Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed.
Glenora Single Malt Whisky

Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.
Scottish Review

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

The Story of a Pioneer
Aunt Susan


In The Life of Susan B. Anthony it is mentioned that 1888 was a year of special recognition of our great leader's work, but that it was also the year in which many of her closest friends and strongest supporters were taken from her by death. A. Bronson Alcott was among these, and Louisa M. Alcott, as well as Dr. Lozier; and special stress is laid on Miss Anthony's sense of loss in the diminishing circle of her friends--a loss which new friends and workers came forward, eager to supply. "Chief among these,'' adds the record, "was Anna Shaw, who, from the time of the International Council in '88, gave her truest allegiance to Miss Anthony.''

It is true that from that year until Miss Anthony's death in 1906 we two were rarely separated; and I never read the paragraph I have just quoted without seeing, as in a vision, the figure of "Aunt Susan'' as she slipped into my hotel room in Chicago late one night after an evening meeting of the International Council. I had gone to bed--indeed, I was almost asleep when she came, for the day had been as exhausting as it was interesting. But notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, "Aunt Susan,'' then nearing seventy, was still as fresh and as full of enthusiasm as a young girl. She had a great deal to say, she declared, and she proceeded to say it-- sitting in a big easy-chair near the bed, with a rug around her knees, while I propped myself up with pillows and listened.

Hours passed and the dawn peered wanly through the windows, but still Miss Anthony talked of the Cause always of the Cause--and of what we two must do for it. The previous evening she had been too busy to eat any dinner, and I greatly doubt whether she had eaten any luncheon at noon. She had been on her feet for hours at a time, and she had held numerous discussions with other women she wished to inspire to special effort. Yet, after it all, here she was laying out our campaigns for years ahead, foreseeing everything, forgetting nothing, and sweeping me with her in her flight toward our common goal, until I, who am not easily carried off my feet, experienced an almost dizzy sense of exhilaration.

Suddenly she stopped, looked at the gas-jets paling in the morning light that filled the room, and for a fleeting instant seemed surprised. In the next she had dismissed from her mind the realization that we had talked all night. Why should we not talk all night? It was part of our work. She threw off the enveloping rug and rose.

"I must dress now,'' she said, briskly. "I've called a committee meeting before the morning session.''

On her way to the door nature smote her with a rare reminder, but even then she did not realize that it was personal. "Perhaps,'' she remarked, tentatively, "you ought to have a cup of coffee.''

That was "Aunt Susan.'' And in the eighteen years which followed I had daily illustrations of her superiority to purely human weaknesses. To her the hardships we underwent later, in our Western campaigns for woman suffrage, were as the airiest trifles. Like a true soldier, she could snatch a moment of sleep or a mouthful of food where she found it, and if either was not forthcoming she did not miss it. To me she was an unceasing inspiration--the torch that illumined my life. We went through some difficult years together--years when we fought hard for each inch of headway we gained --but I found full compensation for every effort in the glory of working with her for the Cause that was first in both our hearts, and in the happiness of being her friend. Later I shall describe in more detail the suffrage campaigns and the National and International councils in which we took part; now it is of her I wish to write--of her bigness, her many-sidedness, her humor, her courage, her quickness, her sympathy, her understanding, her force, her supreme common-sense, her selflessness; in short, of the rare beauty of her nature as I learned to know it.

Like most great leaders, she took one's best work for granted, and was chary with her praise; and even when praise was given it usually came by indirect routes. I recall with amusement that the highest compliment she ever paid me in public involved her in a tangle from which, later, only her quick wit extricated her. We were lecturing in an especially pious town which I shall call B----, and just before I went on the platform Miss Anthony remarked, peacefully:

"These people have always claimed that I am irreligious. They will not accept the fact that I am a Quaker--or, rather, they seem to think a Quaker is an infidel. I am glad you are a Methodist, for now they cannot claim that we are not orthodox.''

She was still enveloped in the comfort of this reflection when she introduced me to our audience, and to impress my qualifications upon my hearers she made her introduction in these words:

"It is a pleasure to introduce Miss Shaw, who is a Methodist minister. And she is not only orthodox of the orthodox, but she is also my right bower!''

