On An East Bound Train

August 11, 1896
Sarah Waters

Not for the first time I feel a twinge of regret on how I left. In reality I am firmly aware my choices were limited and my actions undoubtedly seem rash out of context. My regret does not stem from such things and if it did I would likely not have left at all. Instead, it is the intangible kind of regret, the way I wish things had been, but they never were and never will be. So, it is regret but it is not that I would ever walk along a different path if I had it all to do over again.

My thoughts wandered that first day on the train. I considered how Sam would react to my letter; dispassionate I am sure. Then there is mother, she would no doubt think it was her fault for not raising me with the proper values and respect. I can remember a hundred arguments between her and my father on the very subject. He was always far too lenient in her views. Perhaps he was, time shall reveal the truth.

In any event I am headed toward the future. It seems fitting to me that the direction of that future is east rather than west. I have never followed the trends and mother has always said I fight the tide. But, I never fight for things I do not believe in and the east is where new days always begin.

As for Primrose College, I do not know what to expect. From the pamphlets Mr. Stone gave me, it seems like a proper learning institution. This will be the school’s sixth year in operation but that is somewhat misleading. The school is a branch off from the elite Brown University, which has a much longer history in education, only they do not accept women. Regardless of the terminology it is clear enough that the same men who oversee Brown also oversee Primrose.

The pessimist in me expects the classes to be little more than social gatherings under the pretense of education, but I am left with some hope at the news the school shares some of its classes with the young men from Brown. I suspect it is an overflow problem where there are too many students and not enough teachers at Brown and the reverse at Primrose. I mean I dreamed of going away to college the first time I heard Sam discuss his own admission with our father. I never actually believed I would go.

I am likely one of the first women from Colorado to ever be admitted to a college. Foolish as it is, that thought fills me with pride. No, I do not think myself better than my peers. I am proud to be given this opportunity and I hope I can do something worthwhile with it. Mr. Stone suggest I focus myself early on with efforts directed at becoming a teacher. I have the impression he thinks of teaching as the only legitimate profession a woman can hold.

He may well be right in the minds of those whom I will have to look to for hiring, but I think there enough professions in the world that I should not limit myself to what is acceptable today. Change has come fast in the last few years and I think it will come fast yet in the years ahead. By the time I have completed my studies, it will be a whole new world from the one I am living in today.

You may well call me crazy, but I believe men will master flight, that electricity will be in every home and telephones will change the way we interact with friends and family. As these things happen the world will become a smaller place, one where an idea can form in the remote corners and still spread to every street in America. Call it a fantasy, but it is a dream worth believing in.

Money is going to be a little bit of a problem along with the fact I will arrive a week before the dormitory opens. I am trying not to fret about it. I will do what I must to survive that week, hopefully by finding some work which I can do in conjunction with my studies as well. I did notice in the guidelines there was a strict policy of no working for students boarding at the school, but there must be exceptions made for those in situations similar to mine. Or, maybe there has never been anyone with my situation at the school before.

I have 75 cents left which will disappear fast with the cost of food on the train. It could also be enough to find a room for a night when I arrive in Providence. I brought some bread and fruit with me from the kitchen so, I think I will make it last for the week and try to save the last of my money.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Melanie, Sarah will be in a parlous situation when she arrives.
Warm hugs,