Looking back now upon those days, I see my
Cape Cod friends as clearly as if the intervening years had been wiped
out and we were again together. Among those I most loved were two
widely differing types--Captain Doane, a retired sea-captain, and Relief
Paine, an invalid chained to the couch, but whose beautiful influence
permeated the community like an atmosphere. Captain Doane was one of
the finest men I have ever known--high-minded, tolerant, sympathetic,
and full of understanding, He was not only my friend, but my church
barometer. He occupied a front pew, close to the pulpit; and when I was
preaching without making much appeal he sat looking me straight in the
face, listening courteously, but without interest. When I got into my
subject, he would lean forward --the angle at which he sat indicating
the degree of attention I had aroused--and when I was strongly holding
my congregation Brother Doane would bend toward me, following every word
I uttered with corresponding motions of his lips. When I resigned we
parted with deep regret, but it was not until I visited the church
several years afterward that he overcame his reserve enough to tell me
how much he had felt my going.
``Oh, did you?'' I asked, greatly touched.
``You're not saying that merely to please me?''
The old man's hand fell on my shoulder. ``I
miss you,'' he said, simply. ``I miss you all the time. You see, I love
you.'' Then, with precipitate self-consciousness, he closed the door of
his New England heart, and from some remote corner of it sent out his
cautious after-thought. ``I love you,'' he repeated, primly, ``as a
sister in the Lord.''
Relief Paine lived in Brewster. Her name
seemed prophetic, and she once told me that she had always considered it
so. Her brother-in-law was my Sunday-school superintendent, and her
family belonged to my church. Very soon after my arrival in East Dennis
I went to see her, and found her, as she always was, dressed in white
and lying on a tiny white bed covered with pansies, in a room whose
windows overlooked the sea. I shall never forget the picture she made.
Over her shoulders was an exquisite white lace shawl brought from the
other side of the world by some seafaring friend, and against her white
pillow her hair seemed the blackest I had ever seen. When I entered she
turned and looked toward me with wonderful dark eyes that were quite
blind, and as she talked her hands played with the pansies around her.
She loved pansies as she loved few human beings, and she knew their
colors by touching them. She was then a little more than thirty years
of age. At sixteen she had fallen downstairs in the dark, receiving an
injury that paralyzed her, and for fifteen years she had lain on one
side, perfectly still, the Stella Maris of the Cape. All who came to
her, and they were many, went away the better for the visit, and the
mere mention of her name along the coast softened eyes that had looked
too bitterly on life.
Relief and I became close friends. I was
greatly drawn to her, and deeply moved by the tragedy of her situation,
as well as by the beautiful spirit with which she bore it. During my
first visit I regaled her with stories of the community and of my own
experiences, and when I was leaving it occurred to me that possibly I
had been rather frivolous. So I said:
``I am coming to see you often, and when I
come I want to do whatever will interest you most. Shall I bring some
books and read to you?''
Relief smiled--the gay, mischievous little
smile I was soon to know so well, but which at first seemed out of place
on the tragic mask of her face. ``No, don't read to me,'' she decided.
``There are enough ready to do that. Talk to me. Tell me about our
life and our people here, as they strike you.'' And she added, slowly:
``You are a queer minister. You have not offered to pray with me!''
``I feel,'' I told her, ``more like asking
you to pray for me.''
Relief continued her analysis. ``You have
not told me that my affliction was a visitation from God,'' she added;
``that it was discipline and well for me I had it.''
``I don't believe it was from God,'' I
said. ``I don't believe God had anything to do with it. And I rejoice
that you have not let it wreck your life.''
She pressed my hand. ``Thank you for saying
that,'' she murmured. ``If I thought God did it I could not love Him,
and if I did not love Him I could not live. Please come and see me VERY
often-- and tell me stories!''
After that I collected stories for Relief.
One of those which most amused her, I remember, was about my horse, and
this encourages me to repeat it here. In my life in East Dennis I did
not occupy the lonely little parsonage connected with my church, but
instead boarded with a friend--a widow named Crowell. (There seemed
only two names in Cape Cod: Sears and Crowell.)
