"I feel," I told her, "more like asking you to pray for me."
Relief continued her analysis. "You have not told me that my affliction was a visitation from God," she added; "that it was discipline and well for me I had it."
"I don't believe it was from God," I said. "I don't believe God had anything to do with it. And I rejoice that you have not let it wreck your life."
She pressed my hand. "Thank you for saying that," she murmured. "If I thought God did it I could not love Him, and if I did not love Him I could not live. Please come and see me VERY often—and tell me stories!"
After that I collected stories for Relief. One of those which most amused her, I remember, was about my horse, and this encourages me to repeat it here. In my life in East Dennis I did not occupy the lonely little parsonage connected with my church, but instead boarded with a friend—a widow named Crowell. (There seemed only two names in Cape Cod: Sears and Crowell.) To keep in touch with my two churches, which were almost three miles apart, it became necessary to have a horse. As Mrs. Crowell needed one, too, we decided to buy the animal in partnership, and Miss Crowell, the daughter of the widow, who knew no more about horses than I did, undertook to lend me the support of her presence and advice during the purchase. We did not care to have the entire community take a passionate interest in the matter, as it would certainly have done if it had heard of our intention; so my friend and I departed somewhat stealthily for a neighboring town, where, we had heard, a very good horse was offered for sale. We saw the animal and liked it; but before closing the bargain we cannily asked the owner if the horse was perfectly sound, and if it was gentle with women. He assured us that it was both sound and gentle with women, and to prove the latter point he had his wife harness it to the buggy and drive it around the stable-yard. The animal behaved beautifully. After it had gone through its paces, Miss Crowell and I leaned confidingly against its side, patting it and praising its beauty, and the horse seemed to enjoy our attentions. We bought it then and there, drove it home, and put it in our barn; and the next morning we hired a man in the neighborhood to come over and take care of it.
He arrived. Five minutes later a frightful racket broke out in the barn—sounds of stamping, kicking, and plunging, mingled with loud shouts. We ran to the scene of the trouble, and found our "hired man" rushing breathlessly toward the house. When he was able to speak he informed us that we had "a devil in there," pointing back to the barn, and that the new horse's legs were in the air, all four of them at once, the minute he went near her. We insisted that he must have frightened or hurt her, but, solemnly and with anxious looks behind, he protested that he had not. Finally Miss Crowell and I went into the barn, and received a dignified welcome from the new horse, which seemed pleased by our visit. Together we harnessed her and, without the least difficulty, drove her out into the yard. As soon as our man took the reins, however, she reared, kicked, and smashed our brand-new buggy. We changed the man and had the buggy repaired, but by the end of the week the animal had smashed the buggy again. Then, with some natural resentment, we made a second visit to the man from whom we had bought her, and asked him why he had sold us such a horse.
He said he had told us the exact truth. The horse WAS sound and she WAS extremely gentle with women, but—and this point he had seen no reason to mention, as we had not asked about it—she would not let a man come near her. He firmly refused to take her back, and we had to make the best of the bargain. As it was impossible to take care of her ourselves, I gave some thought to the problem she presented, and finally devised a plan which worked very well. I hired a neighbor who was a small, slight man to take care of her, and made him wear his wife's sunbonnet and waterproof cloak whenever he approached the horse. The picture he presented in these garments still stands out pleasantly against the background of my Cape Cod memories. The horse, however, did not share our appreciation of it. She was suspicious, and for a time she shied whenever the man and his sunbonnet and cloak appeared; but we stood by until she grew accustomed to them and him; and as he was both patient and gentle, she finally allowed him to harness and unharness her. But no man could drive her, and when I drove to church I was forced to hitch and unhitch her myself. No one else could do it, though many a gallant and subsequently resentful man attempted the feat.
On one occasion a man I greatly disliked, and who I had reason to know disliked me, insisted that he could unhitch her, and started to do so, notwithstanding my protests and explanations. At his approach she rose on her hind-legs, and when he grasped her bridle she lifted him off his feet. His expression as he hung in mid-air was an extraordinary mixture of surprise and regret. The moment I touched her, however, she quieted down, and when I got into the buggy and gathered up the reins she walked off like a lamb, leaving the man staring after her with his eyes starting from his head.
The previous owner had called the horse Daisy, and we never changed the name, though it always seemed sadly inappropriate. Time proved, however, that there were advantages in the ownership of Daisy. No man would allow his wife or daughter to drive behind her, and no one wanted to borrow her. If she had been a different kind of animal she would have been used by the whole community, We kept Daisy for seven years, and our acquaintance ripened into a pleasant friendship.
Another Cape Cod resident to whose memory I must offer tribute in these pages was Polly Ann Sears—one of the dearest and best of my parishioners. She had six sons, and when five had gone to sea she insisted that the sixth must remain at home. In vain the boy begged her to let him follow his brothers. She stood firm. The sea, she said, should not swallow all her boys; she had given it five—she must keep one.
As it happened, the son she kept at home was the only one who was drowned. He was caught in a fish-net and dragged under the waters of the bay near his home; and when I went to see his mother to offer such comfort as I could, she showed that she had learned the big lesson of the experience.
"I tried to be a special Providence," she moaned, "and the one boy I kept home was the only boy I lost. I ain't a-goin' to be a Providence no more."
The number of funerals on Cape Cod was tragically large. I was in great demand on these occasions, and went all over the Cape, conducting funeral services—which seemed to be the one thing people thought I could do—and preaching funeral sermons. Besides the victims of the sea, many of the residents who had drifted away were brought back to sleep their last sleep within sound of the waves. Once I asked an old sea-captain why so many Cape Cod men and women who had been gone for years asked to be buried near their old homes, and his reply still lingers in my memory. He poked his toe in the sand for a moment and then said, slowly:
"Wal, I reckon it's because the Cape has such warm, comfortable sand to lie down in."
My friend Mrs. Addy lay in the Crowell family lot, and during my pastorate at East Dennis I preached the funeral sermon of her father, and later of her mother. Long after I had left Cape Cod I was frequently called back to say the last words over the coffins of my old friends, and the saddest of those journeys was the one I made in response to a telegram from the mother of Relief Paine. When I had arrived and we stood together beside the exquisite figure that seemed hardly more quiet in death than in life, Mrs. Paine voiced in her few words the feeling of the whole community—"Where shall we get our comfort and our inspiration, now that Relief is gone?"
The funeral which took all my courage from me, however, was that of my sister Mary. In its suddenness, Mary's death, in 1883, was as a thunderbolt from the blue; for she had been in perfect health three days before she passed away. I was still in charge of my two parishes in Cape Cod, but, as it mercifully happened, before she was stricken I had started West to visit Mary in her home at Big Rapids. When I arrived on the second day of her illness, knowing nothing of it until I reached her, I found her already past hope. Her disease was pneumonia, but she was conscious to the end, and her greatest desire seemed to be to see me christen her little daughter and her husband before she left them. This could not be realized, for my brotherin-law was absent on business, and with all his haste in returning did not reach his wife's side until after her death. As his one thought then was to carry out her last wishes, I christened him and his little girl just before the funeral; and during the ceremony we all experienced a deep conviction that Mary knew and was content.
She had become a power in her community, and was so dearly loved that on the day her body was borne to its last resting-place all the business houses in Big Rapids were closed, and the streets were filled with men who stood with bent, uncovered heads as the funeral procession went by. My father and mother, also, to whom she had given a home after they left the log-cabin where they had lived so long, had made many friends in their new environment and were affectionately known throughout the whole region as "Grandma and Grandpa Shaw."
When I returned to East Dennis I brought my mother and Mary's three children with me, and they remained throughout the spring and summer. I had hoped that they would remain permanently, and had rented and furnished a home for them with that end in view; but, though they enjoyed their visit, the prospect of the bleak winters of Cape Cod disturbed my mother, and they all returned to Big Rapids late in the autumn. Since entering upon my parish work it had been possible for me to help my father and mother financially; and from the time of Mary's death I had the privilege, a very precious one, of seeing that they were well cared for and contented. They were always appreciative, and as time passed they became more reconciled to the career I had chosen, and which in former days had filled them with such dire forebodings.
After I had been in East Dennis four years I began to feel that I was getting into a rut. It seemed to me that all I could do in that particular field had been done. My people wished me to remain, however, and so, partly as an outlet for my surplus energy, but more especially because I realized the splendid work women could do as physicians, I began to study medicine. The trustees gave me permission to go to Boston on certain days of each week, and we soon found that I could carry on my work as a medical student without in the least neglecting my duty toward my parish.
I entered the Boston Medical School in 1882, and obtained my diploma as a full-fledged physician in 1885. During this period I also began to lecture for the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association, of which Lucy Stone was president. Henry Blackwell was associated with her, and together they developed in me a vital interest in the suffrage cause, which grew steadily from that time until it became the dominating influence in my life. I preached it in the pulpit, talked it to those I met outside of the church, lectured on it whenever I had an opportunity, and carried it into my medical work in the Boston slums when I was trying my prentice hand on helpless pauper patients.
