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 twenty fifth article published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on May 5, 1918:
He was opposed to votes for women on general grounds, and especially after he had seen her exhibit temper when trying to keep a flock of goats from the garden – But read what happened to him after he had tried to plow a field with two mules which he had just purchased in “Sent Louis”
By Alice Curtice Moyer-Wing
“I’m shore glad to see you,” said Neenie. “I was a-thinkin’ this mornin’ that if you didn’t git around this way soon, I’d jist natcherly have to write a story myself. I’ve got it all fixed up in my mind, jist how I would say it, and even have the principal pitcher to go with it – me a-standin’ on the front steps with the chickens a-comin’ up, jist as if they was pets. Like they do in books, you know. It was tuck jist after me and pa got the weatherboardin’ on the house, and it shore looks nice. I seen a itcher oncet of a girl and her chickens tuck together on a calendar. They was plumb purty and I jist didn’t rest, hardly, till I got mine tuck that-a way.
“Say, our hens is the all-overest things fer eggs. They buy all my cloes and all of ma’s and keep pa in terbacker and the fambly in sugar and cawfee. They’re the layin’est things out!
“But the story is about Nick and why he quit takin’ on aginst womern sufferage: Nick’s my feller. We’ve been a-settin’ up for nigh onto a year, now, and I think a heap of him, but I ain’t so blind about him that I cain’t see his faults, and one of ‘em is the way he hates the idee of women a-votin’ and the fool argyments he brings up agin it.
“Oncet this spring he seen me good and mad. Not that it was new fer him to see me riled up. That wouldn’t a-been nothin’ to bother about – but the day he seen me have a spell about the goats – well, I guess I’ll jist tell you how it was:
“Pa and ma went to town and left me to watch the goats off of the garden. The fence was down and pa couldn’t put it up till he could git some more wire and nails, and the goats, they jist wouldn’t nothin’ do ‘em but that they must be right in that garden. And I was a-readin’ and didn’t want to be bothered. Readin’ ‘Dory Thorne.’ It’s a awful good book. Ever read it?”
I went back in my mind to the “Dora Thorne” period experienced by every boy and girl that ever grew up and said I thought I had.
“Well, jist as I could git to a excitin’ place, all at once I’d think of them goats. Funny how I thought of ‘em ever’ time jist when it seemed like I couldn’t noway, put the book down fer a minute, and ever’ time I looked out, shore enough they was a-pullin’ up the winter onions.
“By and by, Old Billy, he tuck a notion not to be bothered about bein’ driv away. He jist ‘lowed he wouldn’t go and the others backed him up in it so that ever’ time I started for ‘em, Old Bill would run me inside of the yard. Then he’d santer back as proud and grand, with all the others a-lookin’ on – the old scalawag. It was shore aggervatin’ and Nick, he come up jist when I was a-havin’ the biggest fight with him, yet. He seen him knowck the club out of my hands and chase me into the yard again. He watched me throw rocks at him and heerd me call him all the mean names I could think of, and seein’ how little the old vilyun keered, I jist got madder and madder, till I was a-stompin’ my feet and cryin’ right out loud like as if I was 6 instead of 16. And Nick, he jist stood and watched the whole proceedin’s. I had a notion to sack him fur it, but he wouldn’t hear to it, and ever since, he’s had ‘temper’ as a argyment again women’ votin’.
“‘Why, if you was to git mad at a man,’ he says, ‘you’d vote agin him just because you was mad at him, regardless of how good a man he might be fer the office he was wantin’.’
“Nick is tintchered, anyhow, with the idee that men is so fur ahead of women that we won’t never git in hollerin’ distance of ‘em, and now, purty nigh ever’time he comes, he tears off a strip er two about a person that gives way to their tempers. Says they ortn’t to be trusted with anything fer the good of the public, like the vote, fer instance, he’ll say. Then he tells how men would act under sartin sarcumstances, and especially how he, hisself, acts – that is, he did, till that day he plowed new ground with is prize mules.