There was a gasp from the pious audience, and then a roar of laughter from irreverent men, in which, I must confess, I light-heartedly joined. For once in her life Miss Anthony lost her presence of mind; she did not know how to meet the situation, for she had no idea what had caused the laughter. It bubbled forth again and again during the evening, and each time Miss Anthony received the demonstration with the same air of puzzled surprise.

When we had returned to our hotel rooms I explained the matter to her. I do not remember now where I had acquired my own sinful knowledge, but that night I faced "Aunt Susan'' from the pedestal of a sophisticated worldling.

"Don't you know what a right bower is?'' I demanded, sternly.

"Of course I do,'' insisted "Aunt Susan.'' "It's a right-hand man--the kind one can't do without.''

"It is a card,'' I told her, firmly--"a leading card in a game called euchre.''

"Aunt Susan'' was dazed. "I didn't know it had anything to do with cards,'' she mused, mournfully. "What must they think of me?''

What they thought became quite evident. The newspapers made countless jokes at our expense, and there were significant smiles on the faces in the audience that awaited us the next night. When Miss Anthony walked upon the platform she at once proceeded to clear herself of the tacit charge against her.

"When I came to your town,'' she began, cheerfully, "I had been warned that you were a very religious lot of people. I wanted to impress upon you the fact that Miss Shaw and I are religious, too. But I admit that when I told you she was my right bower I did not know what a right bower was. I have learned that, since last night.''

She waited until the happy chortles of her hearers had subsided, and then went on. "It interests me very much, however,'' she concluded, "to realize that every one of you seemed to know all about a right bower, and that I had to come to your good, orthodox town to get the information.'' That time the joke was on the audience.

Miss Anthony's home was in Rochester, New York, and it was said by our friends that on the rare occasions when we were not together, and I was lecturing independently, "all return roads led through Rochester.'' I invariably found some excuse to go there and report to her. Together we must have worn out many Rochester pavements, for "Aunt Susan's'' pet recreation was walking, and she used to walk me round and round the city squares, far into the night, and at a pace that made policemen gape at us as we flew by. Some disrespectful youth once remarked that on these occasions we suggested a race between a ruler and a rubber ball--for she was very tall and thin, while I am short and plump. To keep up with her I literally bounded at her side.

A certain amount of independent lecturing was necessary for me, for I had to earn my living. The National American Woman Suffrage Association has never paid salaries to its officers, so, when I became vice-president and eventually, in 1904, president of the association, I continued to work gratuitously for the Cause in these positions. Even Miss Anthony received not one penny of salary for all her years of unceasing labor, and she was so poor that she did not have a home of her own until she was seventy-five. Then it was a very simple one, and she lived with the utmost economy. I decided that I could earn my bare expenses by making one brief lecture tour each year, and I made an arrangement with the Redpath Bureau which left me fully two-thirds of my time for the suffrage work I loved.

This was one result of my all-night talk with Miss Anthony in Chicago, and it enabled me to carry out her plan that I should accompany her in most of the campaigns in which she sought to arouse the West to the need of suffrage for women. From that time on we traveled and lectured together so con
stantly that each of us developed an almost uncanny knowledge of the other's mental processes. At any point of either's lecture the other could pick it up and carry it on--a fortunate condition, as it sometimes became necessary to do this. Miss Anthony was subject to contractions of the throat, which for the moment caused a slight strangulation. On such occasions--of which there were several--she would turn to me and indicate her helplessness. Then I would repeat her last sentence, complete her speech, and afterward make my own.

The first time this happened we were in Washington, and "Aunt Susan'' stopped in the middle of a word. She could not speak; she merely motioned to me to continue for her, and left the stage. At the end of the evening a prominent Washington man who had been in our audience remarked to me, confidentially:

"That was a nice little play you and Miss Anthony made to-night--very effective indeed.''

For an instant I did not catch his meaning, nor the implication in his knowing smile.

"Very clever, that strangling bit, and your going on with the speech,'' he repeated. "It hit the audience hard.''

"Surely,'' I protested, "you don't think it was a deliberate thing--that we planned or rehearsed it.''

He stared at me incredulously. "Are you going to pretend,'' he demanded, "that it wasn't a put-up job?''