Here again, in my association with the women of the streets, I realized the limitations of my work in the ministry and in medicine. As minister to soul and body one could do little for these women. For such as them, one's efforts must begin at the very foundation of the social structure. Laws for them must be made and enforced, and some of those laws could only be made and enforced by women. So many great avenues of life were opening up before me that my Cape Cod environment seemed almost a prison where I was held with tender force. I loved my people and they loved me—but the big outer world was calling, and I could not close my ears to its summons. The suffrage lectures helped to keep me contented, however, and I was certainly busy enough to find happiness in my work.
I was in Boston three nights a week, and during these nights subject to sick calls at any hour. My favorite associates were Dr. Caroline Hastings, our professor of anatomy, and little Dr. Mary Safford, a mite of a woman with an indomitable soul. Dr. Safford was especially prominent in philanthropic work in Massachusetts, and it was said of her that at any hour of the day or night she could be found working in the slums of Boston. I, too, could frequently be found there—often, no doubt, to the disadvantage of my patients. I was quite famous in three Boston alleys—Maiden's Lane, Fellows Court, and Andrews Court. It most fortunately happened that I did not lose a case in those alleys, though I took all kinds, as I had to treat a certain number of surgical and obstetrical cases in my course. No doubt my patients and I had many narrow escapes of which we were blissfully ignorant, but I remember two which for a long time afterward continued to be features of my most troubled dreams.
The first was that of a big Irishman who had pneumonia. When I looked him over I was as much frightened as he was. I had got as far as pneumonia in my course, and I realized that here was a bad case of it. I knew what to do. The patient must be carefully packed in towels wrung out of cold water. When I called for towels I found that there was nothing in the place but a dish-towel, which I washed with portentous gravity. The man owned but one shirt, and, in deference to my visit, his wife had removed that to wash it. I packed the patient in the dish-towel, wrapped him in a piece of an old shawl, and left after instructing his wife to repeat the process. When I reached home I remembered that the patient must be packed "carefully," and I knew that his wife would do it carelessly. That meant great risk to the man's life. My impulse was to rush back to him at once, but this would never do. It would destroy all confidence in the doctor. I walked the floor for three hours, and then casually strolled in upon my patient, finding him, to my great relief, better than I had left him. As I was leaving, a child rushed into the room, begging me to come to an upper floor in the same building.
"The baby's got the croup," she gasped, "an' he's chokin' to death."
We had not reached croup in our course, and I had no idea what to do, but I valiantly accompanied the little girl. As we climbed the long flights of stairs to the top floor I remembered a conversation I had overheard between two medical students. One of them had said: "If the child is strangling when it inhales, as if it were breathing through a sponge, then give it spongia; but if it is strangling when it breathes out, give it aconite."
When I reached the baby I listened, but could not tell which way it was strangling. However, I happened to have both medicines with me, so I called for two glasses and mixed the two remedies, each in its own glass. I gave them both to the mother, and told her to use them alternately, every fifteen minutes, until the baby was better. The baby got well; but whether its recovery was due to the spongia or to the aconite I never knew.
In my senior year I fell in love with an infant of three, named Patsy. He was one of nine children when I was called to deliver his mother of her tenth child. She was drunk when I reached her, and so were two men who lay on the floor in the same room. I had them carried out, and after the mother and baby had been attended to I noticed Patsy. He was the most beautiful child I had ever seen—with eyes like Italian skies and yellow hair in tight curls over his adorable little head; but he was covered with filthy rags. I borrowed him, took him home with me, and fed and bathed him, and the next day fitted him out with new clothes. Every hour I had him tightened his hold on my heart-strings. I went to his mother and begged her to let me keep him, but she refused, and after a great deal of argument and entreaty I had to return him to her. When I went to see him a few days later I found him again in his horrible rags. His mother had pawned his new clothes for drink, and she was deeply under its influence. But no pressure I could exert then or later would make her part with Patsy. Finally, for my own peace of mind, I had to give up hope of getting him—but I have never ceased to regret the little adopted son I might have had.
VII. THE GREAT CAUSE
There is a theory that every seven years each human being undergoes a complete physical reconstruction, with corresponding changes in his mental and spiritual make-up. Possibly it was due to this reconstruction that, at the end of seven years on Cape Cod, my soul sent forth a sudden call to arms. I was, it reminded me, taking life too easily; I was in danger of settling into an agreeable routine. The work of my two churches made little drain on my superabundant vitality, and not even the winning of a medical degree and the increasing demands of my activities on the lecture platform wholly eased my conscience. I was happy, for I loved my people and they seemed to love me. It would have been pleasant to go on almost indefinitely, living the life of a country minister and telling myself that what I could give to my flock made such a life worth while.
But all the time, deep in my heart, I realized the needs of the outside world, and heard its prayer for workers. My theological and medical courses in Boston, with the experiences that accompanied them, had greatly widened my horizon. Moreover, at my invitation, many of the noble women of the day were coming to East Dennis to lecture, bringing with them the stirring atmosphere of the conflicts they were waging. One of the first of these was my friend Mary A. Livermore; and after her came Julia Ward Howe, Anna Garlin Spencer, Lucy Stone, Mary F. Eastman, and many others, each charged with inspiration for my people and with a special message for me, which she sent forth unknowingly and which I alone heard. They were fighting great battles, these women—for suffrage, for temperance, for social purity—and in every word they uttered I heard a rallying-cry. So it was that, in 1885, I suddenly pulled myself up to a radical decision and sent my resignation to the trustees of the two churches whose pastor I had been since 1878.
The action caused a demonstration of regret which made it hard to keep to my resolution and leave these men and women whose friendship was among the dearest of my possessions. But when we had all talked things over, many of them saw the situation as I did. No doubt there were those, too, who felt that a change of ministry would be good for the churches. During the weeks that followed my resignation I received many odd tributes, and of these one of the most amusing came from a young girl in the parish, who broke into loud protests when she heard that I was going away. To comfort her I predicted that she would now have a man minister—doubtless a very nice man. But the young person continued to sniffle disconsolately.
"I don't want a man," she wailed. "I don't like to see men in pulpits. They look so awkward." Her grief culminated in a final outburst. "They're all arms and legs!" she sobbed.
When my resignation was finally accepted, and the time of my departure drew near, the men of the community spent much of their leisure in discussing it and me. The social center of East Dennis was a certain grocery, to which almost every man in town regularly wended his way, and from which all the gossip of the town emanated. Here the men sat for hours, tilted back in their chairs, whittling the rungs until they nearly cut the chairs from under them, and telling one another all they knew or had heard about their fellow-townsmen. Then, after each session, they would return home and repeat the gossip to their wives. I used to say that I would give a dollar to any woman in East Dennis who could quote a bit of gossip which did not come from the men at that grocery. Even my old friend Captain Doane, fine and high-minded citizen though he was, was not above enjoying the mild diversion of these social gatherings, and on one occasion at least he furnished the best part of the entertainment. The departing minister was, it seemed, the topic of the day's discussion, and, to tease Captain Doane one young man who knew the strength of his friendship for me suddenly began to speak, then pursed up his lips and looked eloquently mysterious. As he had expected, Captain Doane immediately pounced on him.
"What's the matter with you?" demanded the old man. "Hev you got anything agin Miss Shaw?"
The young man sighed and murmured that if he wished he could repeat a charge never before made against a Cape Cod minister, but—and he shut his lips more obviously. The other men, who were in the plot, grinned, and this added the last touch to Captain Doane's indignation. He sprang to his feet. One of his peculiarities was a constant misuse of words, and now, in his excitement, he outdid himself.
"You've made an incineration against Miss Shaw," he shouted. "Do you hear—AN INCINERATION! Take it back or take a lickin'!"
The young man decided that the joke had gone far enough, so he answered, mildly: "Well, it is said that all the women in town are in love with Miss Shaw. Has that been charged against any other minister here?"
The men roared with laughter, and Captain Doane sat down, looking sheepish.
"All I got to say is this," he muttered: "That gal has been in this community for seven years, and she 'ain't done a thing during the hull seven years that any one kin lay a finger on!"
The men shouted again at this back-handed tribute, and the old fellow left the grocery in a huff. Later I was told of the "incineration" and his eloquent defense of me, and I thanked him for it. But I added:
"I hear you said I haven't done a thing in seven years that any one can lay a finger on?"
"I said it," declared the Captain, "and I'll stand by it."
"Haven't I done any good?" I asked.
"Sartin you have," he assured me, heartily. "Lots of good."
"Well," I said, "can't you put your finger on that?"
