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 eighteenth article published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on December 16, 1917:
“Tain’t no wonder, is it,” says the father of one of the girls, “that us men is agin womern suffrage when we see sich superstition a-croppin’ out in ‘em?” – The woman crusader is invited to remain for the night, and when a neighbor drops in to pass the time o’day, she is privileged to hear an interesting conversation in which superstition is treated in a different way
By Alice Curtice Moyer-Wing
He stood leaning on the fence with is back to me as I rode up, turning his head ever so slightly as he heard La Belle’s shoes on the stones in the lane that led up to his gate.
“Women is too superstitious to be trusted with the vote,” he said. “I’ll jist save you the trouble fust thing of askin’ me if I believe in it. Jist as a example, for instance, as the feller says, they was a passel of gals a-celebratin’ Holler-eve, t’other night.”
He had turned half way round by now, and continued: “I’ll tell you how it is. They’s a old log house over in the field that one of my renters lived in once’t. He died thar one night, all of a sudden, somehow, when he was all by hisself, and people says the cabin is hanted. I don’t believe in no sich, myself, and when I heerd some kind of sounds over that-away, I went round to investigate, and there they was, a whole passel of gals, neighbors’ gals, come to spend the night with Lizzie, a-tryin’ their fortunes. They was a-goin’ around that old hanted house, a-throwin wheat and a-sayin’ ‘I sow, who reaps? I sow, who reaps,’ or some sich fool stuff as that, and it so dark you couldn’t see your hands afore you. They was scared, too, I could tell by the sound of their voices. But they was that superstitious, they was willin’ to resk the hant jist to see whuther or not their future intendeds would appear. Now ain’t that sight?”
He faced me squarely now: “‘Tain’t no wonder, is it, that us men is agin womern sufferage when we see sich weakness as that a-croppin’ out in ‘em. Lizzie, she’s eighteen and the other gals was about the same age. Plenty old enough to be above sich doin’s.”
“Were you ever just eighteen?” I asked.
“Shore I was. But I didn’t never do no sich fool tricks as that. It’s jist womern’s weakness. That’s all. Jist weakness. And it makes it plumb plain to me that they ani’t fit fer anything big like the vote. Reckon that’s La Belle you’re ridin’?”
For the ‘steenth time that day I replied in the affirmative.
“I ‘lowed it was. But I’m fergittin’ what I was a-goin to say. Lizzie and her Ma had to go to town today, but they said I was to ax you to stay all night if you got this fur. It’s pruty nigh four, now, an’ll be gittin’ dark in a little while. If you’ll go in and make yourself at home. I’ll take keer of your hoss and Lizzie and her Ma will be along in jist no time.”
They were. And we had supper at dark. That meant a long evening. Lizzie and her Ma got their knitting. There was a big blaze of pine knots in the fireplace. A neighbor came in to “pass the time o’day” and everybody settled down to hear the news.
“Goin’ to kill hawgs soon?” asked the neighbor.
“Soon as the sign is right,” replied the host. “If you kill ‘em while the moon is wanin’ the meat all goes to grease.”
“It shore does. Funny about it, but it’s so.”
“We’re goin’ to have a change in the weather soon, I think.”
“Yes; we’ve had three mighty frosty mornin’s now, right hand-runnin’. It’ll rain or snow or turn cold, shore. Never knowed it to fail. And I noticed the hawgs a-runnin’ and playin’ as I come along.”
“And old Tillicum is a-layin’ with his back to the fire tonight. Good sign of bad weather.”
Tillicum was the cat.
“And this mornin’,” said the neighbor, “when Serry was a-gittin’ breakfast, the stove was plumb red, with the same amount of wood that it holds all the time without gittin’ that a-way ordinary. It’s jist when a storm is a-comin’ on that it gits a rale turkey gobbler red. And I heerd the owls a-talkin’ last night. When they all git together that a-way of a night, all a-tryin’ to talk at the same time, you can shore look out fer a change in the weather. Never knowed it to fail.”
“A mighty good sign of rain is when the sun comes up clear and then, right away, gits in behind a cloud.”
“It shore is. And when you see the chickens out a-wakin’ around in the rain it’ll rain a right smart more afore it quits.”
“And it’s plumb funny about the old sayin’, ‘If it begins afore seven it’ll quit afore ‘leven. ‘Tother mornin’ when it commenced to rain early I jist went ahead with my work, I knowed it wouldn’t keep it up. You can shore bank on that old sayin’ ever’ time.”
“You shore can. Put your multiplyin’ onions out yet?”
“No, I ain’t much faith in onions that you put out in the fall, but I reckon we’ll set out a few in a day or two. Plant ‘em in the dark of the moon if you want big bowls to ‘em, and in the light of it if you want ‘em to run to top. They say that Tim Jackson is a-movin’ away frum the Crowdus place.”
“That’s what I heerd. Mighty dooless feller. Mightly dooless. Cain’t do no good nowheres, looks like. But he shore brung some of his bad luck on hisself, this time. I was thar when he was a-movin’ his fambly in, and what did he do, but walk into the house, fust thing, with one of his shoes off. Hurt his foot, er somethin’, and he jist up and tuck it off. Blamed fool.”
“You shore wouldn’t git me to walk around with jist one shoe on. Reckon it don’t mean nothin’, but a feller jist as well be on the safe side. And they brung a old broom with ‘em, too, I heerd. Don’t reckon they’s nothing’ in it, but you wouldn’t ketch me a-movin’ one jist the same.”
“Me nuther. Did you hear about the rucas Jim Todd and his brother-in-law got into?”