I told him he had paid us a high compliment, and that we must really have done very well if we had conveyed that impression; and I finally convinced him that we not only had not rehearsed the episode, but that neither of us had known what the other meant to say. We never wrote out our speeches, but our subject was always suffrage or some ramification of suffrage, and, naturally, we had thoroughly digested each other's views.

It is said by my friends that I write my speeches on the tips of my fingers--for I always make my points on my fingers and have my fingers named for points. When I plan a speech I decide how many points I wish to make and what those points shall be. My mental preparation follows. Miss Anthony's method was much the same; but very frequently both of us threw over all our plans at the last moment and spoke extemporaneously on some theme suggested by the atmosphere of the gathering or by the words of another speaker.

From Miss Anthony, more than from any one else, I learned to keep cool in the face of interruptions and of the small annoyances and disasters inevitable in campaigning. Often we were able to help each other out of embarrassing situations, and one incident of this kind occurred during our campaign in South Dakota.

We were holding a meeting on the hottest Sunday of the hottest month in the year--August--and hundreds of the natives had driven twenty, thirty, and even forty miles across the country to hear us. We were to speak in a sod church, but it was discovered that the structure would not hold half the people who were trying to enter it, so we decided that Miss Anthony should speak from the door, in order that those both inside and outside might hear her. To elevate her above her audience, she was given an empty dry-goods box to stand on. This makeshift platform was not large, and men, women, and children were seated on the ground around it, pressing up against it, as close to the speaker as they could get. Directly in front of Miss Anthony sat a woman with a child about two years old--a little boy; and this infant, like every one else in the packed throng, was dripping with perspiration and suffering acutely under the blazing sun. Every woman present seemed to have brought children with her, doubtless because she could not leave them alone at home; and babies were crying and fretting on all sides. The infant nearest Miss Anthony fretted most strenuously; he was a sturdy little fellow with a fine pair of lungs, and he made it very difficult for her to lift her voice above his dismal clamor. Suddenly, however, he discovered her feet on the dry-goods box, about on a level with his head. They were clad in black stockings and low shoes; they moved about oddly; they fascinated him. With a yelp of interest he grabbed for them and began pinching them to see what they were. His howls ceased; he was happy. Miss Anthony was not. But it was a great relief to have the child quiet, so she bore the infliction of the pinching as long as she could. When endurance had found its limit she slipped back out of reach, and as his new plaything receded the boy uttered shrieks of disapproval. There was only one way to stop his noise; Miss Anthony brought her feet forward again, and he resumed the pinching of her ankles, while his yelps subsided to contented murmurs. The performance was repeated half a dozen times. Each time the ankles retreated the baby yelled. Finally, for once at the end of her patience, "Aunt Susan'' leaned forward and addressed the mother, whose facial expression throughout had shown a complete mental detachment from the situation.

"I think your little boy is hot and thirsty,'' she said, gently. "If you would take him out of the crowd and give him a drink of water and unfasten his clothes, I am sure he would be more comfortable.''

Before she had finished speaking the woman had sprung to her feet and was facing her with fierce indignation.

"This is the first time I have ever been insulted as a mother,'' she cried; "and by an old maid at that!'' Then she grasped the infant and left the scene, amid great confusion. The majority of those in the audience seemed to sympathize with her. They had not seen the episode of the feet, and they thought Miss Anthony was complaining of the child's crying. Their children were crying, too, and they felt that they had all been criticized. Other women rose and followed the irate mother, and many men gallantly followed them. It seemed clear that motherhood had been outraged.

Miss Anthony was greatly depressed by the episode, and she was not comforted by a prediction one man made after the meeting. "You've lost at least twenty votes by that little affair,'' he told her.

"Aunt Susan'' sighed. "Well,'' she said, "if those men knew how my ankles felt I would have won twenty votes by enduring the torture as long as I did.''

The next day we had a second meeting. Miss Anthony made her speech early in the evening, and by the time it was my turn to begin all the children in the audience--and there were many--were both tired and sleepy. At least half a dozen of them were crying, and I had to shout to make my voice heard above their uproar. Miss Anthony remarked afterward that there seemed to be a contest between me and the infants to see which of us could make more noise. The audience was plainly getting restless under the combined effect, and finally a man in the rear rose and added his voice to the tumult.