The Captain looked startled. "Why—why—Sister Shaw," he stammered, "you know I didn't mean THAT! What I meant," he repeated, slowly and solemnly, "was that the hull time you been here you ain't done nothin' anybody could put a finger on!"
Captain Doane apparently shared my girl parishioner's prejudice against men in the pulpit, for long afterward, on one of my visits to Cape Cod, he admitted that he now went to church very rarely.
"When I heard you preach," he explained, "I gen'ally followed you through and I knowed where you was a-comin' out. But these young fellers that come from the theological school—why, Sister Shaw, the Lord Himself don't know where they're comin' out!"
For a moment he pondered. Then he uttered a valedictory which I have always been glad to recall as his last message, for I never saw him again.
"When you fust come to us," he said, "you had a lot of crooked places, an' we had a lot of crooked places; and we kind of run into each other, all of us. But before you left, Sister Shaw, why, all the crooked places was wore off and everything was as smooth as silk."
"Yes," I agreed, "and that was the time to leave—when everything was running smoothly."
All is changed on Cape Cod since those days, thirty years ago. The old families have died or moved away, and those who replaced them were of a different type. I am happy in having known and loved the Cape as it was, and in having gathered there a store of delightful memories. In later strenuous years it has rested me merely to think of the place, and long afterward I showed my continued love of it by building a home there, which I still possess. But I had little time to rest in this or in my Moylan home, of which I shall write later, for now I was back in Boston, living my new life, and each crowded hour brought me more to do.
We were entering upon a deeply significant period. For the first time women were going into industrial competition with men, and already men were intensely resenting their presence. Around me I saw women overworked and underpaid, doing men's work at half men's wages, not because their work was inferior, but because they were women. Again, too, I studied the obtrusive problems of the poor and of the women of the streets; and, looking at the whole social situation from every angle, I could find but one solution for women—the removal of the stigma of disfranchisement. As man's equal before the law, woman could demand her rights, asking favors from no one. With all my heart I joined in the crusade of the men and women who were fighting for her. My real work had begun.
Naturally, at this period, I frequently met the members of Boston's most inspiring group—the Emersons and John Greenleaf Whittier, James Freeman Clark, Reverend Minot Savage, Bronson Alcott and his daughter Louisa, Wendell Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison, Stephen Foster, Theodore Weld, and the rest. Of them all, my favorite was Whittier. He had been present at my graduation from the theological school, and now he often attended our suffrage meetings. He was already an old man, nearing the end of his life; and I recall him as singularly tall and thin, almost gaunt, bending forward as he talked, and wearing an expression of great serenity and benignity. I once told Susan B. Anthony that if I needed help in a crowd of strangers that included her, I would immediately turn to her, knowing from her face that, whatever I had done, she would understand and assist me. I could have offered the same tribute to Whittier. At our meetings he was like a vesper-bell chiming above a battle-field. Garrison always became excited during our discussions, and the others frequently did; but Whittier, in whose big heart the love of his fellow-man burned as unquenchably as in any heart there, always preserved his exquisite tranquillity.
Once, I remember, Stephen Foster insisted on having the word "tyranny" put into a resolution, stating that women were deprived of suffrage by the TYRANNY of men. Mr. Garrison objected, and the debate that followed was the most exciting I have ever heard. The combatants actually had to adjourn before they could calm down sufficiently to go on with their meeting. Knowing the stimulating atmosphere to which he had grown accustomed, I was not surprised to have Theodore Weld explain to me; long afterward, why he no longer attended suffrage meetings.
"Oh," he said, "why should I go? There hasn't been any one mobbed in twenty years!"
The Ralph Waldo Emersons occasionally attended our meetings, and Mr. Emerson, at first opposed to woman suffrage, became a convert to it during the last years of his life—a fact his son and daughter omitted to mention in his biography. After his death I gave two suffrage lectures in Concord, and each time Mrs. Emerson paid for the hall. At these lectures Louisa M. Alcott graced the assembly with her splendid, wholesome presence, and on both occasions she was surrounded by a group of boys. She frankly cared much more for boys than for girls, and boys inevitably gravitated to her whenever she entered a place where they were. When women were given school suffrage in Massachusetts, Miss Alcott was the first woman to vote in Concord, and she went to the polls accompanied by a group of her boys, all ardently "for the Cause." My general impression of her was that of a fresh breeze blowing over wide moors. She was as different as possible from exquisite little Mrs. Emerson, who, in her daintiness and quiet charm, suggested an old New England garden.
Of Abby May and Edna Cheney I retain a general impression of "bagginess"—of loose jackets over loose waistbands, of escaping locks of hair, of bodies seemingly one size from the neck down. Both women were utterly indifferent to the details of their appearance, but they were splendid workers and leading spirits in the New England Woman's Club. It was said to be the trouble between Abby May and Kate Gannett Wells, both of whom stood for the presidency of the club, that led to the beginning of the anti-suffrage movement in Boston. Abby May was elected president, and all the suffragists voted for her. Subsequently Kate Gannett Wells began her anti-suffrage campaign. Mrs. Wells was the first anti-suffragist I ever knew in this country. Before her there had been Mrs. Dahlgren, wife of Admiral Dahlgren, and Mrs. William Tecumseh Sherman. On one occasion Elizabeth Cady Stanton challenged Mrs. Dahlgren to a debate on woman suffrage, and in the light of later events Mrs. Dahlgren's reply is amusing. She declined the challenge, explaining that for anti-suffragists to appear upon a public platform would be a direct violation of the principle for which they stood—which was the protection of female modesty! Recalling this, and the present hectic activity of the anti-suffragists, one must feel that they have either abandoned their principle or widened their views. For Julia Ward Howe I had an immense admiration; but, though from first to last I saw much of her, I never felt that I really knew her. She was a woman of the widest culture, interested in every progressive movement. With all her big heart she tried to be a democrat, but she was an aristocrat to the very core of her, and, despite her wonderful work for others, she lived in a splendid isolation. Once when I called on her I found her resting her mind by reading Greek, and she laughingly admitted that she was using a Latin pony, adding that she was growing "rusty." She seemed a little embarrassed by being caught with the pony, but she must have been reassured by my cheerful confession that if I tried to read either Latin or Greek I should need an English pony.
Of Frances E. Willard, who frequently came to Boston, I saw a great deal, and we soon became closely associated in our work. Early in our friendship, and at Miss Willard's suggestion, we made a compact that once a week each of us would point out to the other her most serious faults, and thereby help her to remedy them; but we were both too sane to do anything of the kind, and the project soon died a natural death. The nearest I ever came to carrying it out was in warning Miss Willard that she was constantly defying all the laws of personal hygiene. She never rested, rarely seemed to sleep, and had to be reminded at the table that she was there for the purpose of eating food. She was always absorbed in some great interest, and oblivious to anything else, I never knew a woman who could grip an audience and carry it with her as she could. She was intensely emotional, and swayed others by their emotions rather than by logic; yet she was the least conscious of her physical existence of any one I ever knew, with the exception of Susan B. Anthony. Like "Aunt Susan," Miss Willard paid no heed to cold or heat or hunger, to privation or fatigue. In their relations to such trifles both women were disembodied spirits.
Another woman doing wonderful work at this time was Mrs. Quincy Shaw, who had recently started her day nurseries for the care of tenement children whose mothers labored by the day. These nurseries were new in Boston, as was the kindergarten system she also established. I saw the effect of her work in the lives of the people, and it strengthened my growing conviction that little could be done for the poor in a spiritual or educational way until they were given a certain amount of physical comfort, and until more time was devoted to the problem of prevention. Indeed, the more I studied economic issues, the more strongly I felt that the position of most philanthropists is that of men who stand at the bottom of a precipice gathering up and trying to heal those who fall into it, instead of guarding the top and preventing them from going over.
Of course I had to earn my living; but, though I had taken my medical degree only a few months before leaving Cape Cod, I had no intention of practising medicine. I had merely wished to add a certain amount of medical knowledge to my mental equipment. The Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association, of which Lucy Stone was president, had frequently employed me as a lecturer during the last two years of my pastorate. Now it offered me a salary of one hundred dollars a month as a lecturer and organizer. Though I may not have seemed so in these reminiscences, in which I have written as freely of my small victories as of my struggles and failures, I was a modest young person. The amount seemed too large, and I told Mrs. Stone as much, after which I humbly fixed my salary at fifty dollars a month. At the end of a year of work I felt that I had "made good"; then I asked for and received the one hundred dollars a month originally offered me.
During my second year Miss Cora Scott Pond and I organized and carried through in Boston a great suffrage bazaar, clearing six thousand dollars for the association—a large amount in those days. Elated by my share in this success, I asked that my salary should be increased to one hundred and twenty-five dollars a month—but this was not done. Instead, I received a valuable lesson. It was freely admitted that my work was worth one hundred and twenty-five dollars, but I was told that one hundred was the limit which could be paid, and I was reminded that this was a good salary for a woman.
