Lee Anna Embrey student diaries

Biographical and Historical Notes

Lee Anna Embrey was born on October 3, 1912, to Rufus P. and Katie Embrey of Washington, D.C. Embrey attended Central High School in Washington, D.C., and lived in the city until at least 1940, where she worked as an office clerk. In the 1930s, she married and changed her last name to Burns.


"1940 United States Federal Census." Ancestry.com Library Edition. Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2004. http://search.ancestrylibrary.com (accessed December 5, 2013).

Scope and Content Note

These three diaries were kept between 1927 and 1929 by Central High School (Washington, D.C.) student and aspiring writer Lee Anna Embrey. Embrey described in very detailed, descriptive, and articulate language the events of her life. She wrote about family members, friends, school lessons, thoughts, and aspirations, as well as budding relationships. The diaries focus particularly on high school activities such as clubs and social events, with a special emphasis on the journalism club (Quill Clique) and Embrey's involvement in the Central High Bulletin , the school newspaper for which she served as editor-in-chief. The diaries also include newspaper clippings featuring news stories of interest to Embrey, her poetry, which was published in the Washington Post , and writings by her friends.

On January 1, 1927, at the age of 15, Embrey began writing in her diaries, providing very detailed descriptions of her daily life. In the three volumes she discussed her friends, family and home life, movies, writing, vacations, and reading material, and provided a running commentary on the excitement and challenges of being a teenager and high school student.

Embrey's diaries include details about her participation in journalism classes and initiation into Central High School's journalism club, called The Quill Clique. She described Quill Clique meetings, activities, and club trips, including one to a Columbia University "publications conference" in New York City. Embrey related the details of other social activities and trips including a stint at the YWCA-run Kamp Kahlert in July, 1928.

Embrey was heavily involved in the publication of the school newspaper, the Central High Bulletin, managed by members of the 1B journalism class. Many of her diary entries discussed events and meetings related to the creation of the newspaper. In her senior year, she served as editor-in-chief of the Bulletin. Page 368 of the 1928 volume includes a clipping of Embrey in a group photograph with other members of the newspaper staff. The same volume also features an article from the Bulletin written by the outgoing editor-in-chief praising Embrey's experience as a journalism student, staff member of both the Bulletin and another publication called the Review, as well as expressing confidence in her future leadership as the next editor-in-chief.

Throughout her diaries, Embrey pasted in small images cut from newspapers and magazines, which add color and flair to her entries. There are also several laid-in are clippings of news stories (such as one on Charles Lindbergh's 1927 flight across the Atlantic Ocean), small theater flyers, a photographic negative, and several poems written both by Embrey and her friends, which were published in the Washington Post. One of Embrey's 1927 poems, titled "Spring Fever" won the Post's "$1 Prize," to her great satisfaction. The 1929 volume includes a laid-in clipping and picture of Arthur L. Conn, a fellow student in whom Embrey had a romantic interest.