"Say, Miss Shaw,'' he yelled, "don't you want these children put out?''

It was our chance to remove the sad impression of yesterday, and I grasped it.

"No, indeed,'' I yelled back. "Nothing inspires me like the voice of a child!''

A handsome round of applause from mothers and fathers greeted this noble declaration, after which the blessed babies and I resumed our joint vocal efforts. When the speech was finished and we were alone together, Miss Anthony put her arm around my shoulder and drew me to her side. "Well, Anna,'' she said, gratefully, "you've certainly evened us up on motherhood this time.''

That South Dakota campaign was one of the most difficult we ever made. It extended over nine months; and it is impossible to describe the poverty which prevailed throughout the whole rural community of the State. There had been three consecutive years of drought. The sand was like powder, so deep that the wheels of the wagons in which we rode "across country'' sank half-way to the hubs; and in the midst of this dry powder lay withered tangles that had once been grass. Every one had the forsaken, desperate look worn by the pioneer who has reached the limit of his endurance, and the great stretches of prairie roads showed innumerable canvas-covered wagons, drawn by starved horses, and followed by starved cows, on their way "Back East.'' Our talks with the despairing drivers of these wagons are among my most tragic memories. They had lost everything except what they had with them, and they were going East to leave "the woman'' with her father and try to find work. Usually, with a look of disgust at his wife, the man would say: "I wanted to leave two years ago, but the woman kept saying, `Hold on a little longer.' ''

Both Miss Anthony and I gloried in the spirit of these pioneer women, and lost no opportunity to tell them so; for we realized what our nation owes to the patience and courage of such as they were. We often asked them what was the hardest thing to bear in their pioneer life, and we usually received the same reply:

"To sit in our little adobe or sod houses at night and listen to the wolves howl over the graves of our babies. For the howl of the wolf is like the cry of a child from the grave.''

Many days, and in all kinds of weather, we rode forty and fifty miles in uncovered wagons. Many nights we shared a one-room cabin with all the members of the family. But the greatest hardship we suffered was the lack of water. There was very little good water in the state, and the purest water was so brackish that we could hardly drink it. The more we drank the thirstier we became, and when the water was made into tea it tasted worse than when it was clear.

A bath was the rarest of luxuries. The only available fuel was buffalo manure, of which the odor permeated all our food. But despite these handicaps we were happy in our work, for we had some great meetings and many wonderful experiences. When we reached the Black Hills we had more of this genuine campaigning. We traveled over the mountains in wagons, behind teams of horses, visiting the mining-camps; and often the gullies were so deep that when our horses got into them it was almost impossible to get them out.

I recall with special clearness one ride from Hill City to Custer City. It was only a matter of thirty miles, but it was thoroughly exhausting; and after our meeting that same night we had to drive forty miles farther over the mountains to get the early morning train from Buffalo Gap. The trail from Custer City to Buffalo Gap was the one the animals had originally made in their journeys over the pass, and the drive in that wild region, throughout a cold, piercing October night, was an unforgetable experience. Our host at Custer City lent Miss Anthony his big buffalo overcoat, and his wife lent hers to me. They also heated blocks of wood for our feet, and with these protections we started. A full moon hung in the sky. The trees were covered with hoar-frost, and the cold, still air seemed to sparkle in the brilliant light.

Again Miss Anthony talked to me throughout the night--of the work, always of the work, and of what it would mean to the women who followed us; and again she fired my soul with the flame that burned so steadily in her own.

It was daylight when we reached the little station at Buffalo Gap where we were to take the train. This was not due, however, for half an hour, and even then it did not come. The station was only large enough to hold the stove, the ticket-office, and the inevitable cuspidor. There was barely room in which to walk between these and the wall. Miss Anthony sat down on the floor. I had a few raisins in my bag, and we divided them for breakfast.

An hour passed, and another, and still the train did not come. Miss Anthony, her back braced against the wall, buried her face in her hands and dropped into a peaceful abyss of slumber, while I walked restlessly up and down the platform. The train arrived four hours late, and when eventually we had reached our destination we learned that the ministers of the town had persuaded the women to give up the suffrage meeting scheduled for that night, as it was Sunday.