The time seemed to have come to make a practical stand in defense of my principles, and I did so by resigning and arranging an independent lecture tour. The first month after my resignation I earned three hundred dollars. Later I frequently earned more than that, and very rarely less. Eventually I lectured under the direction of the Slaton Lecture Bureau of Chicago, and later still for the Redpath Bureau of Boston. My experience with the Redpath people was especially gratifying. Mrs. Livermore, who was their only woman lecturer, was growing old and anxious to resign her work. She saw in me a possible successor, and asked them to take me on their list. They promptly refused, explaining that I must "make a reputation" before they could even consider me. A year later they wrote me, making a very good offer, which I accepted. It may be worth while to mention here that through my lecture-work at this period I earned all the money I have ever saved. I lectured night after night, week after week, month after month, in "Chautauquas" in the summer, all over the country in the winter, earning a large income and putting aside at that time the small surplus I still hold in preparation for the "rainy day" every working-woman inwardly fears.
I gave the public at least a fair equivalent for what it gave me, for I put into my lectures all my vitality, and I rarely missed an engagement, though again and again I risked my life to keep one. My special subjects, of course, were the two I had most at heart-suffrage and temperance. For Frances Willard, then President of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, had persuaded me to head the Franchise Department of that organization, succeeding Ziralda Wallace, the mother of Gen. Lew Wallace; and Miss Susan B. Anthony, who was beginning to study me closely, soon swung me into active work with her, of which, later, I shall have much to say. But before taking up a subject as absorbing to me as my friendship for and association with the most wonderful woman I have ever known, it may be interesting to record a few of my pioneer experiences in the lecture-field.
In those days—thirty years ago—the lecture bureaus were wholly regardless of the comfort of their lecturers. They arranged a schedule of engagements with exactly one idea in mind—to get the lecturer from one lecture-point to the next, utterly regardless of whether she had time between for rest or food or sleep. So it happened that all-night journeys in freight-cars, engines, and cabooses were casual commonplaces, while thirty and forty mile drives across the country in blizzards and bitter cold were equally inevitable. Usually these things did not trouble me. They were high adventures which I enjoyed at the time and afterward loved to recall. But there was an occasional hiatus in my optimism.
One night, for example, after lecturing in a town in Ohio, it was necessary to drive eight miles across country to a tiny railroad station at which a train, passing about two o'clock in the morning, was to be flagged for me. When we reached the station it was closed, but my driver deposited me on the platform and drove away, leaving me alone. The night was cold and very dark. All day I had been feeling ill and in the evening had suffered so much pain that I had finished my lecture with great difficulty. Now toward midnight, in this desolate spot, miles from any house, I grew alarmingly worse. I am not easily frightened, but that time I was sure I was going to die. Off in the darkness, very far away, as it seemed, I saw a faint light, and with infinite effort I dragged myself toward it. To walk, even to stand, was impossible; I crawled along the railroad track, collapsing, resting, going on again, whipping my will power to the task of keeping my brain clear, until after a nightmare that seemed to last through centuries I lay across the door of the switch-tower in which the light was burning. The switchman stationed there heard the cry I was able to utter, and came to my assistance. He carried me up to his signal-room and laid me on the floor by the stove; he had nothing to give me except warmth and shelter; but these were now all I asked. I sank into a comatose condition shot through with pain. Toward two o'clock in the morning he waked me and told me my train was coming, asking if I felt able to take it. I decided to make the effort. He dared not leave his post to help me, but he signaled to the train, and I began my progress back to the station. I never clearly remembered how I got there; but I arrived and was helped into a car by a brakeman. About four o'clock in the morning I had to change again, but this time I was left at the station of a town, and was there met by a man whose wife had offered me hospitality. He drove me to their home, and I was cared for. What I had, it developed, was a severe case of ptomaine poisoning, and I soon recovered; but even after all these years I do not like to recall that night.
To be "snowed in" was a frequent experience. Once, in Minnesota, I was one of a dozen travelers who were driven in an omnibus from a country hotel to the nearest railroad station, about two miles away. It was snowing hard, and the driver left us on the station platform and departed. Time passed, but the train we were waiting for did not come. A true Western blizzard, growing wilder every moment, had set in, and we finally realized that the train was not coming, and that, moreover, it was now impossible to get back to the hotel. The only thing we could do was to spend the night in the railroad station. I was the only woman in the group, and my fellow-passengers were cattlemen who whiled away the hours by smoking, telling stories, and exchanging pocket flasks. The station had a telegraph operator who occupied a tiny box by himself, and he finally invited me to share the privacy of his microscopic quarters. I entered them very gratefully, and he laid a board on the floor, covered it with an overcoat made of buffalo-skins, and cheerfully invited me to go to bed. I went, and slept peacefully until morning. Then we all returned to the hotel, the men going ahead and shoveling a path.
Again, one Sunday, I was snowbound in a train near Faribault, and this time also I was the only woman among a number of cattlemen. They were an odoriferous lot, who smoked diligently and played cards without ceasing, but in deference to my presence they swore only mildly and under their breath. At last they wearied of their game, and one of them rose and came to me.
"I heard you lecture the other night," he said, awkwardly, "and I've bin tellin' the fellers about it. We'd like to have a lecture now."
Their card-playing had seemed to me a sinful thing (I was stricter in my views then than I am to-day), and I was glad to create a diversion. I agreed to give them a lecture, and they went through the train, which consisted of two day coaches, and brought in the remaining passengers. A few of them could sing, and we began with a Moody and Sankey hymn or two and the appealing ditty, "Where is my wandering boy to-night?" in which they all joined with special zest. Then I delivered the lecture, and they listened attentively. When I had finished they seemed to think that some slight return was in order, so they proceeded to make a bed for me. They took the bottoms out of two seats, arranged them crosswise, and one man folded his overcoat into a pillow. Inspired by this, two others immediately donated their fur overcoats for upper and lower coverings. When the bed was ready they waved me toward it with a most hospitable air, and I crept in between the overcoats and slumbered sweetly until I was aroused the next morning by the welcome music of a snow-plow which had been sent from St. Paul to our rescue. To drive fifty or sixty miles in a day to meet a lecture engagement was a frequent experience. I have been driven across the prairies in June when they were like a mammoth flower-bed, and in January when they seemed one huge snow-covered grave—my grave, I thought, at times. Once during a thirty-mile drive, when the thermometer was twenty degrees below zero, I suddenly realized that my face was freezing. I opened my satchel, took out the tissue-paper that protected my best gown, and put the paper over my face as a veil, tucking it inside of my bonnet. When I reached my destination the tissue was a perfect mask, frozen stiff, and I had to be lifted from the sleigh. I was due on the lecture platform in half an hour, so I drank a huge bowl of boiling ginger tea and appeared on time. That night I went to bed expecting an attack of pneumonia as a result of the exposure, but I awoke next morning in superb condition. I possess what is called "an iron constitution," and in those days I needed it.
That same winter, in Kansas, I was chased by wolves, and though I had been more or less intimately associated with wolves in my pioneer life in the Michigan woods, I found the occasion extremely unpleasant. During the long winters of my girlhood wolves had frequently slunk around our log cabin, and at times in the lumber-camps we had even heard them prowling on the roofs. But those were very different creatures from the two huge, starving, tireless animals that hour after hour loped behind the cutter in which I sat with another woman, who, throughout the whole experience, never lost her head nor her control of our frantic horses. They were mad with terror, for, try as they would, they could not outrun the grim things that trailed us, seemingly not trying to gain on us, but keeping always at the same distance, with a patience that was horrible. From time to time I turned to look at them, and the picture they made as they came on and on is one I shall never forget. They were so near that I could see their eyes and slavering jaws, and they were as noiseless as things in a dream. At last, little by little, they began to gain on us, and they were almost within striking distance of the whip, which was our only weapon, when we reached the welcome outskirts of a town and they fell back.
Some of the memories of those days have to do with personal encounters, brief but poignant. Once when I was giving a series of Chautauqua lectures, I spoke at the Chautauqua in Pontiac, Illinois. The State Reformatory for Boys was situated in that town, and, after the lecture the superintendent of the Reformatory invited me to visit it and say a few words to the inmates. I went and spoke for half an hour, carrying away a memory of the place and of the boys which haunted me for months. A year later, while I was waiting for a train in the station at Shelbyville, a lad about sixteen years old passed me and hesitated, looking as if he knew me. I saw that he wanted to speak and dared not, so I nodded to him.
"You think you know me, don't you?" I asked, when he came to my side.
"Yes'm, I do know you," he told me, eagerly. "You are Miss Shaw, and you talked to us boys at Pontiac last year. I'm out on parole now, but I 'ain't forgot. Us boys enjoyed you the best of any show we ever had!"
