A Chance To Matter

June 24, 1896
Elizabeth Bassett

It was a week of interrogation and testing. I was exhausted at the end of it all and a little bit sad to be leaving. The Rockefeller’s are extraordinary people and I felt more than a little pride at having survived the process.

Everyday, Mrs. Rockefeller would set me to work on a battery of tests. Some were on subjects I have never before heard of and I am quite certain I failed miserably on more than one occasion. I did not give up though and I made every effort to convey my willingness to learn the things which I did not yet know. Is that not the point of education?

Then there was this morning.

“No tests today, Lizzie.” Cettie, as Mrs. Rockefeller prefers to be called, said.

“That is a matter of opinion. When have you braved the train station and travel and not had your patience tested.” I replied with a small smile.

Cettie laughed a little at my attempt at humor.

“Too true, my dear.”

“I do not suppose JD will be making up his mind this morning?” I asked.

I may have been pushing for an answer more than was strictly appropriate but the not knowing would drive me mad on the way home.

Cettie laughed again.

“I would have thought you would have figured it out on your own by now.” She said.

“Any thoughts I have on the matter are purely conjecture and assumption, neither the sort of thing I wish to rely upon when my father asks me.”

“No, that is not what I meant. JD made his mind up about you the moment he met you. It is me whom you have needed to convince this past week.”

Light dawned upon me and I felt a bit foolish. The life I desire, the sense of equality and respect I seek, exists right here, right now, for this family. Could my father have known this all ready? Is this why he sent me here in the first place? I shook my head at myself.

“I guess I knew that on some level, but the conscious realization escaped me until now.” I replied.

“Obviously.” She nodded her head.

“Have you decided then?” I asked.

“Not yet.”

“What more can I do?”

“Tell me why you think you deserve to become a college educated woman?”

It was such a simple question and yet the answer eluded me. I sat quiet for a moment thinking of how best to answer.

“You see, it not as simple as you may think. There are hundreds, thousands, of young women across this country who want what you want. Why should you get it instead of one of them?” She said.

“Because I am here and they are not. Because it matters enough for me to be here and if you turn me down I will not forget about my goals as unreachable dreams, I will find another way to reach them. Because I will make my life matter to those women you speak of as well as to myself.”

“You sound almost arrogant. You think you will matter to those you do not even know? What will make you matter and why do you not matter all ready?”

“It is not arrogance, it is conviction. I will make a difference in this world and leave my mark upon it as surely as you will leave yours.”

“Yes, but what are you waiting for then? A college education is not needed to make a difference. Have you read the paper this morning?”


Cettie picked up a portion of the newspaper and pushed it in front of me.

New Labor Rules Enforced On Private Mine Owner!

General Williams, the Civil War veteran charged with putting down a labor revolt in Colorado last month has issued a new order of working standards to be followed by the privately owned coal mine. The standards were posted late Sunday and went into effect Monday morning.

The changes were advocated by the late Daniel Waters, a veteran miner and head of the local union. They were recently brought to the attention of General Williams by Mr. Waters’ surviving eighteen year old daughter, Miss Sarah Waters. The new standards are clearly focused on keeping the miners safe by regulating the work shifts and providing emergency supplies for collapses.

A few residents of the Colorado town remember the Waters’ family as meddlesome and trouble but the vast majority call them champions of the working man and as for Miss Sarah Waters, an angel from heaven.

I finished reading and looked up at Cettie.

“That is a young woman who matters. She has changed this country and never set one foot in a college.” She said.

“Her father made the difference. I am not saying she had no role in it but her father is clearly the instigator.”

“There is more to the story than sits on that page. You should know that, Lizzie.”

“I am certain the newspaper fails to bring the entire story to light. What does it have to do with me?”

“If you want to matter or make a difference in people’s lives, it is not so difficult as you may think.”

I nodded my head not really understanding.

“So, you will not help me?” I asked.

Cettie smiled a soft, gentle smile.

“We will help you. You have potential, Elizabeth Basset.”

I was so shocked I almost began to cry. I looked down at the table to try and get my emotions back under control. My eyes fell on the picture accompanying the story. The woman’s face had haunted my dreams for weeks at Primrose. My breath caught in my throat.

“Are you all right?” Cettie asked.

“She’s going to Primrose College.” I said more to myself than Cettie.

“Yes, she is, but how did you know?”


Paul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul said...

Ashley, this is one of the best posts here, thank you so much.
Warm hugs,

Jen said...

Yes, things are definitely becoming more interesting around here.