This disappointment, following our all-day and all-night drive to keep our appointment, aroused Miss Anthony's fighting spirit. She sent me out to rent the theater for the evening, and to have some hand-bills printed and distributed, announcing that we would speak. At three o'clock she made the concession to her seventy years of lying down for an hour's rest. I was young and vigorous, so I trotted around town to get somebody to preside, somebody to introduce us, somebody to take up the collection, and somebody who would provide music--in short, to make all our preparations for the night meeting.

When evening came the crowd which had assembled was so great that men and women sat in the windows and on the stage, and stood in the flies. Night attractions were rare in that Dakota town, and here was something new. Nobody went to church, so the churches were forced to close. We had a glorious meeting. Both Miss Anthony and I were in excellent fighting trim, and Miss Anthony remarked that the only thing lacking to make me do my best was a sick headache. The collection we took up paid all our expenses, the church singers sang for us, the great audience was interested, and the whole occasion was an inspiring success. The meeting ended about half after ten o'clock, and I remember taking Miss Anthony to our hotel and escorting her to her room. I also remember that she followed me to the door and made some laughing remark as I left for my own room; but I recall nothing more until the next morning when she stood beside me telling me it was time for breakfast. She had found me lying on the cover of my bed, fully clothed even to my bonnet and shoes. I had fallen there, utterly exhausted, when I entered my room the night before, and I do not think I had even moved from that time until the moment-- nine hours later--when I heard her voice and felt her hand on my shoulder.

After all our work, we did not win Dakota that year, but Miss Anthony bore the disappointment with the serenity she always showed. To her a failure was merely another opportunity, and I mention our experience here only to show of what she was capable in her gallant seventies. But I should misrepresent her if I did not show her human and sentimental side as well. With all her detachment from human needs she had emotional moments, and of these the most satisfying came when she was listening to music. She knew nothing whatever about music, but was deeply moved by it; and I remember vividly one occasion when Nordica sang for her, at an afternoon reception given by a Chicago
friend in "Aunt Susan's'' honor. As it happened, she had never heard Nordica sing until that day; and before the music began the great artiste and the great leader met, and in the moment of meeting became friends. When Nordica sang, half an hour later, she sang directly to Miss Anthony, looking into her eyes; and "Aunt Susan'' listened with her own eyes full of tears. When the last notes had been sung she went to the singer and put both arms around her. The music had carried her back to her girlhood and to the sentiment of sixteen.

"Oh, Nordica,'' she sighed, "I could die listening to such singing!''

Another example of her unquenchable youth has also a Chicago setting. During the World's Fair a certain clergyman made an especially violent stand in favor of closing the Fair grounds on Sunday. Miss Anthony took issue with him. "If I had charge of a young man in Chicago at this time,'' she told the clergyman, "I would much rather have him locked inside the Fair grounds on Sunday or any other day than have him going about on the outside.''

The clergyman was horrified. "Would you like to have a son of yours go to Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show on Sunday?'' he demanded.

"Of course I would,'' admitted Miss Anthony. "In fact, I think he would learn more there than from the sermons preached in some churches.''

Later this remark was repeated to Colonel Cody ("Buffalo Bill''), who, of course, was delighted with it. He at once wrote to Miss Anthony, thanking her for the breadth of her views, and offering her a box for his "Show.'' She had no strong desire to see the performance, but some of us urged her to accept the invitation and to take us with her. She was always ready to do anything that would give us pleasure, so she promised that we should go the next afternoon. Others heard of the jaunt and begged to go also, and Miss Anthony blithely took every applicant under her wing, with the result that when we arrived at the box-office the next day there were twelve of us in the group. When she presented her note and asked for a box, the local manager looked doubtfully at the delegation. "A box only holds six,'' he objected, logically. Miss Anthony, who had given no thought to that slight detail, looked us over and smiled her seraphic smile.

"Why, in that case,'' she said, cheerfully, "you'll have to give us two boxes, won't you?''

The amused manager decided that he would, and handed her the tickets; and she led her band to their places in triumph. When the performance began Colonel Cody, as was his custom, entered the arena from the far end of the building, riding his wonderful horse and bathed, of course, in the effulgence of his faithful spot-light. He rode directly to our boxes, reined his horse in front of Miss Anthony, rose in his stirrups, and with his characteristic gesture swept his slouch-hat to his saddle-bow in salutation.