I was touched by this artless compliment, and anxious to know how I had won it, so I asked, "What did I say that the boys liked?"
The lad hesitated. Then he said, slowly, "Well, you didn't talk as if you thought we were all bad."
"My boy," I told him, "I don't think you are all bad. I know better!"
As if I had touched a spring in him, the lad dropped into the seat by my side; then, leaning toward me, he said, impulsively, but almost in a whisper:
"Say, Miss Shaw, SOME OF US BOYS SAYS OUR PRAYERS!"
Rarely have I had a tribute that moved me more than that shy confidence; and often since then, in hours of discouragement or failure, I have reminded myself that at least there must have been something in me once to make a lad of that age so open up his heart. We had a long and intimate talk, from which grew the abiding interest I feel in boys today.
Naturally I was sometimes inconvenienced by slight misunderstandings between local committees and myself as to the subjects of my lectures, and the most extreme instance of this occurred in a town where I arrived to find myself widely advertised as "Mrs. Anna Shaw, who whistled before Queen Victoria"! Transfixed, I gaped before the billboards, and by reading their additional lettering discovered the gratifying fact that at least I was not expected to whistle now. Instead, it appeared, I was to lecture on "The Missing Link."
As usual, I had arrived in town only an hour or two before the time fixed for my lecture; there was the briefest interval in which to clear up these painful misunderstandings. I repeatedly tried to reach the chairman who was to preside at the entertainment, but failed. At last I went to the hall at the hour appointed, and found the local committee there, graciously waiting to receive me. Without wasting precious minutes in preliminaries, I asked why they had advertised me as the woman who had "whistled before Queen Victoria."
"Why, didn't you whistle before her?" they exclaimed in grieved surprise.
"I certainly did not," I explained. "Moreover, I was never called 'The American Nightingale,' and I have never lectured on 'The Missing Link.' Where DID you get that subject? It was not on the list I sent you."
The members of the committee seemed dazed. They withdrew to a corner and consulted in whispers. Then, with clearing brow, the spokesman returned.
"Why," he said, cheerfully, "it's simple enough! We mixed you up with a Shaw lady that whistles; and we've been discussing the missing link in our debating society, so our citizens want to hear your views."
"But I don't know anything about the missing link," I protested, "and I can't speak on it."
"Now, come," they begged. "Why, you'll have to! We've sold all our tickets for that lecture. The whole town has turned out to hear it."
Then, as I maintained a depressed silence, one of them had a bright idea.
"I'll tell you how to fix it!" he cried. "Speak on any subject you please, but bring in something about the missing link every few minutes. That will satisfy 'em."
"Very well," I agreed, reluctantly. "Open the meeting with a song. Get the audience to sing 'America' or 'The Star-spangled Banner.' That will give me a few minutes to think, and I will see what can be done."
Led by a very nervous chairman, the big audience began to sing, and under the inspiration of the music the solution of our problem flashed into my mind.
"It is easy," I told myself. "Woman is the missing link in our government. I'll give them a suffrage speech along that line."
When the song ended I began my part of the entertainment with a portion of my lecture on "The Fate of Republics," tracing their growth and decay, and pointing out that what our republic needed to give it a stable government was the missing link of woman suffrage. I got along admirably, for every five minutes I mentioned "the missing link," and the audience sat content and apparently interested, while the members of the committee burst into bloom on the platform.
VIII. DRAMA IN THE LECTURE-FIELD
My most dramatic experience occurred in a city in Michigan, where I was making a temperance campaign. It was an important lumber and shipping center, and it harbored much intemperance. The editor of the leading newspaper was with the temperance-workers in our fight there, and he had warned me that the liquor people threatened to "burn the building over my head" if I attempted to lecture. We were used to similar threats, so I proceeded with my preparations and held the meeting in the town skating-rink—a huge, bare, wooden structure.
Lectures were rare in that city, and rumors of some special excitement on this occasion had been circulated; every seat in the rink was filled, and several hundred persons stood in the aisles and at the back of the building. Just opposite the speaker's platform was a small gallery, and above that, in the ceiling, was a trap-door. Before I had been speaking ten minutes I saw a man drop through this trap-door to the balcony and climb from there to the main floor. As he reached the floor he shouted "Fire!" and rushed out into the street. The next instant every person in the rink was up and a panic had started. I was very sure there was no fire, but I knew that many might be killed in the rush which was beginning. So I sprang on a chair and shouted to the people with the full strength of my lungs:
"There is no fire! It's only a trick! Sit down! Sit down!"
The cooler persons in the crowd at once began to help in this calming process.
"Sit down!" they repeated. "It's all right! There's no fire! Sit down!"
It looked as if we had the situation in hand, for the people hesitated, and most of them grew quiet; but just then a few words were hissed up to me that made my heart stop beating. A member of our local committee was standing beside my chair, speaking in a terrified whisper:
"There IS a fire, Miss Shaw," he said. "For God's sake get the people out—QUICKLY!"
The shock was so unexpected that my knees almost gave way. The people were still standing, wavering, looking uncertainly toward us. I raised my voice again, and if it sounded unnatural my hearers probably thought it was because I was speaking so loudly.
"As we are already standing," I cried, "and are all nervous, a little exercise will do us good. So march out, singing. Keep time to the music! Later you can come back and take your seats!"
The man who had whispered the warning jumped into the aisle and struck up "Jesus, Lover of My Soul." Then he led the march down to the door, while the big audience swung into line and followed him, joining in the song. I remained on the chair, beating time and talking to the people as they went; but when the last of them had left the building I almost collapsed; for the flames had begun to eat through the wooden walls and the clang of the fire-engines was heard outside.
As soon as I was sure every one was safe, however, I experienced the most intense anger I had yet known. My indignation against the men who had risked hundreds of lives by setting fire to a crowded building made me "see red"; it was clear that they must be taught a lesson then and there. As soon as I was outside the rink I called a meeting, and the Congregational minister, who was in the crowd, lent us his church and led the way to it. Most of the audience followed us, and we had a wonderful meeting, during which we were able at last to make clear to the people of that town the character of the liquor interests we were fighting. That episode did the temperance cause more good than a hundred ordinary meetings. Men who had been indifferent before became our friends and supporters, and at the following election we carried the town for prohibition by a big majority.
There have been other occasions when our opponents have not fought us fairly. Once, in an Ohio town, a group of politicians, hearing that I was to lecture on temperance in the court-house on a certain night, took possession of the building early in the evening, on the pretense of holding a meeting, and held it against us. When, escorted by a committee of leading women, I reached the building and tried to enter, we found that the men had locked us out. Our audience was gathering and filling the street, and we finally sent a courteous message to the men, assuming that they had forgotten us and reminding them of our position. The messenger reported that the men would leave "about eight," but that the room was "black with smoke and filthy with tobacco-juice." We waited patiently until eight o'clock, holding little outside meetings in groups, as our audience waited with us. At eight we again sent our messenger into the hall, and he brought back word that the men were "not through, didn't know when they would be through, and had told the women not to wait."
Naturally, the waiting townswomen were deeply chagrined by this. So were many men in the outside crowd. We asked if there was no other entrance to the hall except through the locked front doors, and were told that the judge's private room opened into it, and that one of our committee had the key, as she had planned to use this room as a dressing and retiring room for the speakers. After some discussion we decided to storm the hall and take possession. Within five minutes all the women had formed in line and were crowding up the back stairs and into the judge's room. There we unlocked the door, again formed in line, and marched into the hall, singing "Onward, Christian Soldiers!"
There were hundreds of us, and we marched directly to the platform, where the astonished men got up to stare at us. More and more women entered, coming up the back stairs from the street and filling the hall; and when the men realized what it all meant, and recognized their wives, sisters, and women friends in the throng, they sheepishly unlocked the front doors and left us in possession, though we politely urged them to remain. We had a great meeting that night!
Another reminiscence may not be out of place. We were working for a prohibition amendment in the state of Pennsylvania, and the night before election I reached Coatesville. I had just completed six weeks of strenuous campaigning, and that day I had already conducted and spoken at two big outdoor meetings. When I entered the town hall of Coatesville I found it filled with women. Only a few men were there; the rest were celebrating and campaigning in the streets. So I arose and said:
"I would like to ask how many men there are in the audience who intend to vote for the amendment to-morrow?"
Every man in the hall stood up.
"I thought so," I said. "Now I intend to ask your indulgence. As you are all in favor of the amendment, there is no use in my setting its claims before you; and, as I am utterly exhausted, I suggest that we sing the Doxology and go home!"
The audience saw the common sense of my position, so the people laughed and sang the Doxology and departed. As we were leaving the hall one of Coatesville's prominent citizens stopped me.