To keep in touch with my two churches, which
were almost three miles apart, it became necessary to have a horse. As
Mrs. Crowell needed one, too, we decided to buy the animal in
partnership, and Miss Crowell, the daughter of the widow, who knew no
more about horses than I did, undertook to lend me the support of her
presence and advice during the purchase. We did not care to have the
entire community take a passionate interest in the matter, as it would
certainly have done if it had heard of our intention; so my friend and I
departed somewhat stealthily for a neighboring town, where, we had
heard, a very good horse was offered for sale. We saw the animal and
liked it; but before closing the bargain we cannily asked the owner if
the horse was perfectly sound, and if it was gentle with women. He
assured us that it was both sound and gentle with women, and to prove
the latter point he had his wife harness it to the buggy and drive it
around the stable-yard. The animal behaved beautifully. After it had
gone through its paces, Miss Crowell and I leaned confidingly against
its side, patting it and praising its beauty, and the horse seemed to
enjoy our attentions. We bought it then and there, drove it home, and
put it in our barn; and the next morning we hired a man in the
neighborhood to come over and take care of it.
He arrived. Five minutes later a frightful
racket broke out in the barn--sounds of stamping, kicking, and plunging,
mingled with loud shouts. We ran to the scene of the trouble, and found
our ``hired man'' rushing breathlessly toward the house. When he was
able to speak he informed us that we had ``a devil in there,'' pointing
back to the barn, and that the new horse's legs were in the air, all
four of them at once, the minute he went near her. We insisted that he
must have frightened or hurt her, but, solemnly and with anxious looks
behind, he protested that he had not. Finally Miss Crowell and I went
into the barn, and received a dignified welcome from the new horse,
which seemed pleased by our visit. Together we harnessed her and,
without the least difficulty, drove her out into the yard. As soon as
our man took the reins, however, she reared, kicked, and smashed our
brand-new buggy. We changed the man and had the buggy repaired, but by
the end of the week the animal had smashed the buggy again. Then, with
some natural resentment, we made a second visit to the man from whom we
had bought her, and asked him why he had sold us such a horse.
He said he had told us the exact truth. The
horse WAS sound and she WAS extremely gentle with women, but--and this
point he had seen no reason to mention, as we had not asked about
it--she would not let a man come near her. He firmly refused to take
her back, and we had to make the best of the bargain. As it was
impossible to take care of her ourselves, I gave some thought to the
problem she presented, and finally devised a plan which worked very
well. I hired a neighbor who was a small, slight man to take care of
her, and made him wear his wife's sunbonnet and waterproof cloak
whenever he approached the horse. The picture he presented in these
garments still stands out pleasantly against the background of my Cape
Cod memories. The horse, however, did not share our appreciation of
it. She was suspicious, and for a time she shied whenever the man and
his sunbonnet and cloak appeared; but we stood by until she grew
accustomed to them and him; and as he was both patient and gentle, she
finally allowed him to harness and unharness her. But no man could
drive her, and when I drove to church I was forced to hitch and unhitch
her myself. No one else could do it, though many a gallant and
subsequently resentful man attempted the feat.
On one occasion a man I greatly disliked,
and who I had reason to know disliked me, insisted that he could unhitch
her, and started to do so, notwithstanding my protests and
explanations. At his approach she rose on her hind-legs, and when he
grasped her bridle she lifted him off his feet. His expression as he
hung in mid-air was an extraordinary mixture of surprise and regret.
The moment I touched her, however, she quieted down, and when I got into
the buggy and gathered up the reins she walked off like a lamb, leaving
the man staring after her with his eyes starting from his head.
The previous owner had called the horse
Daisy, and we never changed the name, though it always seemed sadly
inappropriate. Time proved, however, that there were advantages in the
ownership of Daisy. No man would allow his wife or daughter to drive
behind her, and no one wanted to borrow her. If she had been a different
kind of animal she would have been used by the whole community, We kept
Daisy for seven years, and our acquaintance ripened into a pleasant
Another Cape Cod resident to whose memory I
must offer tribute in these pages was Polly Ann Sears--one of the
dearest and best of my parishioners. She had six sons, and when five
had gone to sea she insisted that the sixth must remain at home. In
vain the boy begged her to let him follow his brothers. She stood firm.
The sea, she said, should not swallow all her boys; she had given it
five--she must keep one.