"Aunt Susan'' immediately rose, bowed in her turn and, for the moment as enthusiastic as a girl, waved her handkerchief at him, while the big audience, catching the spirit of the scene, wildly applauded. It was a striking picture this meeting of the pioneer man and woman; and, poor as I am, I would give a hundred dollars for a snapshot of it. On many occasions I saw instances of Miss Anthony's prescience--and one of these was connected with the death of Frances E. Willard.

"Aunt Susan'' had called on Miss Willard, and, coming to me from the sick-room, had walked the floor, beating her hands together as she talked of the visit.

"Frances Willard is dying,'' she exclaimed, passionately. "She is dying, and she doesn't know it, and no one around her realizes it. She is lying there, seeing into two worlds, and making more plans than a thousand women could carry out in ten years. Her brain is wonderful. She has the most extraordinary clearness of vision. There should be a stenographer in that room, and every word she utters should be taken down, for every word is golden. But they don't understand. They can't realize that she is going. I told Anna Gordon the truth, but she won't believe it.'' Miss Willard died a few days later, with a suddenness which seemed to be a terrible shock to those around her.

Of "Aunt Susan's'' really remarkable lack of self-consciousness we who worked close to her had a thousand extraordinary examples. Once, I remember, at the New Orleans Convention, she reached the hall a little late, and as she entered the great audience already assembled gave her a tremendous reception. The exercises of the day had not yet begun, and Miss Anthony stopped short and looked around for an explanation of the outburst. It never for a moment occurred to her that the tribute was to her.

"What has happened, Anna?'' she asked at last.

"You happened, Aunt Susan,'' I had to explain.

Again, on the great "College Night'' of the Baltimore Convention, when President M. Carey Thomas of Bryn Mawr College had finished her wonderful tribute to Miss Anthony, the audience, carried away by the speech and also by the presence of the venerable leader on the platform, broke into a whirlwind of applause. In this "Aunt Susan'' artlessly joined, clapping her hands as hard as she could. "This is all for you, Aunt Susan,'' I whispered, "so it isn't your time to applaud.''

"Aunt Susan'' continued to clap. "Nonsense,'' she said, briskly. "It's not for me. It's for the Cause--the Cause!''

Miss Anthony told me in 1904 that she regarded her reception in Berlin, during the meeting of the International Council of Women that year, as the climax of her career. She said it after the unexpected and wonderful ovation she had received from the German people, and certainly throughout her inspiring life nothing had happened that moved her more deeply.

For some time Mrs. Carrie Chapman Catt, of whose splendid work for the Cause I shall later have more to say, had cherished the plan of forming an International Suffrage Alliance. She believed the time had come when the suffragists of the entire world could meet to their common benefit; and Miss Anthony, always Mrs. Catt's devoted friend and admirer, agreed with her. A committee was appointed to meet in Berlin in 1904, just before the meeting of the International Council of Women, and Miss Anthony was appointed chairman of the committee. At first the plan of the committee was not welcomed by the International Council; there was even a suspicion that its purpose was to start a rival organization. But it met, a constitution was framed, and officers were elected, Mrs. Catt--the ideal choice for the place--being made president. As a climax to the organization, a great public mass-meeting had been arranged by the German suffragists, but at the special plea of the president of the International Council Miss Anthony remained away from this meeting. It was represented to her that the interests of the Council might suffer if she and other of its leading speakers were also leaders in the suffrage movement. In the interest of harmony, there fore, she followed the wishes of the Council's president--to my great unhappiness and to that of other suffragists.

When the meeting was opened the first words of the presiding officer were, "Where is Susan B. Anthony?'' and the demonstration that followed the question was the most unexpected and overwhelming incident of the gathering. The entire audience rose, men jumped on their chairs, and the cheering continued without a break for ten minutes. Every second of that time I seemed to see Miss Anthony, alone in her hotel room, longing with all her big heart to be with us, as we longed to have her.