“But say,” changing the subject, “you wouldn’t a-thought that I had my dress on wrongside outwards when that pitcher was tuck, would you? I shore hated it, but the kodak man was there and wouldn’t be back agin fer no tellin’ when, and I was bent on havin’ my pitcher made – and, of course, I didn’t dast to change my dress. You see, if you happen to put a thing on wrong side outwards, it is a sign of good luck a-comin’. But if you change it afore the day is gone, you’re liable to bring the wust kind of luck on yourself that they is. That’s what Sim Outlander done the day he was so bad hurt by a tree a-fallin’ on him. He jist ‘lowed he wasn’t a-goin’ to wear his britches wrong side out’ards fer nobody, sign er no sign, and they carried him in at noon frum the woods, purty nigh dead.”
Neenie stopped to shudder, and then continued, brightly:
“The day I wore my dress wrong side out’ards, Nick, he sold his hawgs fer the biggest price they had been or has been sence. I don’t reckon the dress had ever-thing to do with it, but I shore believe it helped. So, if you git any of your cloes on wrong side out’ards, you better wear ‘em that-a way all day. If you don’t, they’s no tellin’ what’ll happen to you, a-ridin’ round in the country like you do. La Belle might throw you off and hit your head on a rock. A tree might fall and kill both of you right in your tracks. A mad dawg might git after you; they’re powerful bad in this country sometimes. Er a snake might bit you – maybe a rattler er a copperhead er a cottonmouth. A painter might be a-hidin’ and drap down on you frum a lumb as you’re a-ridin’ along. Painters is about the wust animiles they is. Er a wokr might”-
“For pity’s sake,” I interrupted. “Don’t let anything else happen to me. I’ll go right home if you do – and stay there.”
“No, no,” said Neenie, “They ain’t no call to do that. I ain’t a-wantin’ to skeer you too bad. I jist want you to know some of the things that could happen to you goin’ around by yourself, so you’ll be keerful.”
Reading my wonder at her anxiety about me, Neenie hastened to explain:
“You see, I want you to keep on doin’ what you’re a-doin’, because some of these times all these women is a goin’ to git the vote without so much as liftin’ a finger. It’ll just come to ‘em with somebody else a-doin’ the work. And because it jist comes to ‘em, and because their men is so ginerally sot again it, it’s goin’ to be the easiest thing in the world fer ‘em to not vote after they git the chance. And the men has got to want ‘em to same as them a-wantin’ to. That’s why I want you to keep on workin’. I want the men to git so anxious fer the women to vote that they won’t think up a thousand excused to leave ‘em at home on ‘lection day. And now,” she urged, “will you shore wear your cloes wrong side out’ards if you happen to put ‘em on that-a way?”
And I said I would.
“You see,” said Neenie, “all women ain’t as independent as I am. They ain’t no man in the world that I’m afeerd of, not even Nick, with his high and mighty ways.
“But I must tell you the rest of the story:
“One day, after Nick had tore off a longer strip than usual, he says, kinder sad, ‘You air a-tryin’, ain’t you, Neenie?’ he says. ‘You’re a-tryin’, ain’t you?’
“‘You bet I am, Nick,’ I says, jist as sweet, ‘and I notice that I don’t git mad near as easy as I used to, jist in the little time you’ve been a-talkin’ to me,’ I says.
“‘That’s a good girl,’ says Nick, a-pattin’ his own back. ‘That’s a good girl. You’ll shore be a fitten wife fer a good, level-headed man if you keep on,’ he says. ‘A good level-tempered man that can do the votin’ fer the whole fambly.’
“‘Yes, Nick,’ I says, ‘I’d give anything to be like you,’ I says.
“‘It’s shore a great thing to always have control of yourself,’ he says. ‘Why,’ he says, ‘I don’t reckon they’s anything in the world, hardly, that could make me git crazy, cryin’ mad,’ he says, with proud importance jist a-stickin’ out all over him.
“‘No, I reckon not,’ I says, ‘What air you a-goin’ to be doin’ this evenin’?’ I axes him, jist as if I didn’t know.
“‘Plowin’,’ he says. ‘Plowin’ that piece of new ground I sprouted off this winter.’ Nick is plumb proud of that piece of new ground. ‘I’m goin’ to jist natcherly tear them roots up by the heels with the mules, and I’ve got to be gittin’ along home right now. By the time I eat my dinner it’ll be time I was a-gittin’ at it. Good-by,’ he says. ‘I’ll be so tard tonight frum plowin’ that I reckon I cain’t come over, hardly, but I’ll see you at the postoffice next mail day.’
