Sunday, August 25, 2013

Mean Girls in 1890

Nellie McClung, before she became a voice for women's suffrage was a school teacher. At the tender age of 17, Nellie took a teaching position in Hazel School.

While she was there, she became involved in the community, and in the social events there. On one occasion, she attended a quilting bee. The quilt was going to be a present for the manse that Christmas. While she attended this event, it was reported that at that moment, in the neighbourhood, the minister's wife and a companion were going around house to house, asking women to sign a petition with regard to getting the vote.

In the course of conversation, it became apparent to Nellie that the other women found this offensive. One woman even thought it was "insulting" to their husbands that they would want to vote. Nellie did not agree. To her dismay, when the knock came at the door, and it was apparent that the minister's wife had arrived at that home, the women took flight to the upper rooms, not wanting to confront this situation. The owner of the home remained downstairs, as did Nellie, and though Nellie agreed to sign, the owner of the home was frosty toward the minister's wife, would not sign, and reported that none of the other women were interested, either.

Nellie's thoughts are interesting. She had a great deal of respect for the minister's wife, having seen her kindness on occasion. She did not understand why the women reacted this way. She asked herself a question that I have asked myself, 123 years later:
I wanted to tell them about the minister's wife, how she had come into the Wheeler house and taken charge, and brought the poor woman through when the doctor and husband had failed. I wanted to tell them that they should have stayed and listened to her for she was a wonderful woman. 
I knew these were good women, church women; were they not quilting for the manse? I was surprised to see how biting they were. 
I knew that women should help each other, and I could see that the vote would bring added importance to women, but I could not put it into words. They had me down.
So I came away and as I walked home the three miles, I pondered with deep agitation on the world-old problem of "Why are women so mean to each other?"

I found it so interesting that women struggled with other women even then. It seems like people really don't change much. I also found it insightful of the young Nellie to even ask herself that question.