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Alice Elizabeth Schall was born 3 August 1860, the daughter of John Schall, a second generation German landowner and farmer, and Matilda Ann Cunningham Schall, an Irish immigrant. Schall had three brothers, William (2-3 years older), Henry (1-2 years older), and John (2-3 years younger). Schall attended Immaculate Conception Academy, a Catholic girls' school in Davenport, Iowa. After graduating from the academy, Schall went to live with her family on their farm outside Port Byron, Iowa, in Coe Township. She later became a newspaper correspondent for St. John's Parish in Rapid City, Iowa, publishing articles in the Port Byron Globe. She served as secretary and treasurer of the Alter and Rosary Society and the president of the City Beautification and Improvement Club of Port Byron. She never married.
The Alice Elizabeth Schall diary dates from 1 January 1880 to 31 December 1880. In this diary, Schall writes about the events of her everyday life and the things that are important to her. She comments on the weather and her sleep patterns almost every day as well as letters she wrote and received, visitors, and her health. Schall had a great talent for art, music, and literature and often comments on her drawings and music lessons. She also remarks about her emotions and feelings of loneliness, often writing that she cried "about something" but not specifying about what. She used the back of her diary to keep track of her letters.
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