"I wish you were a man," he said. "The town was to have a big outdoor meeting to-night, and the orator has failed us. There are thousands of men in the streets waiting for the speech, and the saloons are sending them free drinks to get them drunk and carry the town to-morrow."
"Why," I said, "I'll talk to them if you wish."
"Great Scott!" he gasped. "I'd be afraid to let you. Something might happen!"
"If anything happens, it will be in a good cause," I reminded him. "Let us go."
Down-town we found the streets so packed with men that the cars could not get through, and with the greatest difficulty we reached the stand which had been erected for the speaker. It was a gorgeous affair. There were flaring torches all around it, and a "bull's-eye," taken from the head of a locomotive, made an especially brilliant patch of light. The stand had been erected at a point where the city's four principal streets meet, and as far as I could see there were solid masses of citizens extending into these streets. A glee-club was doing its best to help things along, and the music of an organette, an instrument much used at the time in campaign rallies, swelled the joyful tumult. As I mounted the platform the crowd was singing "Vote for Betty and the Baby," and I took that song for my text, speaking of the helplessness of women and children in the face of intemperance, and telling the crowd the only hope of the Coatesville women lay in the vote cast by their men the next day.
Directly in front of me stood a huge and extraordinarily repellent-looking negro. A glance at him almost made one shudder, but before I had finished my first sentence he raised his right arm straight above him and shouted, in a deep and wonderfully rich bass voice, "Hallelujah to the Lamb!" From that point on he punctuated my speech every few moments with good, old-fashioned exclamations of salvation which helped to inspire the crowd. I spoke for almost an hour. Three times in my life, and only three times, I have made speeches that have satisfied me to the degree, that is, of making me feel that at least I was giving the best that was in me. The speech at Coatesville was one of those three. At the end of it the good-natured crowd cheered for ten minutes. The next day Coatesville voted for prohibition, and, rightly or wrongly, I have always believed that I helped to win that victory.
Here, by the way, I may add that of the two other speeches which satisfied me one was made in Chicago, during the World's Fair, in 1893, and the other in Stockholm, Sweden, in 1912. The International Council of Women, it will be remembered, met in Chicago during the Fair, and I was invited to preach the sermon at the Sunday-morning session. The occasion was a very important one, bringing together at least five thousand persons, including representative women from almost every country in Europe, and a large number of women ministers. These made an impressive group, as they all wore their ministerial robes; and for the first time I preached in a ministerial robe, ordered especially for that day. It was made of black crepe de Chine, with great double flowing sleeves, white silk undersleeves, and a wide white silk underfold down the front; and I may mention casually that it looked very much better than I felt, for I was very nervous. My father had come on to Chicago especially to hear my sermon, and had been invited to sit on the platform. Even yet he was not wholly reconciled to my public work, but he was beginning to take a deep interest in it. I greatly desired to please him and to satisfy Miss Anthony, who was extremely anxious that on that day of all days I should do my best.
I gave an unusual amount of time and thought to that sermon, and at last evolved what I modestly believed to be a good one. I never write out a sermon in advance, but I did it this time, laboriously, and then memorized the effort. The night before the sermon was to be delivered Miss Anthony asked me about it, and when I realized how deeply interested she was I delivered it to her then and there as a rehearsal. It was very late, and I knew we would not be interrupted. As she listened her face grew longer and longer and her lips drooped at the corners. Her disappointment was so obvious that I had difficulty in finishing my recitation; but I finally got through it, though rather weakly toward the end, and waited to hear what she would say, hoping against hope that she had liked it better than she seemed to. But Susan B. Anthony was the frankest as well as the kindest of women. Resolutely she shook her head.
"It's no good, Anna," she said; firmly. "You'll have to do better. You've polished and repolished that sermon until there's no life left in it. It's dead. Besides, I don't care for your text."
"Then give me a text," I demanded, gloomily.
"I can't," said Aunt Susan.
I was tired and bitterly disappointed, and both conditions showed in my reply.
"Well," I asked, somberly, "if you can't even supply a text, how do you suppose I'm going to deliver a brand-new sermon at ten o'clock to-morrow morning?"
"Oh," declared Aunt Susan, blithely, "you'll find a text."
I suggested several, but she did not like them. At last I said, "I have it—'Let no man take thy crown.'"
"That's it!" exclaimed Miss Anthony. "Give us a good sermon on that text."
She went to her room to sleep the sleep of the just and the untroubled, but I tossed in my bed the rest of the night, planning the points of the new sermon. After I had delivered it the next morning I went to my father to assist him from the platform. He was trembling, and his eyes were full of tears. He seized my arm and pressed it.
"Now I am ready to die," was all he said.
I was so tired that I felt ready to die, too; but his satisfaction and a glance at Aunt Susan's contented face gave me the tonic I needed. Father died two years later, and as I was campaigning in California I was not with him at the end. It was a comfort to remember, however, that in the twilight of his life he had learned to understand his most difficult daughter, and to give her credit for earnestness of purpose, at least, in following the life that had led her away from him. After his death, and immediately upon my return from California, I visited my mother, and it was well indeed that I did, for within a few months she followed father into the other world for which all of her unselfish life had been a preparation.
Our last days together were perfect. Her attitude was one of serene and cheerful expectancy, and I always think of her as sitting among the primroses and bluebells she loved, which seemed to bloom unceasingly in the windows of her room. I recall, too, with gratitude, a trifle which gave her a pleasure out of all proportion to what I had dreamed it would do. She had expressed a longing for some English heather, "not the hot-house variety, but the kind that blooms on the hills," and I had succeeded in getting a bunch for her by writing to an English friend.
Its possession filled her with joy, and from the time it came until the day her eyes closed in their last sleep it was rarely beyond reach of her hand. At her request, when she was buried we laid the heather on her heart—the heart of a true and loyal woman, who, though her children had not known it, must have longed without ceasing throughout her New World life for the Old World of her youth.
The Scandinavian speech was an even more vital experience than the Chicago one, for in Stockholm I delivered the first sermon ever preached by a woman in the State Church of Sweden, and the event was preceded by an amount of political and journalistic opposition which gave it an international importance. I had also been invited by the Norwegian women to preach in the State Church of Norway, but there we experienced obstacles. By the laws of Norway women are permitted to hold all public offices except those in the army, navy, and church—a rather remarkable militant and spiritual combination. As a woman, therefore, I was denied the use of the church by the Minister of Church Affairs.
The decision created great excitement and much delving into the law. It then appeared that if the use of a State Church is desired for a minister of a foreign country the government can give such permission. It was thought that I might slip in through this loophole, and application was made to the government. The reply came that permission could be received only from the entire Cabinet; and while the Cabinet gentlemen were feverishly discussing the important issue, the Norwegian press became active, pointing out that the Minister of Church Affairs had arrogantly assumed the right of the entire Cabinet in denying the application. The charge was taken up by the party opposed to the government party in Parliament, and the Minister of Church Affairs swiftly turned the whole matter over to his conferees.
The Cabinet held a session, and by a vote of four to three decided NOT to allow a woman to preach in the State Church. I am happy to add that of the three who voted favorably on the question one was the Premier of Norway. Again the newspapers grasped their opportunity—especially the organs of the opposition party. My rooms were filled with reporters, while daily the excitement grew. The question was brought up in Parliament, and I was invited to attend and hear the discussion there. By this time every newspaper in Scandinavia was for or against me; and the result of the whole matter was that, though the State Church of Norway was not opened to me, a most unusual interest had been aroused in my sermon in the State Church of Sweden. When I arrived there to keep my engagement, not only was the wonderful structure packed to its walls, but the waiting crowds in the street were so large that the police had difficulty in opening a way for our party.
I shall never forget my impression of the church itself when I entered it. It will always stand forth in my memory as one of the most beautiful churches I have ever visited. On every side were monuments of dead heroes and statesmen, and the high, vaulted blue dome seemed like the open sky above our heads. Over us lay a light like a soft twilight, and the great congregation filled not only all the pews, but the aisles, the platform, and even the steps of the pulpit. The ushers were young women from the University of Upsala, wearing white university caps with black vizors, and sashes in the university colors. The anthem was composed especially for the occasion by the first woman cathedral organist in Sweden—the organist of the cathedral in Gothenburg—and she had brought with her thirty members of her choir, all of them remarkable singers.
The whole occasion was indescribably impressive, and I realized in every fiber the necessity of being worthy of it. Also, I experienced a sensation such as I had never known before, and which I can only describe as a seeming complete separation of my physical self from my spiritual self. It was as if my body stood aside and watched my soul enter that pulpit. There was no uncertainty, no nervousness, though usually I am very nervous when I begin to speak; and when I had finished I knew that I had done my best.
