April 7, 1896 - Sarah Waters' Diary

When will I learn? Perhaps the better question is, “Will I ever learn?” Mother is of course convinced the answer to either question is in the negative. Wish as I might, the unfortunate reality remains I have done nothing to prove her wrong. My foolishness of two weeks past still weighs upon my conscience and I think the unsatisfied guilt has driven me mad. Or temporarily so in any case.

Witness my behavior this morning as mother and I walked to the laundry. The conversation turned toward my schooling as it often does of late. Mother has a very narrow view of a woman’s place in society and an education has no room in it.

“You’re six weeks from completing the twelfth grade. You’ll all ready be intimidatin’ to more than half the eligible boys in Colorado. Do you plan on intimidatin’ the other half as well?” Mother said.

“There are educated men who appreciate an educated wife.” I replied.

“You don’t have the breeding to satisfy those men so you better give up those dreams starting right now.”

“There isn’t royalty in America, mother.”

“Is that what Mr. Stone has been teachin’ you?”

“Among other things.”

“I suppose he been sayin’ you don’t have no cause to listen to your mother as well.”

“No mother, he’s never said such a ridiculous thing.”

“That’s a fine way to be speakin’ to your mother, young lady.”

“I didn’t call you ridiculous, mother, only your words.”

“Does that really sound more respectful to you?”

“I’m sorry.”

“You keep talkin’ the way you are and you will be.”

“You’re impossible!”

“Keep it up, Sarah.”

I decided at that point the only right thing to say was nothing. If only my mouth would have obeyed my common sense.

“You know there is no reason a woman has to get married in our modern times. I could do something important with my life.” I ventured.

“Are you sayin’ you aren’t interested in marriage? You think there is some grander purpose in your life than raising a family?”

“I’m only saying there are choices available to me that you never had.”

“Do you think I would do something different if I’d had other choices?”

“I don’t know. Would you?”

“I love your father, we have done well together and raised at least one sensible child. If there is anything I wish for. it is that my daughter would see the value in that.”

“That’s not fair. I do see the value in your life.”

“Then why would you want to turn your back on it?”

“I don’t. I want learn more about the world. I want to make a real difference in the world.”

“Those are a man’s dreams, Sarah. The only difference you’ll make in this world is by the sons you raise to face it. That’s no small matter either. It was good enough for my mother and good enough for me. It will be good enough for you too when you come down off that cloud.”

“Why can’t I do more?”

“Because it’s not your place. You think getting some fancy education is going to make you better than any other woman? It won’t. It will make you less and all the while you’ll be believing your something more. That’s not the life I raised you for and it’s not the life you’ll lead as long as I’m above ground.”

“Times are changing. Women will have a vote soon even, you’ll see. Just the fact that a place like Primrose College exists is proof enough that the world you grew up in is disappearing. You want to hold me back into your antiquated ideals that don’t hold true anymore. It’s not fair, I shouldn’t have to live in the past just because you are blind to the future.”

“Oh so now I’m not only ridiculous but blind too? You’ve crossed the line, young lady. You just wait until we get home.”

I sighed.

Did I really expect it would end any other way? I doubt it. I knew she would settle the argument in her traditional manner. I also knew I was being mean and hardly helping my case by my less than diplomatic arguments. I attribute my bullheadedness to my lingering guilt and I think that makes it Mr. Stone’s fault. Too bad I can’t take it out on him.

Mother said nothing to me for the rest of the day. I think that might have been a blessing because who knows what I might have said in response. She glared at me from time to time across the laundry, just so I would not forget she was upset with me. As if I could.

The walk home in the evening was uncomfortable. I wanted to apologize but knew if I did it would only begin a new argument and accusations that I was only apologizing in a last ditch effort to avoid my comeuppance. Sadly, it would be partly true even.

Father was home when we arrived. I was surprised at first until I remembered the miners were all on strike. He was eagerly awaiting our return and promptly demanded our attention.

“It’s about time you two got home. What took you?”

“We came straight home as normal.” Mother replied.

“Never mind. There could be some trouble with the strike.”

“What kind of trouble?” I asked.

Mother tried to stare me down into silence but I ignored her.

“Mr. Parker is rumored to have hired strike busters.”

“Has he even tried to negotiate with you?” I asked.

“No. He’s got the opinion that he won’t negotiate while the mine is not producing”

“Are you going to go back to work then?”

“No, it don’t work that way. We strike until we get negotiations. If we give in early we’ll never make anything better.”

“I don’t understand why you are telling us.” Mother said.

“I’m telling you both because these strike busters are well known to go after family. They try to get leverage on the workers. You’ll need to be extra careful and from now on no more walking into town.”

“But..” Mother began.

“No buts. Just do as I say.”

We both nodded our heads.

“If that’s all dear, Sarah and I have some business to take care of.”


“Her mouth has been running away again.”

I blushed under my father’s disapproving gaze.

“I see. I trust dinner won’t be delayed?”

“Of course not.”

Mother and I retreated to the kitchen where we began preparing dinner. Once it was well under way mother disappeared for a moment and when she returned she was carrying a large bar of lye. She lathered it in water quickly and I had no doubt where it was going next.

If I ever forget how awful the taste is I will probably be over a hundred years old. Mother worked the bar in and out of my mouth at least two dozen times. She made sure to scrape it on my teeth and rub it long and hard on my tongue. All the while she lectured me about respecting her.

No doubt I deserved every word.

When she was satisfied my mouth had been adequately chastised, she turned to my backside. A large wooden spoon in hand, she removed my dress and bared my buttocks. She took me over her knee and too soon after the spoon rained down with gusto.

It was not until the second dozen that I began to cry. By the time she stopped I was sobbing and had lost all count. Mother must have been extra angry because she refused to allow me to cover up after. Instead I was made to stand and eat dinner with my blazing buttocks exposed. No need to mention I had little in the way of appetite and everything tasted of soapsuds.

After I cleaned up the kitchen and dinner table, mother sent me to bed. From what I can see, I have some serious bruising. I will be feeling mother’s efforts tonight while sitting down for a good while. I am definitely not looking forward to riding Jasper tomorrow.

1 comment:

♠ace of spades said...

Great entry! The details of the mouth soaping were well done. Keep up the good work.