“Right after dinner I reckoned to ma that I’d better go over to the store at Lowdenburg fer to git some bluein’ afore wash day, and she ‘lowed it would be a right good idee.
“I didn’t say nothin’ else, but I jist skirmished around by that new ground to see how Nick was a-gittin’ along. I jist had a hunch about them prize mules of his’n, somehow. He bought ‘em up in Sent Louis at a bargain, rid one home and led the other, and was the tickledest feller you ever seen. ‘If only you women knowed a bartain when you seen it like us men does,’ he says, a-showin’ off his mules, ‘it wouldn’t be sich a resk to let you spend money,’ he says. ‘But women jist natcherly ain’t the jedgment,’ he says.
“Well, I skirmished around and hid in a fence corner where they was some blackberry brars and peeked through between the rails.
“Law-zee! I wisht you could a-seen them mules. They was city broke and would pull a wagon, I reckon, but they hadn’t never seen a plow since they could remember till one was hitched onto ‘em that evenin’ in Nick’s new ground. Jinny, she looked around at the new contraption, and Maud, she tuck a look at it. Then they put their heads together and talked it over while Nick was a-gittin’ the lines gethered up and put over his shoulder and under his left arm. ‘Git up, Jinny! Come here Maud!’ he says.
“Well, I shore wisht y ou could a-seen Jinny and Maud a-gittin’ up and a-comin’ here. They was off quicker’n scat, and the capers they didn’t cut! Some of the time they was a-standin’ on their heads, a-wavin’ their tails in the air. Some of the time they was a-tearin’ up and down the field with the plow a-jumpin’ along beind ‘em, er a-sailin’ in the air like a bird er somethin’, and part of the time they jist set down and made signs with their front paws and grinned like a couple of hyenars I seen in the show that time I went to Poplar Bluff.
“And the way Nick went on! Some of it was a heap like cussin’, and he’d often told me how he hated cussin’. Said it didn’t mean a thing but makin’ a fool of yourself when you done it. But he shore tore off a strip to them mules. Said he’d kill ‘em if he ever got loose from ‘em, which was the reason, I reckon, that they got loose frum him fust and went fer the woods, lickety-brindle.
“Nick shuck his fist at ‘em and kept on talkin’ and promisin’ ‘em what he would do and when he was so mad he couldn’t say another word, he jist drapped down in a fence corner and cried and kicked like a kid, jist frum nothin’ but temper. I don’t know how he happened to drap down so close to where I was a-hidin’. I thought at first that he seen me a-peekin’ through the fence, but he was too mad to see.
“After he commenced to cool down a little I poked my hand through a crack and patted his hot forehead, jist like I imagined his mother would a-done. Did you ever notice how motherly a woman feels toward the man she thinks a heap of? It’s jist a sign of bein’ in love with ‘em, I reckon.
“I don’t know how he knowed it was me, ner why he wasn’t surprised at me a-bein’ there. He was too upset, I reckon.
“He jist laid there fer a little bit and then he tuck hold of my hand and says, ‘Neenie, you won’t rub it in too awful hard, will you?’ ‘No,’ I says, ‘I won’t, Nick. And it ain’t that I’m an angel, nuther. It’s just because I’m so glad you know that I know that you cain’t put on no more airs over me about temper, and votin’, and bartains and jedgment and self-control,’ I says.
“‘I’ve been a regular cuss fer doin’ that,’ he owns. Then he laughed and commenced to wipe the dirt off his face. ‘This is what I git fer it,’ he says.
“I seen that he was plumb whipped out, so I laughed, too, and says: ‘Let’s jist wipe the slate off plumb clean and start all over agin,’ I says.
“‘All right,’ says Nick, ‘I’m shore willin’ if you air, and when we git to votin’ we’ll make it again the law fer’-
“‘When WE git to votin,’ I says, with a accent on the we.
“‘Shore,’ says Nick, a-laughin’ agin. ‘You shorely don’t reckon,’ he says, ‘that I’d ever go to the polls without you,’ he says.”