As it happened, the son she kept at home was
the only one who was drowned. He was caught in a fish-net and dragged
under the waters of the bay near his home; and when I went to see his
mother to offer such comfort as I could, she showed that she had learned
the big lesson of the experience.
``I tried to be a special Providence,'' she
moaned, ``and the one boy I kept home was the only boy I lost. I ain't
a-goin' to be a Providence no more.''
The number of funerals on Cape Cod was
tragically large. I was in great demand on these occasions, and went
all over the Cape, conducting funeral services--which seemed to be the
one thing people thought I could do--and preaching funeral sermons.
Besides the victims of the sea, many of the residents who had drifted
away were brought back to sleep their last sleep within sound of the
Once I asked an old sea-captain why so many
Cape Cod men and women who had been gone for years asked to be buried
near their old homes, and his reply still lingers in my memory. He
poked his toe in the sand for a moment and then said, slowly: ``Wal, I
reckon it's because the Cape has such warm, comfortable sand to lie down
My friend Mrs. Addy lay in the Crowell
family lot, and during my pastorate at East Dennis I preached the
funeral sermon of her father, and later of her mother. Long after I had
left Cape Cod I was frequently called back to say the last words over
the coffins of my old friends, and the saddest of those journeys was the
one I made in response to a telegram from the mother of Relief Paine.
When I had arrived and we stood together beside the exquisite figure
that seemed hardly more quiet in death than in life, Mrs. Paine voiced
in her few words the feeling of the whole community--
``Where shall we get our comfort and our
inspiration, now that Relief is gone?''
The funeral which took all my courage from
me, however, was that of my sister Mary. In its suddenness, Mary's
death, in 1883, was as a thunderbolt from the blue; for she had been in
perfect health three days before she passed away. I was still in charge
of my two parishes in Cape Cod, but, as it mercifully happened, before
she was stricken I had started West to visit Mary in her home at Big
Rapids. When I arrived on the second day of her illness, knowing
nothing of it until I reached her, I found her already past hope. Her
disease was pneumonia, but she was conscious to the end, and her
greatest desire seemed to be to see me christen her little daughter and
her husband before she left them. This could not be realized, for my
brother-in-law was absent on business, and with all his haste in
returning did not reach his wife's side until after her death. As his
one thought then was to carry out her last wishes, I christened him and
his little girl just before the funeral; and during the ceremony we all
experienced a deep conviction that Mary knew and was content.
She had become a power in her community, and
was so dearly loved that on the day her body was borne to its last
resting-place all the business houses in Big Rapids were closed, and the
streets were filled with men who stood with bent, uncovered heads as the
funeral procession went by. My father and mother, also, to whom she had
given a home after they left the log-cabin where they had lived so long,
had made many friends in their new environment and were affectionately
known throughout the whole region as ``Grandma and Grandpa Shaw.''
When I returned to East Dennis I brought my
mother and Mary's three children with me, and they remained throughout
the spring and summer. I had hoped that they would remain permanently,
and had rented and furnished a home for them with that end in view; but,
though they enjoyed their visit, the prospect of the bleak winters of
Cape Cod disturbed my mother, and they all returned to Big Rapids late
in the autumn.
Since entering upon my parish work it
had been possible for me to help my father and mother financially; and
from the time of Mary's death I had the privilege, a very precious one,
of seeing that they were well cared for and contented. They were always
appreciative, and as time passed they became more reconciled to the
career I had chosen, and which in former days had filled them with such
After I had been in East Dennis four years I
began to feel that I was getting into a rut. It seemed to me that all I
could do in that particular field had been done. My people wished me to
remain, however, and so, partly as an outlet for my surplus energy, but
more especially because I realized the splendid work women could do as
physicians, I began to study medicine. The trustees gave me permission
to go to Boston on certain days of each week, and we soon found that I
could carry on my work as a medical student without in the least
neglecting my duty toward my parish.
