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 fourteenth article published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on October 14, 1917:
City folks are “quare,” says the famous Ozarks stalker of turkeys, and he relates to the woman suffrage crusader the story of his wife’s cousin who couldn’t understand plain English and who left in a huff – Luke, whose wife cuts the wood for the stove while her husband smokes, doesn’t believe in suffrage because all women are angels and should be looked up to, which caused the Gobbler Hunter to observe: “Ain’t some fellers a plumb sight?”
By Alice Curtice Moyer Wing
I knew him the moment I saw him – the Gobbler Hunter. I came upon him in the woods, and just for the make of having something to say, I “reckoned” that he hadn’t put a notch on his gunstock lately.
“You jist come around to our house for supper tonight and see,” was the reply. “Of all the cooks, Tillyannie is the beatenest. Why, she could make good eatin’ out of old wool hats. She shore got everybody skinned when it comes to fixin’ good things to eat. Don’t keer who they air. And her roast turkey! Say, if you don’t never taste it the way Tillyannie does it, you won’t never be jist plumb ready to pass in your checks. They’ll be somethin’ missin’ and you ortn’t to go without it, and you’re shore in luck that you ain’t got no call to. Tillyannie, she’s been a sayin’ all along that she wanted you to visit us when you got into this neighborhood, so jist consider yourself invited.
“Looks as if they wasn’t no introductions needed in this here meetin’, don’t it?”
His grin was too infectious to resist, so I just laughed with him in appreciation of the Ozark way which makes so formal a thing as an introduction entirely superfluous.
“But I’d heard about you,” I said. “That’s how I recognized you.”
“Shore. Everybody hears about me. They ain’t never been nobody around here that could git in hollerin’ distance of me when it comes to huntin’ turkeys. Why, when they jist ain’t no sich a thing nowhere as wild turkeys, me and Tillyannie is a-livin’ fat on ‘em. Fine big feller I got this mornin’. Gobbled like a locomotive. Mighty nigh a shame to kill him.”
And then I asked him if he believed in woman suffrage.
“You bet your life, I do,” he said. “And I wasn’t borned that a-way nuther. I jist larned to believe in it from observation. Why, you cain’t kill the darned thing. Ever time somebody hits it a whack or cuts its head off, it jist bobs up agin, bigger than ever.
“But before we git deep into it, I want to tell you about a feller frum the city that’s jist been a-visitin’ us. I was thinkin’ about him when you come up. I reckon that’s La Belle you’re a-ridin’?”
I said it was.
“She packs you all around jist like she enjoyed it, don’t she?”
“She does enjoy it,” I assured him. “She’s just about half of this campaign, knows all about it and likes it.”
“Shore,” he agreed. “Hosses knows a heap more than they let on sometimes. Reckon you wouldn’t swap her off?”
“Shore not. Well, about this feller frum the city – say! Some of you city people is shore quare: quare as they make ‘em.
“This feller is a kind of a cousin to Tillyannie. Hadn’t never been away frum Sent Louis, so this fall he jist up and come to make us a visit. He’s the kind of a feller that puts a “g” into sich words as doin’, but he seemed like a all-right feller in spite of it, so I made him welcome, though I hadn’t never seen him before, and I liked him well enough, so that I didn’t keer if he tagged around with me. Sometimes he was useful. Sometimes jist ornamental, as the feller says. But I didn’t mind.
“‘You can go with me after corn, if you don’t kerr,’ I says to him the next mornin’, leadin’ the way to the late rosenear patch.
“Shore,’ he says, follerin’.
“‘How many years do you want?’ I axed him. I never did believe in pullin’ more than you need.
“‘How many what?’ he axed.
“‘Years,’ I says ‘How many do you want?”
“‘I’ve got 45 now,’ he says, lookin’ kinder funny. ‘Ain’t that enough fer a while?’
“I reckon I looked kinder funny myself, but I says: ‘Where air they? I didn’t see you comin’ out here by yourself’
“They’re all over me,’ he says. “Cain’t you see the signs of ‘em? But what has comin’ out here by myself got to do with it?’ lookin’ at me suspicious.
“‘Oh, nothin,’ I says, lookin’ at him the same way and beginnin’ to pull corn, with one eye on him. ‘Do you reckon three years would be too much fer you?’ I ventured to remark, sort of keerless.
“‘Three years where?’ he says. ‘At Jefferson City? He says. ‘Kinder sounds like you want to send me up fer somethin’ or other.’
“‘Maybe that’s where you belong,’ I says, ‘though that wasn’t what I was a-aimin’ at.’
“‘You’re a lunatic,’ he says, ‘if you air kinfolks.’
“‘Crazy people always does think that everybody else is crazy,’ I sasses back. ‘And I ain’t no blood kin to you, nuther. But how many years can you eat, then, if that will do any better?’
“‘How many years can I eat! Gee whizz, man, I believe you’re makin’ fun of me. Jist plumb out-and-out fun of me.’
“‘You ain’t no sense at all,’ I says, feelin’ all riled up. ‘What’s the matter with you, anyhow. Seems to me that you’re the darndest fool I ever run accrost.’
“‘Seems to me that same way about you,’ he says, all riled up hisself.
“‘Once more,’ I says, ‘how many years do you want? And if that won’t do, how many years can you eat?’
“‘And once more, I refuse to answer any sich fool questions,’ he says. ‘If you’ll take me to the train tomorrer, I guess I’ll be goin’ back to the city,’ he says.
