‘Neety’ of the Ozarks, and the Understandin’ She had with Jimmy by Alice Curtice Moyer Wing

Alice Curtice Moyer Wing wanted equal voting rights for women. She traveled the Missouri Ozarks with her horse La Belle in the 1910s, talking to people about voting rights. Her experiences were chronicled in a series of articles published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from 1916-1919. Missouriwomen.org is featuring Moyer Wing’s articles as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s voting rights. For more information about Moyer Wing and her activism, see Alice Curtice Moyer Wing and Woman Suffrage in the Ozarks, 1916-1919.

The following was Moyer Wing’s seventh article published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on April 22, 1917:

“If they ever was a spiled boy it’s him,” she declared – And when he insisted that she set the day she put to him a question which he tried to evade, but things came out all right in the long run – Neety has opinions and regards the future much differently than Angeliny does.

Readers of the Post-Dispatch Sunday Magazine will be pleased to learn that after several weeks in St. Louis, Mrs. Alice Curtice Moyer-Wing has returned to the Ozarks, the habitat of the folk who furnish her the material for her inimitable stories of the campaign for suffrage in the Missouri hills.

The following story is the seventh which Mrs. Moyer-Wing has written for the Sunday Magazine. She introduces a character from among the younger generation in the Ozarks who apparently is an observing miss and who has been “readin’”. Her grandmother, and possibly her mother, would be shocked at some of the views “Neety” expresses.

By Alice Curtice Moyer-Wing

La Belle sniffed. I always know her state of mind by the way she does it. I knew now that she was not pleased.

If there is anything that La Belle hates with an abiding hatred, it is the saw mills that we frequently come upon – the temporary sort, built out in the rain or with a small roof over its head the size of an umbrella. She objects to the action of the exposed machinery and hates the noise it makes. Her keen senses always detect the nearness of her pet aversion long before I have suspected it.

But La Belle knows that the mill crew must be interviewed and when she recognizes a thing as inevitable, she marches into it with a “do or die” spirit that hastens her gait into one of such seeming gladness that the mill men never have guessed with what anguish of soul La Belle has contributed her part toward these visits.

The men this morning composed the average small mill crew. Some of them believed that women are competent to vote; others were loud in the belief that they are not.

I replied to their inquiries and answered their objections and left them with food for argument for many days to come – and argument for suffrage always means converts to the cause.

The morning, so far, promised to be exactly as other mornings had been. But that was before we found “Neety” – Neety, of the bluest eyes and the blackest hair I ever saw possessed by one and the same individual. And she wasn’t much bigger than a pound of soap after a day’s wash.

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“Do I believe in woman suffrage? Ask Jimmy,” she said, smiling. “Jimmy is my feller,” she continued engagingly, “and he belongs to a fambly where the sisters wait on the boys something scandalous. It’s a plumb sight. Why, they even do all their chores for them, and Jimmy, bein’ the youngest – well, if they ever was a spiled boy it’s him. His father gives in to him. His mother worships him. And his sisters wait on him. It has shore give him a opinion of hisself that ain’t good fer him and a opinion of a woman’s place in the world that ain’t healthy for no human bein’ to have.

“Him and me has been keepin’ company for a year or more, but I have been so plumb whipped out with his spiled disposition that I ain’t allowed myself to give him as much encouragement as I could have liked, but I could shore see last Sunday what a settlement was nigh at hand. The house was so plumb full of company that I managed to dodge him all mornin’, but right after dinner he called me round behind the chimbly and – honest! my heart was beatin’ so fast I like to choked.

“He was lookin’ awful nice last Sunday, Jimmy way. His hair was brushed straight back and he had on his new suit with jist the lower button of his coat fastened, like they wear ‘em in the city. I was dressed up some myself and had on one of them headache bands like actresses wear. Cousin Abbie from Fredericktown sneaked around with her kodak and tuck our pitchers. I’ll show it to you. We was so busy we didn’t know it at the time.

“‘Neety,’ he says, ‘Neety,’–

“I looked up at him and then looked down. It was jist as I was afeerd. Cain’t nobody resist Jimmy if they look at him. But I jist took my heart in my hand, so to speak, and I says:

“‘Jimmy, I know what you’re a-goin’ to say, and I aint a-goin’ to pertend that I don’t feel the same way, but they’s a few things that ort to be settled atween us afore we think about gettin’ married. I don’t believe in waitin’ till after the knot is tied to settle things.’