I entered the Boston Medical School in 1882,
and obtained my diploma as a full-fledged physician in 1885. During
this period I also began to lecture for the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage
Association, of which Lucy Stone was president. Henry Blackwell was
associated with her, and together they developed in me a vital interest
in the suffrage cause, which grew steadily from that time until it
became the dominating influence in my life. I preached it in the
pulpit, talked it to those I met outside of the church, lectured on it
whenever I had an opportunity, and carried it into my medical work in
the Boston slums when I was trying my prentice hand on helpless pauper
Here again, in my association with the women
of the streets, I realized the limitations of my work in the ministry
and in medicine. As minister to soul and body one could do little for
these women. For such as them, one's efforts must begin at the very
foundation of the social structure. Laws for them must be made and
enforced, and some of those laws could only be made and enforced by
women. So many great avenues of life were opening up before me that my
Cape Cod environment seemed almost a prison where I was held with tender
force. I loved my people and they loved me--but the big outer world was
calling, and I could not close my ears to its summons. The suffrage
lectures helped to keep me contented, however, and I was certainly busy
enough to find happiness in my work. I was in Boston three nights a
week, and during these nights subject to sick calls at any hour. My
favorite associates were Dr. Caroline Hastings, our professor of
anatomy, and little Dr. Mary Safford, a mite of a woman with an
indomitable soul. Dr. Safford was especially prominent in philanthropic
work in Massachusetts, and it was said of her that at any hour of the
day or night she could be found working in the slums of Boston. I, too,
could frequently be found there--often, no doubt, to the disadvantage of
my patients. I was quite famous in three Boston alleys--Maiden's Lane,
Fellows Court, and Andrews Court. It most fortunately happened that I
did not lose a case in those alleys, though I took all kinds, as I had
to treat a certain number of surgical and obstetrical cases in my
course. No doubt my patients and I had many narrow escapes of which we
were blissfully ignorant, but I remember two which for a long time
afterward continued to be features of my most troubled dreams.
The first was that of a big Irishman who had
pneumonia. When I looked him over I was as much frightened as he was.
I had got as far as pneumonia in my course, and I realized that here was
a bad case of it. I knew what to do. The patient must be carefully
packed in towels wrung out of cold water. When I called for towels I
found that there was nothing in the place but a dish-towel, which I
washed with portentous gravity. The man owned but one shirt, and, in
deference to my visit, his wife had removed that to wash it. I packed
the patient in the dish-towel, wrapped him in a piece of an old shawl,
and left after instructing his wife to repeat the process. When I
reached home I remembered that the patient must be packed ``carefully,''
and I knew that his wife would do it carelessly. That meant great risk
to the man's life. My impulse was to rush back to him at once, but this
would never do. It would destroy all confidence in the doctor. I
walked the floor for three hours, and then casually strolled in upon my
patient, finding him, to my great relief, better than I had left him.
As I was leaving, a child rushed into the room, begging me to come to an
upper floor in the same building.
``The baby's got the croup,'' she gasped,
``an' he's chokin' to death.''
We had not reached croup in our course, and
I had no idea what to do, but I valiantly accompanied the little girl.
As we climbed the long flights of stairs to the top floor I remembered a
conversation I had overheard between two medical students. One of them
had said: ``If the child is strangling when it inhales, as if it were
breathing through a sponge, then give it spongia; but if it is
strangling when it breathes out, give it aconite.''
When I reached the baby I listened, but
could not tell which way it was strangling. However, I happened to have
both medicines with me, so I called for two glasses and mixed the two
remedies, each in its own glass. I gave them both to the mother, and
told her to use them alternately, every fifteen minutes, until the baby
was better. The baby got well; but whether its recovery was due to the
spongia or to the aconite I never knew.
In my senior year I fell in love with an
infant of three, named Patsy. He was one of nine children when I was
called to deliver his mother of her tenth child. She was drunk when I
reached her, and so were two men who lay on the floor in the same room.
I had them carried out, and after the mother and baby had been attended
to I noticed Patsy. He was the most beautiful child I had ever
seen--with eyes like Italian skies and yellow hair in tight curls over
his adorable little head; but he was covered with filthy rags. I
borrowed him, took him home with me, and fed and bathed him, and the
next day fitted him out with new clothes. Every hour I had him
tightened his hold on my heart-strings. I went to his mother and begged
her to let me keep him, but she refused, and after a great deal of
argument and entreaty I had to return him to her. When I went to see
him a few days later I found him again in his horrible rags. His mother
had pawned his new clothes for drink, and she was deeply under its
influence. But no pressure I could exert then or later would make her
part with Patsy. Finally, for my own peace of mind, I had to give up
hope of getting him--but I have never ceased to regret the little
adopted son I might have had.