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.
The following was Moyer Wing’s eighth article published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on June 17, 1917:
“I do pity a body that’s got to live in that old slow place” (meaning St. Louis) she tells Mrs. Moyer-Wing, and then she relates how she convinced an urban suffragist that when it came to real, downright happiness the folks down in the Missouri hills had it all over their city sisters, who “never saw a patch of cane a-growin’; and green? – don’t talk!”
In her travels through the Ozarks in the cause of suffrage, accompanied only by her horse, La Belle, Mrs. Alice Curtice Moyer-Wing, recently came upon “Artymissie Ward,” the name bestowed upon the subject of this sketch by a city woman whose conversation about the qualifications of the Ozark women to vote “Artymissie” overheard on a visit to the big city. She tells the city woman a few things and soon converts her to her way of thinking.
This is the eighth of Mrs. Moyer-Wing’s stories to appear in the Post-Dispatch Sunday Magazine.
By Alice Curtice Moyer-Wing
“You’re frum Sent Louis, ain’t you?”
“If I was you I’d never go back. Shore as my name is Artymissie Ward I do pity a body that’s got to live in that old slow place.”
There was genuine sorrow in “Artymissie’s” tone. She continued: “You see, I”ve been there. Spent a whole week with my aunt and my two cousins. Virginny, who
is jist my size, and Emmyline, who is bigger, but younger.
“I ‘peared to have a right good time the first three or four days, but it wasn’t the real shore ‘nough thing. I soon seen that. But Virginny, she dressed me up in some of her city clo’es and tuck me round to the park and things and I jist done my best to enjoy it, fer she was shore tryin’ to entertain me. I had my pitcher tuck about a dozen times, I reckon. The one I like the best is where I was sittin’ out at that park, lookin’ sorter dreamy like – that’s what Emmyline said – and I had it tuck with a little cap on like my aunt and cousins wears, and once with the girls, and, oh, jist lots of times, I’ll show you some of ‘em.
“We went to movin’ pitcher shows and seen a heap of things that I hadn’t saw before- but green! Don’t talk. Them city girls is the limit and the boys is just as bad.
“Why, Emmyline and Virginny ain’t never saw a patch of cane a-growin’. They didn’t know that scalin’ timber is measurin’. Got it all mixed up with cleanin’ fish and wanted to know how I could git the scales off of a big log jist by myself. Honest they did.
“They don’t know how to count the age of a tree from the sawed stump. They never seen the spark flowers fly from a emery wheel like pa makes when he grinds his ax. I didn’t see no flowers anywheres in the city that could come up to ‘em. And what do you reckon! Them girls ain’t never heard a wolf howl in their whole lives. And they don’t know how long it takes a hen to hatch – ner nothin’. And Virginny’s feller, why that feller ain’t never plowed a day in his life. Ain’t that a plumb sight?
“Shore I believe in woman suffrage. But wait till I tell you somethin’. One day in the park I heerd a couple of women a-talkin’. One of ‘em was a awful purty woman, big brown eyes and white, wavy hair and the whitest skin, and I couldn’t hardly believe my own years when I heerd her say, ‘Oh, yes, of course, the city women will make good voters, but I am not so sure about the women in the out of the way corners, the backwoods, and places like that.’
“The idee! And there I was jist been a-thinkin’ about the city people bein’ the greenest punkins that ever lived and growed! It jist made me so tearin’ mad! The other woman had driv on in her ortermobile, so I jist up and said to the purty one: ‘What do you know about the women of them backwoods that you’re a-talkin’ about? Did you ever stay there long enough to git acquainted with ‘em? I’ll bet my span of black colts,’ I says,’ that you ain’t on speakin’ terms with a single one of ‘em. And what right have you got to talk about people that a way, when you don’t know ‘em is more than I can figger out,’ I says, ‘I jist been a-wonderin’ what kindn of votin’ you city women would do- you know sich a little. I’m willing to own,’ I says, ‘ that us back woods women don’t break our necks tryin’ to keep up with the fool styles. We don’t keep our men’s noses on the grindstone till they’re plumb wore off, tryin’ to pay our silly bills. We wear our clo’es as long
as they last. It don’t make no difference to us about the styles; we’re plumb above ‘em; and we’re a heap healthier and happier than if we was strainin’ our lives out tryin’ to foller ‘em, when they ain’t nobody done no good by it but the style makers, who git rich out of you. You city women, somehow, cain’t see that somebody is makin’ plumb eejits out of you and plumb ruinations of your husbands. You’d ruther die than be out of fashion – and the fashion makers jist laugh behind your back and change styles agin before the last ones had hardly got cold, and then you brak your backs agin a-tryin’ to keep up with ‘em, which most of you cain’t do. You cain’t even git close enough to sprinkle salt on their tails,’ I says, ‘as a rule.’