“‘Walkin’ ain’t all took up,’ I says. ‘Git to the train by yourself.’
“Well, I don’t know how it would a-come out, blamed if I do if Tillyannie hadn’t jist happened to come down to see what made us so long getherin’ the rosenears. It was her that found out how many ‘ears’ the blame fool wanted. He made me plumb sick, but I never did believe in holdin’ it again a person if he ain’t up on language, so we patched it up and things went along all right till the next day we was lookin’ at the photergraph album, when I says to him:
“‘Did you ever git your pitcher took?’
“‘I ain’t got no call fer pitchers,’ he said.
“‘But didn’t you ever git it took?’ I axed.
“‘I ain’t a married man,’ he says. ‘What would I want with a pitcher? But if I had a dozen pitchers I wouldn’t expect nobody to take ‘em.’ he says.
“I didn’t want to notice his quareness too hard, him bein’ Tillyannie’s cousin, so I says to him: ‘You could git a good one took at Poplar Bluff,’ I says, tryin’ to be polite.
“‘Air they jist all a-pinin’ away fer pitchers in Poplar Bluff?’ he yelled at me. ‘Is Poplar Bluff a den of pitcher thieves?’ he yelled agin. ‘And have I got to take a pitcher along with me down there jist to be robbed?’ he yelled a little louder.
“‘Once more, you blamed eejet,’ I yelled back at him, ‘I’ll ax you a civil question, jist fer manner’s sake. Did you ever have your pitcher took? We’d shore like to have one – that is, I reckon Tillyannie would.’
“Well, the upshot of the whole thing was that he walked to Williamsville that night so as to git a early train fer Sent Louis.
“Wasn’t that a plumb sight? I ain’t holdin’ it again you fer bein’ frum the city, yourself, but that feller was a quare one. If he jist knowed it, I didn’t want his pitcher all mixed up with the photergraphs nohow. It would a-spiled the album. Plumb spiled it. And you can tell him so fer me if you ever run acrosst him.
“Have you seen Luke Hoosier yet?” he asked suddenly.
“This morning,” I said.
“Did he talk to you about women bein’ angels? He asked.
I told him that he did.
“What was Alviny doin’ this mornin’?”
I told him that she was hauling in cornstalks when I first saw her.
“Shore. Sich little jobs as haulin’ fodder and fixin’ the fence is Alviny’s reglar passtime and sawin’ wood is her sideline. That chilly mornin’ we had t’other day, the mornin’ of the night it frosted, I drapped in at Luke’s house on my way to the postoffice. Luke, he was settin’ by the far-place, smokin’ his pipe and toastin’ hisself over a pile of blazin’ pine knots. He had heerd that you was gittin’ round close and purty soon he up and says: ‘I’ve always held out that women is angels. Jist angels. That’s why I don’t want ‘em to vote. Why,’ he says, ‘they jist ort to be up high some place, on a throne or somethin’, so’s a man can kneel at their feet and worship ‘em. Angels shore ain’t got no business votin’, he says.
“I heerd the saw a-goin’ out at the woodpile, but I didn’t seem to notice it, so I says: ‘If there’s anything to that about their bein’ angels, they’re shore needed at the polls about as bad as any place,’ I says. ‘A little angelic goodness would come in mighty handy in a voter,’ I says. ‘The better the voter, the better the vote,’ I tells him. ‘Don’t you worry,’ I says, ‘about too much angelic goodness goin’ to waste at the polls. They ain’t no place where a supply of it could be used to better advantage. Got somebody sawin’ wood fer you? I axed, gettin’ up to go.
“‘Oh, no! That’s jist Alviny, workin’ up some old fence rails fer the cookstove,’ he says.
“‘Oh,’ I says. ‘So, at odd times, when you ain’t worshippin’ your angel up on that high throne you was talkin’ about, you’ve got her sawin’ wood fer passtime.’
“But Luke, he didn’t more’n half like it, him not bein’ much of a hand to joke. I reckon you talked with Alviny some this mornin’?”
I said I did.
“And I reckon when Jim wasn’t listening’ she told you she believed like you do?”
I said she did.
“Shore. Ain’t some fellers a plumb sight? But, as I was sayin’, ever’ time somebody comes along with a anti-sufferage ax and cuts its head off, it jist sprouts up purtier than before. See this old gum stump? Well, its determination shore ‘minds me of worman sufferage. You jist cain’t kill this kind of a gum. You can deaden ‘em all around like you do to kill any other kind of a tree that I ever heerd of, but darn me if this kind of a gum keers a copper. It jist perks up its head in the spring and gits as green as the rest of ‘em. Then you cut it off at the stumkp, thinkin’ you’ve got it where the wool is short that time, shore, but you see an example right before you of the trick it cuts up when you do that. That there stump jist natchelly refuses to act like other stumps. It jist sends up dozens of sprouts and flourishes like a bay tree, as the feller says. Not the kind of sprouts that grows up from the ground like ordinary stumps has, but sprouts that shoots right up from the middle of it, right up where the tree trunk was standin’ afore it was cut off – right up toward the sky, as it were.
“Well, that’s the way with worman sufferage. You cain’t kill it. It would a-died a unnatural death long ago, if it could a-been killed. It jist goes on growin’ and bloomin’ bigger and purtier every year. Tillyannie, she reads all the news to me. We keep posted up, right along, on things. And we’re expectin’ to go to the polls together, yet. And right here in old Mizzoura, too. Shore we do.”