We’ve met Venus Robinson Rossiter before; for the next year or so, we’ll have the chance to get to know her very well, through her daily record of her mission to Tahiti with her mission president husband Ernest. This first installment covers her last days of preparation for her mission and her travel to San Francisco; next week will see her crossing the ocean; and after that, well, get ready to see not only the life of one woman missionary, but some (filtered) glimpses of a people and time that most of us know little about. Yes, there will be some cultural evaluations, beginning even in this installment, that might make your 21st century-self squirm, but you’ll also see her grow to genuinely love the people she serves.
I hope you’ll enjoy this as much as I have.
Diary of Venus Robinson Rossiter
Born Feb 10th 1891, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Baptized Apr. 1899 by [blank]
Married to Ernest Crabtree Rossiter June 28th 1911, by Prest. Anthon H. Lund, Salt Lake Temple.
Called to perform a mission to the Society Islands in company with my husband in the late fall of 1914. Missionary entertainment held in the 10th Ward Amusement Hall, Feb. 5, 1915 Salt Lake City, under the direction of Chas W. Symons, Orson H. Willie & Barrett F. Pullam as follows:
Opening Prayer – Bro John Forseburg
Steel Guitar Playing – Mathias Nelson
Character Songs – Master Naylor
Monologue & Songs – Mr. Jack Goddard
Barnyard Imitations – Mr. Sid Chalker
Soprano Solo – Miss Sadie Robinson
Vaudeville Sketch – Messrs. Donelson, Barrell
Recitation – Miss Nellie Niebaur
Musical Selections – Ariel Club
Sword Dance – Mr. Goddard
Tenor Solo – Mr. Robt. Siddoway
Reading – Mr. Will Lovesy.
The following Monday evening at the home of Sister Mildred Pinn[o]ck assist. by Sister Rosella Davis, a pleasant evening was spent with the girls of the U.T.C. [Useful, Truthful, Cheerful] Club, all of whom have at one time or other been affiliated with the 10th Ward Sunday School. During the evening Sister Marie Jensen in behalf of the club presented to me this beautiful diary, in anticipation of my extended absence. Later each girl wrote a letter, specifying when each one should be read & answered.
Wed. Feb 10.
I was surprised at the home of my mother, by the officers & teachers of the 10th Ward Primary Association, who came to spend a social afternoon to show their loving appreciation of the work I had done in the association. On account of the illness of her mother Sister Annie Spokes our president was unable to be there. Those present were Sisters: Mary Ness. Annie Berry. Minnie Spiers. Mayme Harvey. Mrs. Gillette. Sarah Hillstead. Lizzie Jones. Lillian Allred. Ada Reeve. Venus Rossiter. Letitia Knowlden. Ivy Hoggan. Sister Nelson. Martha Johnston. Mrs Papworth. Mrs. Newton. Sigrid Spiers. Louise Cromar. Lizzie K. Jensen & Isabell Keddington.
On the evening of that same day my husband and I were guests of honor at a family gathering held at the same place.
Sunday Feb 14th,
Following a family dinner at the Rossiter home, we made a few farewell remarks to the people of our Ward.
Other kindness were shown us upon leaving by Mr & Mrs Royal Deighton Mr. Lester Lambert, Mrs. John, Z. Brown Mr & Mrs. Haven Willie, Mr & Mrs Jas A. Nielsen, Mrs Helen Baddley, Auntie Baxter & by our brothers & sisters & parents
I was set apart& blessed by Prest. Chas W. Penrose assisted by Pres. Jos. F. Smith & Anthon H. Lund & Geo. A. Smith and on the following day was given a special blessing given by sister Elizabeth Paul.
We left for our mission and many friends & relatives were at the station to wish us good-bye.
We arrived in San Francisco at 9: pm and went direct to our hotel where we stayed one week seeing the City & the Panama Pacific Exposition.
was a busy day. After eating breakfast in our room we went to the Union Steamship offices and arranged for our passage on the Marama. From there we went [to] Brueners furniture store where we purchased some furniture for the mission house in Papeete. We then secured a guide who took us to several places of interest in Chinatown. The first place we visited was the Free Masons Lodge where the Chinese New Year was being celebrated. It was elaborately decorated after Chinese fashion and every one seemed happy eating bowls of chop suey with long wooden chop sticks. Next we visited a Chinese Court-Room, where the grievences of the people are heard & judged by a body of high Chinese officials. We were then taken to the telephone exchange, which is operated entirely by Chinese girls dressed in their native costume. The place had more the appearance of an elaborate drawing room furnished in hand carved ebony rather than a place of business. The outside of the building had the appearance of a Chinese Pagoda.