“I jist wonder if she was seein’ the pitcher of it like I seen as I talked – young women of every age – all of ‘em a chasin’ somethin’ jist ahead of ‘em; somethin’ that always keeps jist out of their reach, like a ghost or a shadder or somethin,’ jist a leadin’ ‘em on and on to the very aidge of their graves, where they fall, and still not ketched up with it, and a-dyin’ without ever bein’ happy. It’s plumb pitiful and I was gittin’ all worked up over the pitcher of it – so I jist axed agin: ‘What right have you go to talk that-a way when you don’t know us?’
“I saw her look at my clo’es and I says right quick: ‘These here stylish things that I wish I didn’t have on is Virginny’s. I’m visitin’ her. She’s my cousin; so is Emmyline; and their mother is my aunt. But I shore ain’t to blame for them a-livin’ in this awful place, with nothin’ in it but people.’
“Then I told her some of the things they didn’t know, jist like I told you, and axed her agin if she didn’t think she ort to know us before she talked about us that-a-way, and she spoke right up and said she did and that I’d made one of the best feminist speeches she’d ever heerd and that she’d give a heap to be jist as independent about clo’es, fer clo’es, she said, was shore a somethin’ that women was slaves to, and that it tuck more courage than any of ‘em, hardly, had yet got, to snap their fingers at the fashion makers.
“Say! I was shore glad to hear the truth about that word – that feminism word. I had heard it spelled out and talked about like it was somethin’ that wasn’t decent. I was shore tickled to know that it don’t mean nothin’ to be ashamed of – jist equality and all that women ort to have, and that the vote is jist one of the steps to it, like education, and she owned that when you come to think of it, and to know about us, that us backwoods women was freer than her, and ahead of her, because, fer one thing, the style makers ain’t gittin’ rich by bamboozlin’ us, and she owned that we was a heap more patriotic, too, these days when we ort to be savin’, and that we air ready to vote with as good sense as anybody, any day we git the chance. And she said she thought a heap more of me fer speakin’ up like I did. She asked me fer my name and post office address fer her little book and how do you s’pose she wrote it? Why, Artymissie Ward, Feminist’ – jist them words. She was shore plumb nice and I told her it was to bad that she had to live in
sich a scrouged up place as a city.
“We talked a long time and I reckon I opened her eyes to a heap of things and when we told each other goodby we both said that we was better suffragists than ever and that the vote was jist one thing more to bring women closer together and make ‘em understand each other better, and stick up fer each other and to quit judgin’ without knowin’, because they cain’t nobody take a step up without gittin above some of their old ideas that wasn’t good fer ‘em.
“Do you see that hill, with our calf lot startin’ up its side,” she asked after a moment’s pause. “I didn’t used to keer much about that hill, but it looked plumb purty to me when I got back from Sent Louis. I jist clim plumb to the top of it and stood there and breathed.
“Say, if you ain’t got no place to stay tonight, we’d shore be proud to keep you. La Belle won’t be afeerd to associate with the mules and eat with ‘em on the same medder, I reckon- her bein’ a thoroughbred?’
I said that was probably the big reason why La Belle wouldn’t, in the least, object to associating with the mules.
“Of course,” agreed Artymissie. “That’s shore so, come to think of it. Jist like people. It’s always the people that ain’t shore of theirselves that’s skeered.”
And in my own little book of memoranda the name of my young, individualistic friend was placed that night – and for the second time it was written “Artymissie Ward, Feminist.”