My Pen For An Apple

November 7, 1896
Penelope Sumter

When John Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence, I wonder if he realized the historical significance of the moment. Perhaps it is only in retrospective one can see the great achievements of the past and yet I cannot escape the feeling I have become a part of history. We lost the election but nothing will ever take away the votes we cast nor the inescapable fact they were counted with equal weight to those of men.

This year there were not enough of us and four years from now I do not expect there to be a substantial change, but in the ensuing decades left to come, one day, it will be the voice of women deciding the next President. Dare I dream even that someday beyond it might even be a woman elected to lead the nation? Perhaps someday such a thought will not have the ridiculous tone it carries today.

This day I am my father’s nightmare. Everything he was afraid I would become I have. Though he will never acknowledge the truth of it, he has driven me to this and all it entails. I can still remember the days in which my thoughts were overburdened with nothing more complicated that finding a good man to marry. Those times are long since past ending not so long after I first came to Primrose College.

I stepped of the train that first day in Providence with a vow to find a husband in two months. Two months later I told myself it would only be a short while longer, after all what is two year learning about the world compared to a lifetime living in it? And then, somewhere along the way I found it was easier to invent a man than to deal with a real one. I pretended I still had the same goals and I believed myself well enough to convince my father, but the truth in my heart was not to be denied.

So, here I am, a Primrose Girl. It means more than simple education and study. This is a sisterhood in which we all recognize in someway our future is wait for us to declare it. What we were once given in privilege can no longer be taken away no more than Adam could give back the apple. We are destined to be together, to support each other, now and forever. None stand alone whether within these wall or beyond them.

I am afraid though not for myself. Those girls who do not yet understand what they have become a part of and the role they must yet assume are the ones I fear for. Mr. Howe promised us trouble was coming and not just from those we expect but from those enemies who’s names we do not know and faces we have never seen. They will come and we will be waiting, but the true threat, the one to fear the most is the one sleeping in the beds next to us. The girls in our midst who lack the faith of our convictions or the courage to stand in the face of overwhelming odds. It is inevitable we will be our own greatest threat.

“What do you think?” I asked.

Edith had just finished reading my contribution aloud.

“I had no idea you could write so well.” Elizabeth said.

I politely smiled at what I believe was a backhanded compliment. Clearly, I have not been as openly devoted to my studies as Elizabeth, but why would she assume I was incompetent with a pen?

“It’s perfect. Thank you, Penny.” Sarah said.

“We need a name for the publication.” Margaret announced.

“How about The Gazette?” Edith said.

“Primrose Times?” Elizabeth suggested.

“Women’s Monthly?” Margaret said with a snort.

We all laughed.

“The Primrose Periodical?” Sarah said.

“What about simple, The Primrose Girls?” I said.

They all looked at me and nodded.

“The Primrose Girls, has a nice ring to it.” Margaret said.

“I like it.” Edith said.

“The Primrose Girls is it is then.” Sarah decided.

Deep in the oldest bowels of Brown University, Margaret flipped the switch turning the great printing machine on after setting the last of the plates in place. The roar of the machine was deafening, but I ignored it standing by the iron bar window looking out from the cliffs onto the moonlit shores.

A single star shot brightly across the sky, falling into the ocean at the edge of the world. A single tear slipped from my eye down my cheek and onto the stone floor. We are devils or angels and I know not which to be true, but in these depths with the heat rolling off the machine and its demon-like screams, I know which my father would sooner believe.

1 comment:

Steff said...

i like this one, it says a lot about the times i think. will one of them betray the others?