a photograph of a man and another of a baby, most likely her husband and son. The diary as a whole provides some insight into the life of a sea captain's wife and a description of long-distance ocean travel aboard a barque such as the Sarah Hobart.

The collection consists of a single diary kept by Mary Gorham Paine as she traveled twice by ship from Boston to islands near Madagascar. Forty-six manuscript pages provide both a day-by-day account of her trip aboard the Sarah Hobart to Nossi-Be (present day Nosy Be) from December 25, 1879 to May 4, 1880, and a three-page, mid-journey synopsis of the passage with her young son, Allan, to Reunion Island, begun on December 13, 1883. As is made clear by the text, the intent of both voyages was to join her husband, Captain Eben W. Paine, who was probably located in Zanzibar at the time. Newspaper clippings chiefly concerned with literary topics, news and issues relating to Africa, and obituaries for her husband and others are pasted into 18 pages following the narrative portion of the diary together with a photograph of a man and another of a baby, most likely her husband and son. The clippings lack an indication of the year and source except for the "Literary Leaves" articles which are from the Boston Journal.

The diary provides some insight into the life of a sea captain's wife and a description of long-distance ocean travel aboard a barque such as the Sarah Hobart. Paine initially suffered from sea-sickness, but once recovered, occupied herself with sewing, reading, washing, and baking, as well as socializing and playing cards and Parcheesi with fellow travelers. She often mentioned the activities of her primary companions, Mrs. Crocker and the ship's Captain, who sometimes cooked special meals for his female passengers and was often engaged in washing clothing himself. In addition, Paine unfailingly commented on the weather, foods served at meals, number of miles traveled, number of days at sea, and types of ships sighted. On April 18th, after nearly four months at sea, the ship made port at Tamatave, Madagascar (present day Toamasina). Paine mentioned little about the six days spent ashore and continued with the diary only until arrival at Nossi-Be. The summary description of the second journey centers mainly on Paine's concern with her 20-month old son's well-being and activities aboard ship, her own struggle with sea-sickness and feelings of inadequacy in managing her son, and her appreciation for the assistance of Mrs. Hill and the ship's Captain in caring for him. The final update to the narrative was added on February 4th, 1884, while still en route to their first stop, Reunion Island.