- "I took it all in, thinking of everything that had brought me here, the sadness, the losses, the fear, the loneliness, and even the things that had left me shaking with anger. All of that was part of me, the me I had once been. But most of me now was at peace"
Lydia Amelia Pierce Chamberlin (October 4, 1907 – 1990) was daughter of Caroline and Walter Pierce, and sister of Daniel and Lucy. In October 1918, her parents and younger sister died of Spanish influenza. She and her brother lived with their uncle Henry, his wife, and children, before being taken to live with the Shakers in Sabbathday Lake.
Lydia Amelia Pierce was born on October 4, 1907 in her childhood home located in Portland, Maine. Her family consisted of her parents, Caroline and Walter, older brother Daniel, and a younger sister Lucy, who was born in July 1918. Her best friend was Emily Ann Walsh, whom she acted out parts of The Secret Garden with.
On her eleventh birthday in 1918, her parents gave Lydia a journal and an opal ring that had belonged to her mother's mother. Several days later, her father, mother, and little sister fell ill and died of Spanish flu. Lydia and Daniel went to live with their uncle Henry, his wife, and children.
Life with the Shakers
Henry was incapable of taking proper care of his niece and nephew, and brought them to 'Chosen Land' at Sabbathday Lake to live with the Shakers. Sister Jennie Mathers was Lydia's caretaker and guided her through the Shakers rules and customs. Lydia shared a room with three other girls, Grace, Rebecca, and Polly. She was placed in the sixth grade at the Shakers small schoolhouse.
She was unable to interact her brother, because of Shaker laws that separate boys and girls. One day, Lydia and Daniel are allowed a visitation, where he gave her a note that said "I am leaving soon." He left a few days later in early November. Lydia, trying to learn of Daniel's whereabouts, surmised that Daniel's school friend might know and asked his sister Gloria to inquire. Gloria returned several days later with news that Daniel was staying in Oxford Hills nearby.
Lydia, though very worried about Daniel, knew she could do nothing for him and continued her day-to-day life. She learned many things about the Shakers, including Mother Ann's teachings, the lives of Eldress Lizzie, Elder William, and Brother Delmer, as well as how to ravel haircloth and make poplar cloth. On April 16, 1919, Daniel finally returned to the village during a spring blizzard.
Three years after Daniel, Lydia graduated high school from the Shaker school. The Shakers sent her to a normal school (a teachers' college) in Gorham, Maine to earn her teaching credentials. She met biology professor Ben Chamberlin while out in the world and fell in love. Lydia returned to Sabbathday Lake, but after much contemplation and advice from the eldresses and sisters, she decided to leave the Shaker life. Upon her departure, Sister Jennie gave Lydia her grandmother's ring back.
In 1930, Lydia, age twenty-three, married Ben at Woodfords Congregational Church in Portland, the same church her parents married in. They had two daughters, Caroline and Lucy, named after her mother and sister. Lydia visited 'Chosen Land' occasionally over the years and sent Christmas gifts every year to the young Shaker girls. She died in 1990, at age eighty-three, a widow with six grandchildren.
Personality and traits
Lydia had a agreeable personality and adapted easily to the Shakers lifestyle with a few minor mishaps. On her first day, acted rude towards Sister Jennie by comparing her to a horse, which Lydia apologized for during confession. She had some trouble initially with understanding the Shakers beliefs. After attending Sunday School and Sister Jennie's explanations, Lydia finally got a firm grasp on their teachings.
Lydia also enjoyed novels, such as The Secret Garden, Little Women, and Just So Stories. Not mentioned to be particularly clever, Lydia was still good at schoolwork and had helped Daniel with his French homework. She was slow at learning how to knit and took a long time to finish a wash cloth with no mistakes.
|Ben Chamberlin||Lucy Pierce|
|John||Joseph||Robert||Margaret and Mabel||Willie|
|Caroline Chamberlin||Lucy Chamberlin|
Behind the scenes
- Lydia appears in Like the Willow Tree as the book's heroine. The book was written by Lois Lowry, acclaimed author of Number the Stars (1989) and The Giver (1994).