“‘But Neety,’ he commenced agin.

“‘Now jist you wait, Jimmy Jackson,’ I says ‘I’ve got a question to ask you before you ask yours.’ And then I looked him square in the eye and I says: ‘Do you believe in woman suffrage?’

“‘Shore, now, Netty, what has that got to do with our gittin’ married?’ asks Jim.

“‘A while lot,’ I says. ‘I know how you’ve been raised, Jimmy,’ I says. ‘And even if I didn’t, I’m in favor of a girl demandin’ a few things the same as a man. do you believe that women ought to vote?’ I asks agin.

“‘It is my opinion, Neety,’ says Jimmy, that a woman’s place is stayin’ at home and helpin’ her husban’ to get somewheres.’

“‘It shore is,’ I says. ‘But what about the husban’ helpin’ his wife a little at the same time?’ I asks. ‘What about ‘em helpin’ each other?”

“‘Women don’t need to git anywheres,’ he says

“‘Oh, yes, they do, Jimmy.’ I says. ‘Jist because I’m gittin’ married don’t mean that I ain’t a person any longer,’ I says. ‘I don’t aim to set down and darn your socks every minute of my time for the rest of my life – not but what the socks will be darned, all right, but I shall read some and think some and maybe jine a club if Miss Hensley gits it started, without neglectin’ anything that I ought to keep goin’ at home.’

“‘A-a-club,’ stammers JImmy, ‘Why, ain’t that nearly the same thing as votin’?’

“‘Maybe,’ I says, ‘Anyhow, it’s a good start toward it, and you ain’t no call to be skeered.’

“‘But, Netty, sich ideas’–

“‘Time was, Jimmy, and with some it still is that- a way, when a woman was old at 40,’ I says, sort of high-minded like.

“‘Ain’t they?’ he says

“‘My mother ain’t and I’m her daughter,’ I says. ‘Why, the qualities that go to make fer the very highest natural harmonies are most abundantly possessed by the middle-aged woman. She has experience: she has learned patience; she is tender and enduring; and sentiment with her has come to have a real spiritual meaning,’ I says, right off the bat.

“‘Gee!’ says Jimmy, ‘Neety, you’ve been readin’ agin.’

“‘Shore!’ I says, ‘And I may take to writin’ things fer other people to read. I always did like to tell tales,’ take to lecturin’. There ain’t no reason ner sense in a woman losin’ her individuality jist because she gits married.’

“‘Maybe not,’ says Jimmy, gittin’ solemn. ‘But Neety’–

“‘But, Jimmy,’ I says, ‘do you believe that women ort to have the vote?’

“And-and-all the rest of it, like you’ve been sayin’, Neety?’

“‘Shore,’ I says, ‘ever’ bit of it’ And then-and then- but I reckon maybe you can guess the rest of it, cain’t you?” I said I could.

“But wait a minute,” as I turned to go. “Here comes Angeliny, my chum. You jist listen to what she says about votin’. She got her pitcher tuck last Sunday, too, and likely will give you one. Hello, Angeliny! Do you want to vote?”

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“Vote! You know I’ve got ideas about that, Neety. I ain’t worryin’ my head about men and women bein’ pardners. Jist give me a strong oak to lean on fer mine.”

“And scrouge him to death, “ said Neety.

“I’ll comfort him,” cooed Angeliny. “I’ll be like the girl in the story. I’ll encircle him with clinging tendrils and”–

“And choke him to death,” put in Neety. “You see, Angeliny has been readin’, too, but her and me don’t read the same kind of stuff. She jist dotes on bein’ a clingin’ vine like she reads about, where the girls don’t know a blessed thing ‘cept what the feller tells her and when they git married, she jist keeps on wantin’ to be a helpless doll, without gumption enough to understand his trials ner backbone enough to help him out of ‘em. I’d be plumb disgusted with Angeliny, ‘cept that we was raised up together, and I reckon it takes a heap of different kinds of people to make a world – which shore makes it right hard on the world. Wonder its pore old back ain’t broke long ago.

“But say,” as I turned again to go, “you jist tell the girls that they ain’t nothin’ like settlin’ things afore the knot is tied. And if you’ll come around in three months Jimmy and me’ll entertain you in our own house. He commenced last Monday – the very next day after Sunday, you know- to haul logs to the mill fer lumber.”

 

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