Samantha Among The Bretheren

Marietta Holley

Chapter 19


Couldn't help a-methinkin' to myself several times. It duz seem to me that there hain't a question a-comin' up before that Conference that is harder to tackle than this plasterin' and the conundrum that is up before us Jonesville wimmen how to raise 300 dollars out of nuthin', and to make peace in a meetin' house where anarky is now rainin' down.

But I only thought these thoughts to myself, fur I knew every women there wuz peacible and law abidin' and there wuzn't one of 'em but what would ruther fall offen her barell then go agin the rules of the Methodist Meetin' House.

Yes, I tried to curb down my rebellous thoughts, and did, pretty much all the time. And good land! we worked so hard that we hadn't time to tackle very curius and peculier thoughts, them that wuz dretful strainin' and wearin' on the mind. Not of our own accord we didn't, fur we had to jest nip in and work the hull durin' time.

[Illustration: "EVERY NIGHT JOSIAH WOULD TACKLE ME ON IT."]

And then we all knew how deathly opposed our pardners wuz to our takin' any public part in meetin' house matters or mountin' rostrums, and that thought quelled us down a sight.

Of course when these subjects wuz brung up before us, and turned round and round in front of our eyes, why we had to look at 'em and be rousted up by 'em more or less. It was Nater.

And Josiah not havin' anything to do evenin's only to set and look at the ceilin'. Every single night when I would go home from the meetin' house, Josiah would tackle me on it, on the danger of allowin' wimmen to ventur out of her spear in Meetin' House matters, and specially the Conference.

It begin to set in New York the very day we tackled the meetin' in Jonesville with a extra grip.

So's I can truly say, the Meetin' House wuz on me day and night. For workin' on it es I did, all day long, and Josiah a-talkin' abut it till bed time, and I a-dreamin' abut it a sight, that, and the Conference.

Truly, if I couldn't set on the Conference, the Conference sot on me, from mornin' till night, and from night till mornin'.

I spoze it wuz Josiah's skairful talk that brung it onto me, it wuz brung on nite mairs mostly, in the nite time.

He would talk very skairful, and what he called deep, and repeat pages of Casper Keeler's arguments, and they would appear to me (drawed also by nite mairs) every page on 'em lookin' fairly lurid.

I suffered.

Josiah would set with the World and other papers in his hand, a-perusin' of 'em, while I would be a-washin' up my dishes, and the very minute I would get 'em done and my sleeves rolled down, he would tackle me, and often he wouldn't wait for me to get my work done up, or even supper got, but would begin on me as I filled up my tea kettle, and keep up a stiddy drizzle of argument till bed time, and as I say, when he left off, the nite mairs would begin.

I suffered beyond tellin' almost.

The secont night of my arjuous labors on the meetin' house, he began wild and eloquent about wimmen bein' on Conferences, and mountin' rostrums. And sez he, "That is suthin' that we Methodist men can't stand."

[Illustration: "IS ROSTRUMS MUCH HIGHER THAN THEM BARELLS TO STAND ON?"]

And I, havin' stood up on a barell all day a-scrapin' the ceilin', and not bein' recuperated yet from the skairtness and dizziness of my day's work, I sez to him:

"Is rostrums much higher than them barells we have to stand on to the meetin' house?"

And Josiah said, "it wuz suthin' altogether different." And he assured me agin,

"That in any modest, unpretendin' way the Methodist Church wuz willin' to accept wimmen's work. It wuzn't aginst the Discipline. And that is why," sez he, "that wimmen have all through the ages been allowed to do most all the hard work in the church - such as raisin' money for church work - earnin' money in all sorts of ways to carry on the different kinds of charity work connected with it - teachin' the children, nursin' the sick, carryin' on hospital work, etc., etc. But," sez he, "this is fur, fur different from gettin' up on a rostrum, or tryin' to set on a Conference. Why," sez he, in a haughty tone, "I should think they'd know without havin' to be told that laymen don't mean women."

Sez I, "Them very laymen that are tryin' to keep wimmen out of the Conference wouldn't have got in themselves if it hadn't been for wimmen's votes. If they can legally vote for men to get in why can't men vote for them?"

"That is the pint," sez Josiah, "that is the very pint I have been tryin' to explain to you. Wimmen can help men to office, but men can't help wimmen; that is law, that is statesmanship. I have been a-tryin' to explain it to you that the word laymen always means woman when she can help men in any way, but not when he can help her, or in any other sense."

Sez I, "It seemed to mean wimmen when Metilda Henn wuz turned out of the meetin' house."

"Oh, yes," sez Josiah in a reasonin' tone, "the word laymen always means wimmen when it is used in a punishin' and condemnatory sense, or in the case of work and so fourth, but when it comes to settin' up in high places, or drawin' sallerys, or anything else difficult, it alweys means men."