From here we were led down a long dirty narrow alley, down some dark winding stairs to the underground home of a happy little Chinese woman who was the mother of ten fat little children ranging in age from seventeen to two years! here she made her own living by sewing buttons on shirts at the rate of five cents per dozen shirts. We were told that she payed twenty dollars a month rent for this miserable dark underground place that they called home. On we went to another dingy cellar where a little Chinese girl sang us several songs in her native tongue as well as in English. Still in another miserable underground place we listened to the weird music of an old Chinese musician who played on at least a dozen odd looking and worse sounding instruments. This finished our visit to Chinatown & we were happy to find ourselves once more out in the sunshine and fresh air of mother earth.
After lunch we rode out to Golden Gate Park. Although it was raining we were much impressed by the beauty of the place with its wonderful natural scenery. There were few animals in the park, those we saw were bear antelope, deer, kangaroos & a large herd of bison. We were particularly interested in the avery [aviary] which contained myriads of birds of all descriptions, the combined song of them all was beautiful to hear as we neared the place entirely hidden from view by the dense foliage. From here we took a car to the Cliff House & The Sutro Baths, while there we saw an ocean liner bringing in the last arrivals for the Panama Pacific Exposition. We also saw a number of seals on the rocks in the distance. Leaving there at five o’clock we arrived in San Francisco in time to finish our shopping.
Feb 20, 1915.
We were awakened this morning at 7. am by all the whistles & bells in San Francisco blowing & ringing in celebration of the opening of the Panama Pacific Exposition. At about nine o’clock we boarded a car for the exposition grounds which are beautifully located along the water front of San Francisco Bay, covering an immense space of ground. On the opening day many exhibits & some buildings were incomplete. The grounds & buildings were very beautiful. We visited the Transportation, the Agricultural, Liberal Arts, Education, Food Products buildings. Also the different state buildings which were mostly reception rooms, although some of the states had their home resources displayed. The most beautiful of these were the Californian, Massachusetts, & the Maryland. The Hiwaian was very beautiful with its tropical gardens and tanks of peculiar fishes, which was made more realistic by the native singers clad in white, half hidden from view by the ferns & palms. The exhibit displayed in the Phillippine building was indeed a surprise. Beautiful furniture made by public school students was among the finest I have ever seen anywhere, table tops measuring from five to ten ft across were made from solid pieces of mahogany. The art needlework down [done] by the girls was beyond description. We returned to the city at 6 pm. and after eating dinner and writing home to the folks we retired at about 11. pm.
Sunday Feb 21, 1915
Arose at 7:45 am. After eating breakfast in our room we left for the exposition, being limited to but four days in which to see it. We first visited the streets of Cairo, then to the African village where we witnessed a war dance and song, We also saw the native women at their household preparing food customs & habits.
Next we went to the Yellow Stone National Park where we saw Old Faithful and the other geysors of the park in actual eruption, also saw the exact reproduction of the “Old Faithful Inn”. We next went up in 250ft in the air in a steel cage operated by an immense derreck where we had an ex[c]ellent view of the entire grounds & all the surrounding country. After visiting “Japan beautiful” & the Incubator Babies on the Zone – we went on to the machinery, Varied Industries, Mining & Horticulture buildings we returned to the city well tired out and after having dinner at the Sunset Cafeteria we retired at 10: pm.
Monday Feb 22nd,1915.
We arose 7 am and after eating breakfast in our room we went to the Ferries to meet Bros Orton & Shaw who were to join us, but on account of getting the wrong car we missed them. We then took an exposition grounds car, where we expected to see the Vanderbuilt Cup Auto Races, but on account of the rain they were pos[t]poned until March 6th. After visiting the Canadian, Australian & New Zealand buildings, we took a car from the Presidio to the city, and after eating luncheon after much hunting we set out to find the Union S.S. Pier where the Marama was docked, the boat that was to take us to Tahiti. Returning to our room at 5:30 pm, we met Elders Orton & Shaw, and we all went out for dinner together returning to our rooms about 9: pm after walking about the streets an hour.
February 23rd 1915.
I remained in the room to wash my hair & write home while the boys went out to make final preparations before leaving on the morrow.