But all this is a long way from the early days I was discussing, when I was making my first diffident bows to lecture audiences and learning the lessons of the pioneer in the lecture-field. I was soon to learn more, for in 1888 Miss Anthony persuaded me to drop my temperance work and concentrate my energies on the suffrage cause. For a long time I hesitated. I was very happy in my connection with the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, and I knew that Miss Willard was depending on me to continue it. But Miss Anthony's arguments were irrefutable, and she was herself, as always, irresistible.
"You can't win two causes at once," she reminded me. "You're merely scattering your energies. Begin at the beginning. Win suffrage for women, and the rest will follow." As an added argument, she took me with her on her Kansas campaign, and after that no further arguments were needed. From then until her death, eighteen years later, Miss Anthony and I worked shoulder to shoulder.
The most interesting lecture episode of our first Kansas campaign was my debate with Senator John J. Ingalls. Before this, however, on our arrival at Atchison, Mrs. Ingalls gave a luncheon for Miss Anthony, and Rachel Foster Avery and I were also invited. Miss Anthony sat at the right of Senator Ingalls, and I at his left, while Mrs. Ingalls, of course, adorned the opposite end of her table. Mrs. Avery and I had just been entertained for several days at the home of a vegetarian friend who did not know how to cook vegetables, and we were both half starved. When we were invited to the Ingalls home we had uttered in unison a joyous cry, "Now we shall have something to eat!" At the luncheon, however, Senator Ingalls kept Miss Anthony and me talking steadily. He was not in favor of suffrage for women, but he wished to know all sorts of things about the Cause, and we were anxious to have him know them. The result was that I had time for only an occasional mouthful, while down at the end of the table Mrs. Avery ate and ate, pausing only to send me glances of heartfelt sympathy. Also, whenever she had an especially toothsome morsel on the end of her fork she wickedly succeeded in catching my eye and thus adding the last sybaritic touch to her enjoyment.
Notwithstanding the wealth of knowledge we had bestowed upon him, or perhaps because of it, the following night Senator Ingalls made his famous speech against suffrage, and it fell to my lot to answer him. In the course of his remarks he asked this question: "Would you like to add three million illiterate voters to the large body of illiterate voters we have in America to-day?" The audience applauded light-heartedly, but I was disturbed by the sophistry of the question. One of Senator Ingalls's most discussed personal peculiarities was the parting of his hair in the middle. Cartoonists and newspaper writers always made much of this, so when I rose to reply I felt justified in mentioning it.
"Senator Ingalls," I began, "parts his hair in the middle, as we all know, but he makes up for it by parting his figures on one side. Last night he gave you the short side of his figures. At the present time there are in the United States about eighteen million women of voting age. When the Senator asked whether you wanted three million additional illiterate women voters, he forgot to ask also if you didn't want fifteen million additional intelligent women voters! We will grant that it will take the votes of three million intelligent women to wipe out the votes of three million illiterate women. But don't forget that that would still leave us twelve million intelligent votes to the good!"
The audience applauded as gaily as it had applauded Senator Ingalls when he spoke on the other side, and I continued:
"Now women have always been generous to men. So of our twelve million intelligent voters we will offer four million to offset the votes of the four million illiterate men in this country—and then we will still have eight million intelligent votes to add to the other intelligent votes which are cast." The audience seemed to enjoy this.
"The anti-suffragists are fairly safe," I ended, "as long as they remain on the plane of prophecy. But as soon as they tackle mathematics they get into trouble!"
Miss Anthony was much pleased by the wide publicity given to this debate, but Senator Ingalls failed to share her enthusiasm.
It was shortly after this encounter that I had two traveling experiences which nearly cost me my life. One of them occurred in Ohio at the time of a spring freshet. I know of no state that can cover itself with water as completely as Ohio can, and for no apparent reason. On this occasion it was breaking its own record. We had driven twenty miles across country in a buggy which was barely out of the water, and behind horses that at times were almost forced to swim, and when we got near the town where I was to lecture, though still on the opposite side of the river from it, we discovered that the bridge was gone. We had a good view of the town, situated high and dry on a steep bank; but the river which rolled between us and that town was a roaring, boiling stream, and the only possible way to cross it, I found, was to walk over a railroad trestle, already trembling under the force of the water.
There were hundreds of men on the river-bank watching the flood, and when they saw me start out on the empty trestle they set up a cheer that nearly threw me off. The river was wide and the ties far apart, and the roar of the stream below was far from reassuring; but in some way I reached the other side, and was there helped off the trestle by what the newspapers called "strong and willing hands."
Another time, in a desperate resolve to meet a lecture engagement, I walked across the railroad trestle at Elmira, New York, and when I was halfway over I heard shouts of warning to turn back, as a train was coming. The trestle was very high at that point, and I realized that if I turned and faced an oncoming train I would undoubtedly lose my nerve and fall. So I kept on, as rapidly as I could, accompanied by the shrieks of those who objected to witnessing a violent death, and I reached the end of the trestle just as an express-train thundered on the beginning of it. The next instant a policeman had me by the shoulders and was shaking me as if I had been a bad child.
"If you ever do such a thing again," he thundered, "I'll lock you up!"
As soon as I could speak I assured him fervently that I never would; one such experience was all I desired.
Occasionally a flash of humor, conscious or unconscious, lit up the gloom of a trying situation. Thus, in Parkersburg, West Virginia, the train I was on ran into a coal-car. I was sitting in a sleeper, leaning back comfortably with my feet on the seat in front of me, and the force of the collision lifted me up, turned me completely over, and deposited me, head first, two seats beyond. On every side I heard cries and the crash of human bodies against unyielding substances as my fellow-passengers flew through the air, while high and clear above the tumult rang the voice of the conductor:
"Keep your seats!" he yelled. "KEEP YOUR SEATS!"
Nobody in our car was seriously hurt; but, so great is the power of vested authority, no one smiled over that order but me.
Many times my medical experience was useful. Once I was on a train which ran into a buggy and killed the woman in it. Her little daughter, who was with her, was badly hurt, and when the train had stopped the crew lifted the dead woman and the injured child on board, to take them to the next station. As I was the only doctor among the passengers, the child was turned over to me. I made up a bed on the seats and put the little patient there, but no woman in the car was able to assist me. The tragedy had made them hysterical, and on every side they were weeping and nerveless. The men were willing but inefficient, with the exception of one uncouth woodsman whose trousers were tucked into his boots and whose hands were phenomenally big and awkward. But they were also very gentle, as I realized when he began to help me. I knew at once that he was the man I needed, notwithstanding his unkempt hair, his general ungainliness, the hat he wore on the back of his head, and the pink carnation in his buttonhole, which, by its very incongruity, added the final accent to his unprepossessing appearance. Together we worked over the child, making it as comfortable as we could. It was hardly necessary to tell my aide what I wanted done; he seemed to know and even to anticipate my efforts.
When we reached the next station the dead woman was taken out and laid on the platform, and a nurse and doctor who had been telegraphed for were waiting to care for the little girl. She was conscious by this time, and with the most exquisite gentleness my rustic Bayard lifted her in his arms to carry her off the train. Quite unnecessarily I motioned to him not to let her see her dead mother. He was not the sort who needed that warning; he had already turned her face to his shoulder, and, with head bent low above her, was safely skirting the spot where the long, covered figure lay.
Evidently the station was his destination, too, for he remained there; but just as the train pulled out he came hurrying to my window, took the carnation from his buttonhole, and without a word handed it to me. And after the tragic hour in which I had learned to know him the crushed flower, from that man, seemed the best fee I had ever received.
IX. "AUNT SUSAN"
In The Life of Susan B. Anthony it is mentioned that 1888 was a year of special recognition of our great leader's work, but that it was also the year in which many of her closest friends and strongest supporters were taken from her by death. A. Bronson Alcott was among these, and Louisa M. Alcott, as well as Dr. Lozier; and special stress is laid on Miss Anthony's sense of loss in the diminishing circle of her friends—a loss which new friends and workers came forward, eager to supply.
"Chief among these," adds the record, "was Anna Shaw, who, from the time of the International Council in '88, gave her truest allegiance to Miss Anthony."
It is true that from that year until Miss Anthony's death in 1906 we two were rarely separated; and I never read the paragraph I have just quoted without seeing, as in a vision, the figure of "Aunt Susan" as she slipped into my hotel room in Chicago late one night after an evening meeting of the International Council. I had gone to bed—indeed, I was almost asleep when she came, for the day had been as exhausting as it was interesting. But notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, "Aunt Susan," then nearing seventy, was still as fresh and as full of enthusiasm as a young girl. She had a great deal to say, she declared, and she proceeded to say it—sitting in a big easy-chair near the bed, with a rug around her knees, while I propped myself up with pillows and listened.
