Tuesday, March 9, 2010

HIGH ANXIETY 33rd installment

Dresses, summer, Delineator 1909

Margaret was in frenzy. First Herb had finally written her,enclosing a picture of his new bank in Cowansville, but the letter, a short note had proven maddening:

Feb 28, 1909

Dear Mother,

Am going to drop you a new line to let you know I am well. I am doing ledger work here. I was awfully sorry to here of Sam McMorine's trouble and I think I will drop him a line. Things are very quiet here except for a horse race on the river. I think I know everybody in town and it is not quite so bad.

Now about writing, I know it is about the least I can do to write every week and will try and do better in future and although your letters were not answered as soon as they should be, yours are the only ones out of two pocketfuls that have been. I am going to try to write to Father this week.

Your Son, Herb

Excuses, always some excuse. Although he seemed to be apologizing for his Christmas behavior, wasn't he? He said he wasn't minding being in Cowansville, after all those cruel words at Christmas, about his parents ruining his chances, a conversation she couldn't bring herself to tell anyone, even Norman, especially Norman.

And then there was the Ladies' Home Journal. Sister Bella had dropped it off the day before, the new February issue, the Valentine's issue, saying that Flora might enjoy the article ideas for silks, ribbons and flowers as she was interested in going into the millinery profession. Millinery Profession. Wherever had she heard that nonsense? No daughter of hers would ever be a shop-keeper's assistant.

And later, when Margaret had picked up the magazine, which was, after all, so hard to resist, with its vision of pretty new things and comfortable homes, the easy life, she noticed that the magazine contained not one, but three articles railing against women's suffrage.

THOSE RESTLESS WOMEN screamed one headline.

Suppose we take the noisy clamor for the right of women to vote and reduce it to a practical test or two. Now we are certainly led to believe by the speeches of the female suffragists, that the American women really want the ballot - in fact, that definite statement is repeatedly made. But just what is meant by the phrase "the American Woman" isn't always made clear. How large a part of American Womanhood does it include? Let us take an expression or two direct from women. Not many years ago an American President received the customary petition that is familiar to every President, asking him to incorporate into his next message to Congress a recommendation that the subject of women's suffrage be seriously taken up with the view of giving women the right to vote. The President was fair-minded. He was willing to see both sides, so he determined to test the truth of the phrase in the petition, that is " this was practically the unanimous desire of American womanhood as a whole," but that "men had refused to recognize the fact." That evening he handed the petition to his wife and asked her "What do you think of that?" "I really don't know," she answered. "I have never thought about it." The President said, "but the petition says it is the unanimous desire of American women."
"Perhaps it is," she answered. "Why don't you find out. Pick fifty women whose opinion you respect and write and ask them."

The President did.

There were 46 answers. Thirty four had no desire at all to vote. They were 'too busy' or left politics to their husbands. Eleven were absolutely indifferent. One lonely lady said "she might vote" but added "probably, when the time came, I wouldn't bother to vote." Here, then, were forty-odd intelligent, representative women, and yet not a single one actually wanted the ballot!

…The simple fact of the matter is that the vast majority of American women have not only no desire to vote, but, to use their own words, they are not bothering about the question. This is the actual condition that American suffragists confront, not the antagonism of men, for men, as a body, are not antagonistic, they are indifferent, perfectly content to let women fight this question out among themselves and find consensus among themselves. And up to this date that consensus is distinctly that the average woman's common sense, and particularly her knowledge of her own sex, teaches her that she is unwilling to run the risks, which she knows, far better than men, would accompany an extension of the franchise to her sex. The field of politics as a new excitement for a few restless American women is barred to them by their own sex.

Americans, Margaret thought. Who cares what Americans think? We live in Canada, and Canadians are more Progressive than Americans. Except for Uncle Alec and The Kellochs and Sister Bella, of course.

The magazine, these days is nothing but advertisements, she noticed. (The Nicholsons had long cancelled their subscription.) She was about to toss it aside when she noticed a full page article (or was it an advertisement?) The Cheapest Way to Warm a House that pulled her back in... "The fuel savings of hot water, steam or vacuum heating will pay from 15 to 50 percent over old fashioned heating methods like coal and wood...There are other savings more important than fuel, that cannot be accurately figured in dollars..All housewives know how much extra house-cleaning old fashioned heating methods necessitate.... no cold corners, no drafts, pure clean uniform warmth..which is why our system is used in all modern hospitals, which owe their existence to unsanitary, uneven heating conditions...

This time she threw the magazine down for real. How could a person find peace of mind these days? Even fashion magazines set fires under your fiercest fears.