I prayed that the loss of a tribute which would have meant so much might be made up to her, and it was. Afterward, when we burst in upon her and told her of the great demonstration the mere mention of her name had caused, her lips quivered and her brave old eyes filled with tears. As we looked at her I think we all realized anew that what the world called stoicism in Susan B. Anthony throughout the years of her long struggle had been, instead, the splendid courage of an indomitable soul--while all the time the woman's heart had longed for affection and recognition. The next morning the leading Berlin newspaper, in reporting the debate and describing the spontaneous tribute to Miss Anthony, closed with these sentences:

"The Americans call her `Aunt Susan.' She is our `Aunt Susan,' too!''

Throughout the remainder of Miss Anthony's visit she was the most honored figure at the International Council. Every time she entered the great convention-hall the entire audience rose and remained standing until she was seated; each mention of her name was punctuated by cheers; and the enthusiasm when she appeared on the platform to say a few words was beyond bounds. When the Empress of Germany gave her reception to the officers of the Council, she crowned the hospitality of her people in a characteristically gracious way. As soon as Miss Anthony was presented to her the Empress invited her to be seated, and to remain seated, although every one else, including the august lady herself, was standing.

A little later, seeing the intrepid warrior of eighty-four on her feet with the other delegates, the Empress sent one of her aides across the room with this message: "Please tell my friend Miss Anthony that I especially wish her to be seated. We must not let her grow weary.''

In her turn, Miss Anthony was fascinated by the Empress. She could not keep her eyes off that charming royal lady. Probably the thing that most impressed her was the ability of her Majesty as a linguist. Receiving women from every civilized country on the globe, the Empress seemed to address each in her own tongue-slipping from one language into the next as easily as from one topic to another.

"And here I am,'' mourned "Aunt Susan,'' "speaking only one language, and that not very well.''

At this Berlin quinquennial, by the way, I preached the Council sermon, and the occasion gained a certain interest from the fact that I was the first ordained woman to preach in a church in Germany. It then took on a tinge of humor from the additional fact that, according to the German law, as suddenly revealed to us by the police, no clergyman was permitted to preach unless clothed in clerical robes in the pulpit. It happened that I had not taken my clerical robes with me--I am constantly forgetting those clerical robes!--so the pastor of the church kindly offered me his robes. Now the pastor was six feet tall and broad in proportion, and I, as I have already confessed, am very short. His robes transformed me into such an absurd caricature of a preacher that it was quite impossible for me to wear them. What, then, were we to do? Lacking clerical robes, the police would not allow me to utter six words. It was finally decided that the clergyman should meet the letter of the law by entering the pulpit in his robes and standing by my side while I delivered my sermon. The law soberly accepted this solution of the problem, and we offered the congregation the extraordinary tableau of a pulpit combining a large and impressive pastor standing silently beside a small and inwardly convulsed woman who had all she could do to deliver her sermon with the solemnity the occasion required.

At this same conference I made one of the few friendships I enjoy with a member of a European royal family, for I met the Princess Blank of Italy, who overwhelmed me with attention during my visit, and from whom I still receive charming letters. She invited me to visit her in her castle in Italy, and to accompany her to her mother's castle in Austria, and she finally insisted on knowing exactly why I persistently refused both invitations.

"Because, my dear Princess,'' I explained, "I am a working-woman.''

"Nobody need KNOW that,'' murmured the Princess, calmly.

"On the contrary,'' I assured her, "it is the first thing I should explain.''

"But why?'' the Princess wanted to know.

I studied her in silence for a moment. She was a new and interesting type to me, and I was glad to exchange viewpoints with her. "You are proud of your family, are you not?'' I asked. "You are proud of your great line?''

The Princess drew herself up. "Assuredly,'' she said.

"Very well,'' I continued. "I am proud, too. What I have done I have done unaided, and, to be frank with you, I rather approve of it. My work is my patent of nobility, and I am not willing to associate with those from whom it would have to be concealed or with those who would look down upon it.''

The Princess sighed. I was a new type to her, too, as new as she was to me; but I had the advantage of her, for I could understand her point of view, whereas she apparently could not follow mine. She was very gracious to me, however, showing me kindness and friendship in a dozen ways, giving me an immense amount of her time and taking rather more of my time than I could spare, but never forgetting for a moment that her blood was among the oldest in Europe, and that all her traditions were in keeping with its honorable age.

