September 10, 1896
I think I must have stood in the hallway for ten minutes before I finally made up my mind. The first year girls were all staring at me as though they thought I had done something wrong. I suppose it was only a natural assumption I must have looked suspiciously like an anxious girl working up the courage to face her comeuppance. Fortunately, such was not my fate for I do not think I could face Edith in that manner ever again. I knocked.
“Come in.” Edith said from behind the closed door.
I turned the knob and entered, closing the door behind me to ensure privacy. Some things are best kept secret.
“Are you busy?” I asked.
Edith was writing at her desk and had yet to look at me. She seemed different than last year, not precisely older but definitely more mature. I could see why the first years were a little afraid of her.
“Not terribly so. The usual assignments to complete. What can I do for you?”
“We haven’t spoke since I arrived and I wanted to see if you were all right.”
“I am. I trust you had a pleasant summer?”
“Yes, well mostly. Like any trip home there are ups and downs.”
“Of course. Was there something in particular you wanted to discuss?”
I shifted nervously. I had considered for days how best to broach the subject and now as I stood on the precipice all planning left me and I found myself fumbling for words.
“Uh, um, Well, last year we, uh, did, well you know. Are you planning anything further?”
Edith put her pen down and smiled at me. I felt more secure instantly but then I caught her eyes. They were haunted and I shivered despite the warmth of the afternoon.
“We made a big difference last year. Things will never be quite the same at Primrose because of us but there are limits to the amount of change people can cope with. I think we have stretched the limit with what we did and it will be some time before anyone around here is ready to even consider something more.”
“I don’t understand. We have not even made a dent in equalizing Primrose and Brown. How can we have reached any limit?”
“We must be patient, Elizabeth. Women may indeed be ready for equality but men are not and it is only through their good graces we shall ever find the equality that we seek.”
“We forced them to accept what we wanted last year, we can do it again this year only with something that matters more.”
“Now is not the time. It was dangerous enough last year and even you were hurt by it, though you have never spoke of it. Ms. Maple is dead because of what we did. I do not want anyone else hurt because of my dreams. I do not believe you would want that either for yours.”
“There are casualties in any war. We honor the wounded and dead by persevering.”
“We are not at war.”
“You are wrong. Not all wars are fought on battlefields with guns blazing.”
“There will be a time when it is right for us to push the limits again, but that time is not now. Have patience and you will see I am right.”
I nodded. There was no point in continuing to argue. Edith had changed more than she was likely aware. I had hoped we could couple our ideas again and make a difference that mattered. It was clear that would not happen now.
I promised Mrs. Rockefeller I would make a difference at Primrose for the girls who are here and the ones who are not. It is a promise I intend to keep, with or without help from my friends.