“Yes. I was with ‘em the mornin’ it started. That is, I seed ‘em a-ridin’ along when that tree parted ‘em. After that, Jim, he borryed some corn and never said turkey about payin’ it back. Then his brother-in-law, he turned and bought a side of meat from Jim and never said dawg about payin’ him fer it. ‘Course they ain’t nothin’ to it, but I don’t never pass on one side of a tree and let nobody that’s with me pass on tother side, ‘less I’m wantin’ a fight. Maybe they’d a-cheated each other jist the same, but maybe they wouldn’t, too.”
“Lizzie,” to his daughter, “cain’t we have some popcorn tonight? Now, don’t burn the cobs, Lizzie till the corn is popped. It’ll shore scorch if you do. Never knowed it to fall.”
“How many molasses did you keep fer yourself?” asked the neighbor.
“Oh, a right smart. More’n we’ll want fer ourselves, I reckon. They’re shore fine. Want some?”
“I reckon I’ll take a few. Heerd any new riddles lately?”
“Yes; here’s one: A little Chinee was walkin’ along by a big Chinee. He was the big Chinee’s son, but the big Chinee wasn’t the little Chinee’s father.”
“That’s shore a bad one. Let’s see: How could it posserbly be that he was the big one’s son and the big one not be his daddy? Huh?”
“Maybe the big one was his mammy,” ventured Lizzie’s Ma.
“Haw! haw! haw! Who’d a thought of you a-guessin’ it, Ma. That’s shore the right answer.”
“Well, here’s another,” said the neighbor, “I saw Brownbrickembrackham jump into the field of Wickemwackham: I sent Tomtickemtackham to drive Brownbrickembrackham out of the field of Wickemwackham. Cain’t none of you guess that, I reckon, in a hundred years. Heerd it down to the Bluff tother day. A whole crowd was a-guessin’ at it. The pint is, first, who is Brownbrickembrackham. Secondly, who is Tomtickemtackham? And thirdly, what is the field of Wickemwackham? When you once know that, the rest is easy.”
“Shore. But how is a feller to guess at who they air?”
“That’s the pint. Couldn’t none of ‘em guess it down at the Bluff.”
“Then how did you find out yourself?”
“Didn’t. Cain’t be guessed. That’s what makes it interestin’.”
“Shore. You don’t keer a darn about a thing after you know all about it. Ain’t that the truth?”
“The wolves caught a litter of pigs fer Tom Horn ‘tother night. This is shore to be a long, hard winter and the wolves likely to be mighty bad. Ever’thing pints to a hard winter.”
“It shore does. I never seen the corn shucks any thicker in my life than they air this year. That’s a shore sign.”
“And the shells on the hickernuts is awful thick, and as hard as a rock. And the hawgs is a-makin’ the biggest beds I’ve ever saw ‘em build in many a year. That’s one of the best signs I ever knowed of.”
“Comin’ with that corn, Lizzie,” called the host, ‘er air you a-settin’ another dumb supper? Huh? Her and one of the neighbor gals (to the caller) shore tuck the rag off the bush ‘tother night, a-hollerin’, when they got that skeer at midnight. They was a-settin’ a dumb supper as they called it. Everything they done they walked back’ards and not a single word was said while they was a-cookin’ it. They set the table fer four and jist as the clock struck twelve they set down with the door open to wait to see who’d come to eat with ‘em. They’d set thar about ten minutes, I reckon, when they heerd a awful noise on the porch. It was shore a awful kind of a noise. I had practiced up fer it out at the barn. I could see through the winder how skeered they was a-gittin’, but they held their ground till they heerd a step on the porch and seen a false face a-peekin’ around the door, when they run and screamed like you never saw. Haw! haw! haw! You got to have a little fun as you go along.”
“But it was jist another proof that women is too superstitious to vote, as I was a-tellin’ the lady, here, this evening’.”
“Shore. It wouldn’t do a-tall. Funny how women believes in signs, ain’t it?”
“It shore is. Seems to be born in ‘em. Jist one of their weaknesses. I reckon. Lizzie,” calling kitchenward, “ain’t you never goin’ to come with that thar popcorn? What? You scorched it? Burnt it all up? Well, what was you thinkin’ of? That feller that didn’t come to your dumb supper, I reckon. I jist knowed you’d burn the cobs to pop it with, and I never knowed it to fail, shore, if you done that. The corn burns up ever time. Funny, but it shore does.”
“Shore. Well, I guess I better be gittin’ along. The old woman’ll be gittin’ uneasy about me. She had a bad dream about me ‘tother night and is skeered fer fear somethin’ is a-goin’ to happen to me. Quare about how superstitious women is. They’re plumb skeery.
“They shore air. I don’t never worry none over bad dreams, ‘cept about muddy water. I ain’t superstitious, but I shore do hate to dream of muddy water. I always happen to a piece of bad luck ever time I do.”
“It’s shore bad. And another is to dream of carryin’ a load of somethin’ up hill. The last time I dreamt that, I like to a-died tryin’ to git to the top with the load on my back. I woke up with the cold sweat a-runnin’ down my fourhead in a stream; and the ver next day them hog theives got three of my biggest shoats. It always means somthin’ bad. And of course, they ain’t nothin’ agin bridges, and I don’t believe in signs, noway, but I shore won’t cross ‘em unless I jist cain’t help it.”
“Ner me. I’ll ford the river any day afore I’ll cross on the bridge, ‘less the water is jist so high I’m shore to git drownded if I do. But I always fergit purty nigh everything I’m a-goin’ after by the time I git to town if I cross the river on the bridge.”
“A feller does, ever time. Shore does. Well, I reckon I better be gittin’ along.”
“Better stay all night.”
“Cain’t. Better all come along home with me.”
“Cain’t, I reckon.”
“Well, come over when you can.”
“We will. You’nses all come.”
“It’s plumb heartenin’, to have the neighbors drap in,” said the host, “and tell the news. Purty nigh as good as takin’ a daily paper.”