After the Berlin meeting Miss Anthony and I were invited to spend a week-end at the home of Mrs. Jacob Bright, that "Aunt Susan'' might renew her acquaintance with Annie Besant. This visit is among my most vivid memories. Originally "Aunt Susan'' had greatly admired Mrs. Besant, and had openly lamented the latter's concentration on theosophical interests--when, as Miss Anthony put it, "there are so many live problems here in this world.'' Now she could not conceal her disapproval of the "other-worldliness'' of Mrs. Besant, Mrs. Bright, and her daughter. Some remarkable and, to me, most amusing discussions took place among the three; but often, during Mrs. Besant's most sustained oratorical flights, Miss Anthony's interest would wander, and she would drop a remark that showed she had not heard a word. She had a great admiration for Mrs. Besant's intellect; but she disapproved of her flowing and picturesque white robes, of her bare feet, of her incessant cigarette-smoking; above all, of her views. At last, one day.{sic} the climax of the discussions came.

"Annie,'' demanded "Aunt Susan,'' "why don't you make that aura of yours do its gallivanting in this world, looking up the needs of the oppressed, and investigating the causes of present wrongs? Then you could reveal to us workers just what we should do to put things right, and we could be about it.''

Mrs. Besant sighed and said that life was short and aeons were long, and that while every one would be perfected some time, it was useless to deal with individuals here.

"But, Annie!'' exclaimed Miss Anthony, pathetically. "We ARE here! Our business is here! It's our duty to do what we can here.''

Mrs. Besant seemed not to hear her. She was in a trance, gazing into the aeons.

"I'd rather have one year of your ability, backed up with common sense, for the work of making this world better,'' cried the exasperated "Aunt Susan,'' "than a million aeons in the hereafter!''

Mrs. Besant sighed again. It was plain that she could not bring herself back from the other world, so Miss Anthony, perforce, accompanied her to it. "When your aura goes visiting in the other world,'' she asked, curiously, "does it ever meet your old friend Charles Bradlaugh?''

"Oh yes,'' declared Mrs. Besant. "Frequently.''

"Wasn't he very much surprised,'' demanded Miss Anthony, with growing interest, "to discover that he
was not dead?''

Mrs. Besant did not seem to know what emotion Mr. Bradlaugh had experienced when that revelation came.

"Well,'' mused "Aunt Susan,'' "I should think he would have been surprised. He was so certain he was going to be dead that it must have been astounding to discover he wasn't. What was he doing in the other world?''

Mrs. Besant heaved a deeper sigh. "I am very much discouraged over Mr. Bradlaugh,'' she admitted, wanly. " He is hovering too near this world. He cannot seem to get away from his mundane interests. He is as much concerned with parliamentary affairs now as when he was on this plane.''

"Humph!'' said Miss Anthony; "that's the most sensible thing I've heard yet about the other world. It encourages me. I've always felt sure that if I entered the other life before women were enfranchised nothing in the glories of heaven would interest me so much as the work for women's freedom on earth. Now,'' she ended, "I shall be like Mr. Bradlaugh. I shall hover round and continue my work here.''

When Mrs. Besant had left the room Mrs. Bright felt that it was her duty to admonish "Aunt Susan'' to be more careful in what she said.

"You are making too light of her creed,'' she expostulated. "You do not realize the important position Mrs. Besant holds. Why, in India, when she walks from her home to her school all those she meets prostrate themselves. Even the learned men prostrate themselves and put their faces on the ground as she goes by.''

"Aunt Susan's'' voice, when she replied, took on the tones of one who is sorely tried. "But why in Heaven's name does any sensible Englishwoman want a lot of heathen to prostrate themselves as she goes up the street?'' she demanded, wearily. "It's the most foolish thing I ever heard.''

The effort to win Miss Anthony over to the theosophical doctrine was abandoned. That night, after we had gone to our rooms, "Aunt Susan'' summed up her conclusions on the interview:

"It's a good thing for the world,'' she declared, "that some of us don't know so much. And it's a better thing for this world that some of us think a little earthly common sense is more valuable than too much heavenly knowledge.''


Return to Contents Page

 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast