Sunday, 27 October 2013

Sunday, October 27, 2013 -

A Rebellious Victorian Lady

by Leland Mays
Published: Sep 22, 2013
Words: 21,943
Category: general
Orientation: M/F
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In the spring of the year 1889, I traveled to the bustling city of North Andover for a brief sojourn at the home of Mr. Enos Fuller. That august gentleman was, at the time, the owner of four textile mills that dotted the Massachusetts landscape. He was, therefore, an important client of Waymore and Sons, the accounting firm in whose employ I was engaged. Mr. Fuller was also a friend of my father, Charles Moss Sr. Fuller insisted that I join him at his residence, as I audited the books at his North Andover mill.

The Fuller estate sat on a hill commanding a view of the city and the Merrimac River. The house itself, in the Dutch Colonial style, was well-manicured outside and sumptuously furnished inside. Having been a childless widower for many years, Fuller's only companion was his niece and ward, Lorena Collins. With her blue eyes and honey blonde curls, Lorena was, at the age of nineteen, an enchanting specimen of womanly pulchritude. Henry, the butler, and Doris, the cook, were the other residents of the household.

My first evening began well. I dressed for dinner, putting on my best waistcoat and bow tie. After waxing my moustache, I added pomade to my dark hair and then parted it in the middle. Satisfied that I looked the proper gentleman, I joined Fuller and Miss Collins.

After a delectable pot roast dinner, we enjoyed a dessert of peach tart with cream. The talk turned to women. Lorena, who up to that time had been a model of decorum, began to offer, shall we say, extremist views regarding the fair sex.

After a brief discourse, she concluded, "And of course we women must have the vote. Do you agree, Mr. Moss?"

"The vote?" smiled I. "But surely you jest. With little education, and possessed of a capricious nature, on what basis would women make their choices."

"First, women are no more capricious than men. Second, we women deserve, and must have, the same education as men," declared Lorena, her cheeks now taking on a rosy hue. "Up to and including college. The doors of all Ivy League schools must be thrown open to us."

"What! Women at Harvard or Yale? Balderdash!" exclaimed Fuller.

"You desire the vote?" I repeated. "And the right to attend any college you choose? Really, Miss Collins, you go too far. Why, what would ladies then demand? Careers in business or government? The freedom to come and go as do men? I've never heard such poppycock."

"It is nothing of the sort!" exclaimed Lorena, her face now grown flushed. "It is the future. In fact, a man in Germany, Karl Benz, has just invented a machine, a carriage, able to move on its own power, without the need for horses. It seems to me that a woman could operate such a carriage as easily as a man."

Fuller and I exchanged glances, quite dubious at this claim.