Sez I, in a very dry axent, "Then the word man, when it is used in church matters, always means wimmen, so fur as scrubbin' is concerned, and drowdgin' round?"

"Yes," sez Josiah haughtily, "And it always means men in the higher and more difficult matters of decidin' questions, drawin' sallerys, settin' on Conferences, etc. It has long been settled to be so," sez he.

"Who settled it?" sez I.

"Why the men, of course," sez he. "The men have always made the rules of the churches, and translated the Bibles, and everything else that is difficult," sez he. Sez I, in fearful dry axents, almost husky ones, "It seems to take quite a knack to know jest when the word laymen means men and when it means wimmen."

"That is so," sez Josiah. "It takes a man's mind to grapple with it; wimmen's minds are too weak to tackle it It is jest as it is with that word 'men' in the Declaration of Independence. Now that word 'men', in that Declaration, means men some of the time, and some of the time men and wimmen both. It means both sexes when it relates to punishment, taxin' property, obeyin' the laws strictly, etc., etc., and then it goes right on the very next minute and means men only, as to wit, namely, votin', takin' charge of public matters, makin' laws, etc.

"I tell you it takes deep minds to foller on and see jest to a hair where the division is made. It takes statesmanship.

"Now take that claws, 'All men are born free and equal.'

"Now half of that means men, and the other half men and wimmen. Now to understand them words perfect you have got to divide the tex. 'Men are born.' That means men and wimmen both - men and wimmen are both born, nobody can dispute that. Then comes the next claws, 'Free and equal.' Now that means men only - anybody with one eye can see that.

"Then the claws, 'True government consists.' That means men and wimmen both - consists - of course the government consists of men and wimmen, 'twould be a fool who would dispute that. 'In the consent of the governed.' That means men alone. Do you see, Samantha?" sez he.

I kep' my eye fixed on the tea kettle, fer I stood with my tea-pot in hand waitin' for it to bile - "I see a great deal, Josiah Allen."

[Illustration: CHURCH WORK.]

"Wall," sez he, "I am glad on't. Now to sum it up," sez he, with some the mean of a preacher - or, ruther, a exhauster - "to sum the matter all up, the words 'bretheren,' 'laymen,' etc., always means wimmen so fur as this: punishment for all offenses, strict obedience to the rules of the church, work of any kind and all kinds, raisin' money, givin' money all that is possible, teachin' in the Sabbath school, gettin' up missionary and charitable societies, carryin' on the same with no help from the male sect leavin' that sect free to look after their half of the meanin' of the word - sallerys, office, makin' the laws that bind both of the sexes, rulin' things generally, translatin' Bibles to suit their own idees, preachin' at 'em, etc., etc. Do you see, Samantha?" sez he, proudly and loftily.

"Yes," sez I, as I filled up my tea-pot, for the water had at last biled. "Yes, I see."

And I spoze he thought he had convinced me, for he acted high headeder and haughtier for as much as an hour and a half. And I didn't say anything to break it up, for I see he had stated it jest as he and all his sect looked at it, and good land! I couldn't convince the hull male sect if I tried - clergymen, statesmen and all - so I didn't try, and I wuz truly beat out with my day's work, and I didn't drop more than one idee more. I simply dropped this remark es I poured out his tea and put some good cream into it - I merely sez:

"There is three times es many wimmen in the meetin' house es there is men."

"Yes," sez he, "that is one of the pints I have been explainin' to you," and then he went on agin real high headed, and skairt, about the old ground, of the willingness of the meetin' house to shelter wimmen in its folds, and how much they needed gaurdin' and guidin', and about their delicacy of frame, and how unfitted they wuz to tackle anything hard, and what a grief it wuz to the male sect to see 'em a-tryin' to set on Conferences or mount rostrums, etc., etc.

And I didn't try to break up his argument, but simply repeated the question I had put to him - for es I said before, I wuz tired, and skairt, and giddy yet from my hard labor and my great and hazardus elevatin'; I had not, es you may say, recovered yet from my recuperation, and so I sez agin them words -

"Is rostrums much higher than them barells to stand on?" And Josiah said agin, "it wuz suthin' entirely different;" he said barells and rostrums wuz so fur apart that you couldn't look at both on 'em in one day hardly, let alone a minute. And he went on once more with a long argument full of Bible quotations and everything.

And I wuz too tuckered out to say much more. But I did contend for it to the last, that I didn't believe a rostrum would be any more tottlin' and skairful a place than the barell I had been a-standin' on all day, nor the work I'd do on it any harder than the scrapin' of the ceilin' of that meetin house.

And I don't believe it would, I stand jest as firm on it to-day as I did then.