Hours passed and the dawn peered wanly through the windows, but still Miss Anthony talked of the Cause always of the Cause—and of what we two must do for it. The previous evening she had been too busy to eat any dinner, and I greatly doubt whether she had eaten any luncheon at noon. She had been on her feet for hours at a time, and she had held numerous discussions with other women she wished to inspire to special effort. Yet, after it all, here she was laying out our campaigns for years ahead, foreseeing everything, forgetting nothing, and sweeping me with her in her flight toward our common goal, until I, who am not easily carried off my feet, experienced an almost dizzy sense of exhilaration.
Suddenly she stopped, looked at the gas-jets paling in the morning light that filled the room, and for a fleeting instant seemed surprised. In the next she had dismissed from her mind the realization that we had talked all night. Why should we not talk all night? It was part of our work. She threw off the enveloping rug and rose.
"I must dress now," she said, briskly. "I've called a committee meeting before the morning session."
On her way to the door nature smote her with a rare reminder, but even then she did not realize that it was personal. "Perhaps," she remarked, tentatively, "you ought to have a cup of coffee."
That was "Aunt Susan." And in the eighteen years which followed I had daily illustrations of her superiority to purely human weaknesses. To her the hardships we underwent later, in our Western campaigns for woman suffrage, were as the airiest trifles. Like a true soldier, she could snatch a moment of sleep or a mouthful of food where she found it, and if either was not forthcoming she did not miss it. To me she was an unceasing inspiration—the torch that illumined my life. We went through some difficult years together—years when we fought hard for each inch of headway we gained—but I found full compensation for every effort in the glory of working with her for the Cause that was first in both our hearts, and in the happiness of being her friend. Later I shall describe in more detail the suffrage campaigns and the National and International councils in which we took part; now it is of her I wish to write—of her bigness, her many-sidedness, her humor, her courage, her quickness, her sympathy, her understanding, her force, her supreme common-sense, her selflessness; in short, of the rare beauty of her nature as I learned to know it.
Like most great leaders, she took one's best work for granted, and was chary with her praise; and even when praise was given it usually came by indirect routes. I recall with amusement that the highest compliment she ever paid me in public involved her in a tangle from which, later, only her quick wit extricated her. We were lecturing in an especially pious town which I shall call B——, and just before I went on the platform Miss Anthony remarked, peacefully:
"These people have always claimed that I am irreligious. They will not accept the fact that I am a Quaker—or, rather, they seem to think a Quaker is an infidel. I am glad you are a Methodist, for now they cannot claim that we are not orthodox."
She was still enveloped in the comfort of this reflection when she introduced me to our audience, and to impress my qualifications upon my hearers she made her introduction in these words:
"It is a pleasure to introduce Miss Shaw, who is a Methodist minister. And she is not only orthodox of the orthodox, but she is also my right bower!"
There was a gasp from the pious audience, and then a roar of laughter from irreverent men, in which, I must confess, I light-heartedly joined. For once in her life Miss Anthony lost her presence of mind; she did not know how to meet the situation, for she had no idea what had caused the laughter. It bubbled forth again and again during the evening, and each time Miss Anthony received the demonstration with the same air of puzzled surprise. When we had returned to our hotel rooms I explained the matter to her. I do not remember now where I had acquired my own sinful knowledge, but that night I faced "Aunt Susan" from the pedestal of a sophisticated worldling.
"Don't you know what a right bower is?" I demanded, sternly.
"Of course I do," insisted "Aunt Susan." "It's a right-hand man—the kind one can't do without."
"It is a card," I told her, firmly—"a leading card in a game called euchre."
"Aunt Susan" was dazed. "I didn't know it had anything to do with cards," she mused, mournfully. "What must they think of me?"
What they thought became quite evident. The newspapers made countless jokes at our expense, and there were significant smiles on the faces in the audience that awaited us the next night. When Miss Anthony walked upon the platform she at once proceeded to clear herself of the tacit charge against her.
"When I came to your town," she began, cheerfully, "I had been warned that you were a very religious lot of people. I wanted to impress upon you the fact that Miss Shaw and I are religious, too. But I admit that when I told you she was my right bower I did not know what a right bower was. I have learned that, since last night."
She waited until the happy chortles of her hearers had subsided, and then went on.
"It interests me very much, however," she concluded, "to realize that every one of you seemed to know all about a right bower, and that I had to come to your good, orthodox town to get the information."
That time the joke was on the audience. Miss Anthony's home was in Rochester, New York, and it was said by our friends that on the rare occasions when we were not together, and I was lecturing independently, "all return roads led through Rochester." I invariably found some excuse to go there and report to her. Together we must have worn out many Rochester pavements, for "Aunt Susan's" pet recreation was walking, and she used to walk me round and round the city squares, far into the night, and at a pace that made policemen gape at us as we flew by. Some disrespectful youth once remarked that on these occasions we suggested a race between a ruler and a rubber ball—for she was very tall and thin, while I am short and plump. To keep up with her I literally bounded at her side.
A certain amount of independent lecturing was necessary for me, for I had to earn my living. The National American Woman Suffrage Association has never paid salaries to its officers, so, when I became vice-president and eventually, in 1904, president of the association, I continued to work gratuitously for the Cause in these positions. Even Miss Anthony received not one penny of salary for all her years of unceasing labor, and she was so poor that she did not have a home of her own until she was seventy-five. Then it was a very simple one, and she lived with the utmost economy. I decided that I could earn my bare expenses by making one brief lecture tour each year, and I made an arrangement with the Redpath Bureau which left me fully two-thirds of my time for the suffrage work I loved.
This was one result of my all-night talk with Miss Anthony in Chicago, and it enabled me to carry out her plan that I should accompany her in most of the campaigns in which she sought to arouse the West to the need of suffrage for women. From that time on we traveled and lectured together so constantly that each of us developed an almost uncanny knowledge of the other's mental processes. At any point of either's lecture the other could pick it up and carry it on—a fortunate condition, as it sometimes became necessary to do this. Miss Anthony was subject to contractions of the throat, which for the moment caused a slight strangulation. On such occasions—of which there were several—she would turn to me and indicate her helplessness. Then I would repeat her last sentence, complete her speech, and afterward make my own.
The first time this happened we were in Washington, and "Aunt Susan" stopped in the middle of a word. She could not speak; she merely motioned to me to continue for her, and left the stage. At the end of the evening a prominent Washington man who had been in our audience remarked to me, confidentially:
"That was a nice little play you and Miss Anthony made to-night—very effective indeed."
For an instant I did not catch his meaning, nor the implication in his knowing smile.
"Very clever, that strangling bit, and your going on with the speech," he repeated. "It hit the audience hard."
"Surely," I protested, "you don't think it was a deliberate thing—that we planned or rehearsed it."
He stared at me incredulously. "Are you going to pretend," he demanded, "that it wasn't a put-up job?"
I told him he had paid us a high compliment, and that we must really have done very well if we had conveyed that impression; and I finally convinced him that we not only had not rehearsed the episode, but that neither of us had known what the other meant to say. We never wrote out our speeches, but our subject was always suffrage or some ramification of suffrage, and, naturally, we had thoroughly digested each other's views.
It is said by my friends that I write my speeches on the tips of my fingers—for I always make my points on my fingers and have my fingers named for points. When I plan a speech I decide how many points I wish to make and what those points shall be. My mental preparation follows. Miss Anthony's method was much the same; but very frequently both of us threw over all our plans at the last moment and spoke extemporaneously on some theme suggested by the atmosphere of the gathering or by the words of another speaker.
From Miss Anthony, more than from any one else, I learned to keep cool in the face of interruptions and of the small annoyances and disasters inevitable in campaigning. Often we were able to help each other out of embarrassing situations, and one incident of this kind occurred during our campaign in South Dakota. We were holding a meeting on the hottest Sunday of the hottest month in the year—August—and hundreds of the natives had driven twenty, thirty, and even forty miles across the country to hear us. We were to speak in a sod church, but it was discovered that the structure would not hold half the people who were trying to enter it, so we decided that Miss Anthony should speak from the door, in order that those both inside and outside might hear her. To elevate her above her audience, she was given an empty dry-goods box to stand on.
This makeshift platform was not large, and men, women, and children were seated on the ground around it, pressing up against it, as close to the speaker as they could get. Directly in front of Miss Anthony sat a woman with a child about two years old—a little boy; and this infant, like every one else in the packed throng, was dripping with perspiration and suffering acutely under the blazing sun. Every woman present seemed to have brought children with her, doubtless because she could not leave them alone at home; and babies were crying and fretting on all sides. The infant nearest Miss Anthony fretted most strenuously; he was a sturdy little fellow with a fine pair of lungs, and he made it very difficult for her to lift her voice above his dismal clamor. Suddenly, however, he discovered her feet on the drygoods box, about on a level with his head. They were clad in black stockings and low shoes; they moved about oddly; they fascinated him. With a yelp of interest he grabbed for them and began pinching them to see what they were. His howls ceased; he was happy.