Wednesday, January 13, 2010

THE LUXURY OF DREAMING BIG 23rd installment

Marion Nicholson, circa 1910



The next few days shot by, as the rather insensitive opening line on Flora's letter home three days later, proved: Newton Center, August 6, 1908

Dear Mother,

I suppose you will be thinking it is your time to get a letter. We are having such a fine time I can hardly waste time writing letters.

Henry May and I are going out to dinner tonight to Mrs. Burnett's. We would have gone out auto riding this afternoon if it hadn't rained. Tomorrow we are going over to Mrs. Coites' to play bridge and in the evening Henry is going to take us to the theatre.
Friday, Miss Starkey and Miss Stevens are going to take us to Jetties Beach on Nantuckett Island. They are nurses in the Newton Hospital. Miss Starkey took care of Aunt Christie when she was the worst. She is very nice and pleasant and above all a Canadian. ..Flora underlined the words ' a Canadian' for emphasis.

Lovingly, Flora,


PS.Tuesday, Henry, May and I went out to Framingham to call on Mrs. Coy.

Flora didn’t go into detail about her Tuesday trip, in the Stanley Steamer, to Wellesley and then on to Framingham, on a whim, where the happy trio dropped in on family friend Mrs. Coy unannounced and found her in kimono, her hair dishevelled. She had been doing the washing, all day, she said, appearing both pleased to see Flora and her cousins as well as deeply embarrassed.

“I’m not fortunate like your mother,” she said, apologetically. I have no daughters to help me do the housework. “But on your house calls, Dr. Watters, you have likely seen women in worse disarray than this.”

Henry blushed a bit and said nothing.

"We were visiting Wellesley and since you are just down the road we decided to come say Hello," said May,"but we cannot stay."


With that Mrs. Coy was let off the hook, and didn't have to receive them, yet she seemed torn. She was a lonely woman, with two sons, one living at home.


"Mr. Coy is at work and Chester is in Maine. Had I known you were coming I would had Ross come down. How is your grandmother, Flora. What is she, 83? Does she still like to travel?


"Yes, I think so. She is fine. She rattles away in the old tongue all the time now."


And then a few more words and they were off, with Mrs. Coy waving from the window, a small, sad figure, no doubt wishing she were young and free again.


On their way back, motoring smoothly through the sprawling Wellesley Campus, Flora spied a lone figure on the archery field setting her arrow in the bow, drawing and taking aim.

Flora shaded her eyes from the 4 o'clock sun with her hand. (She had long given up on wearing her hat in the open car.) The woman archer struck such a dignified figure, Flora's heart leapt. Henry noticed his cousin's intense interest and slowed the motorcar. The tall young woman on the grassy knoll let go the arrow which fell somewhere out of view and then reached over her left shoulder into her quiver for another and repeated her strike. She wore no hat, either, the hair of her updo had come down on one side and her grey-blue skirt billowed in the breeze like the gown of a twentieth-century goddess.

The woman didn't notice she had an audience. For some reason, Flora was reminded of Marion.


In a minute or two, without speaking, Henry pushed forward the throttle and the Steamer barrelled on, much more quickly now, past a few other women scholars strolling in the late afternoon sun, for it was summer and the campus was quiet.

May, in the front seat now, started flipping through the Wellesleyan Magazine, which they had picked up on their visit. “Newspaper Work” She read:
The world of journalism, in which the average layman indiscriminately places the cub reporter as well as the seasoned war correspondent, seems to possess an especial glamour for college girls, and every year there is a little group of graduates from the women's colleges who try to enter the field.


The term " newspaper work " usually suggests the reporting and editing of a paper; although there are two other very important departments. Blah blah. There are the Managing Editors whose work is to keep the paper closely in line with the policy laid down by the owners, and the interests of the business office, City Editors, right down to the Desk Editors, who read the copy turned in by reporters all day long.


The news is divided between two fields: local and foreign. The City Editor has charge of all local news; that is, within a radius of about twenty miles. He keeps a big book, called the "Assignment" book, and in it are recorded weeks and months ahead, coming events of public and general interest.


His salary, on the five papers investigated, ranges from $1,820 to $4,000 per year, with an average of $2412.

“I think I would like to be a city editor,” exclaimed Mae.

She lip read for the next few paragraphs and then said “Ah, listen to this, Flora...
But there are handicaps which are thought to offer serious objections for women. All the editors and newspaper women interviewed feel strongly that the high nervous strain under which the editors must work, especially in the last hour before the paper goes to press, would wear a woman out in a short time.

It is a maelstrom of hurry and anxiety, Woman's ability to control such situations is, of course, a matter of opinion, but newspaper people themselves doubt it, and point to the fact that there are no women holding such positions in Boston.


“So a teacher I will be, it seems,” said Mae. “I’m suddenly sick to my stomach. Must be the oysters at lunch.


“It is likely motion sickness. They are finding that it is difficult for some people to read while driving in an auto,” said Henry, wiping the dust from the face of one of the gauges with a gloved index finger.


“That must be it,” said Flora, from above Henry. 'Maelstrom of hurry and anxiety', surely her Mother, Margaret, was an expert, she thought. Flora was not happy to be brought so abruptly back to reality, her reality, that her family was near penniless, and that, with her marks, it was going to be struggle for her to get into the very female world of teaching, let alone the very male world of newspapers. At least Mae, with her excellent grades (she was the same age as Flora and one year ahead of her) had the luxury of dreaming big.