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 eighth article published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on July 7, 1918:
Each a daughter, and never has the widowed father wished his “gals” had been boys – And smart? Just listen to their proud parent’s eulogy – Humor, philosophy and superstition from the foothills.
By Alice Curtice Moyer-Wing
“Do I believe that women ort to vote? Well, say, jist ax me and see. That’s all. Jist ax me.
“Why, they never was a boy borned that could deserve a voice in things ner be more compertent to have it, than my little gals.”
He was one of those well-flavored men who live close to the soil. To have carefully cultivated him would have been to lose the fine native fragrance just as lilacs or roses are spoiled from over-culture.
He leaned against the well curb as he talked, his hands in his pockets, a well-worn cap pushed back from a pair of keen gray eyes, a sort of native grace enveloping him – a trace of the old blood from the South.
“Four of ‘em,” he said, proudly. “Four. Olive, Jean, Josephine and Signe. Purty names, ain’t they? Their mother named ‘em. She was a great reader, their mother was. And a great woman.”
I noted the past tense in which he spoke of their mother. He stopped a moment and continued:
“Do you know,” he said, confidentially, “I ain’t never wished fer a single second that any of ‘em was boys. Of all the mean tricks, it’s to make your gals feel like they had made a mistake somewheres by not bein’ boys. It’s onery; jist low-down onery; the filthy leavin’s of the heathenism that, a thousand years ago, made men drown all the girls, except jist enough to have fer slaves. Makes me plumb sick at my stummick and mad clean through.
“Why, if it was to all do over again I wouldn’t wish fer nothin’ better than my four little gals. If they was anything in the world that could make me feel the loss of their mother less, it’s them.
“And they’re purty! Gee whiz! When I git to lookin’ at em, I cain’t hardly believe sometimes that they are mine. But their mother was a purty woman, herself. The gals is a right smart like her, but folks says they’re a heap like their dad, too, which jist goes to explain without explainin’ at all how a perfect peach blossom can belong to a rough, old thorny tree.
“And smart! Gen-tull-men! Why, it wouldn’t surprise me if Signe was to git to be a legislature-man soon as she is old enough. And Olive! Well, she’s jist shore to be a lawyer er somethin’.
“Do I believe that women ort to have the vote? Well, jist ax me.
“They’re all down to the lower barn this mornin’, lookin’ after their turkeys and a-takin’ off a bunch of hatchin’ hens, er they’d a-been out here a-talkin’ to you ‘stead of me. They’ve been lookin’ fer you kinder strong the last day er two. Jean, she drapped a knife when she was a-settin the table this mornin’, and Josephine, she drapped the dishrag, and this mornin’ I tuck another biscuit afore I’d et up the one I already had, and the gals says them is all shore signs somebody’s a-comin’, and the biscuit sign means, they said, that the visitor is a-comin’ hongry. They had a heap of fun about the signs they don’t more’n half believe in – a follerin’ ‘em out jist as if they did, and so forth.
“Signe, she put on a mess of greens fust thing after brakfast, said like as not you’d enjoy ‘em, and Jean, she dressed a spring chicken, said she never knowed a person frum the city that wasn’t plumb crazy about fried chicken, and all the time they was a-laughin’ about them signs that said you was a-comin’. Of course, they don’t believe in any of ‘em, but they’re jist that full of life and fun!
“Josie, she ‘lowed she wouldn’t take no stock in none of their old signs, herself, ‘cept that the old rooster capped ‘em all by comin’ right up to look in at the front door and crow his head off. That jist settled the whole thing, she ‘lowed. And Olive, she jist natcherly felt it in her bones that you’d be here today, she said. ‘Pa,’ she says, ‘if she happens to come while we’re down at the big barn, you jist sorter hint around and find out if she likes fried chicken and greens. If she does, then you ax her to stay fer dinner.’ ‘No,’ says Josie, ‘ax her fer dinner fust and tell her what we’re goin’ to have afterwards.’
“‘Ax her if her ye’rs didn’t jist about plumb burn off this mornin’,’ said Signe. It’s a sign, you know, if your ye’rs burn that somebody is a-talkin’ about you.
“‘My right hand,’ I says to ‘em, ‘has been a-catchin’ all mornin;, which shore means that I’m a-goin’ to shake hands with her fust of any of you,’ I says, jist a cuttin’ up and actin’ the fool like I wasn’t a day older than them, which I ain’t.
“I jist kinder growed up with them kids. Josie wasn’t but two year old when her mother died, and many’s the day I’ve kept her in the field with me while the others was at school. She’d ride on the plow till she got tard and sleepy and then she’d take a nap close by where I could watch.
“Clem Hollender, one of my neighbor men, he lost his woman about the same time my own died, and it wasn’t six months, hardly, till he was married again. Said he jist couldn’t git along without help – and as soon as his children was big enough to git away, they all left home.
“Stepmothers and stepfathers is all right a heap of times, but they’re resky investments; turrible resky.
“I jist figured that they wasn’t no woman, hardly, in the nature of things, that could love the kids like their mother did, and I shore wasn’t goin’ to be satisfied with nothin’ less, so I jist managed along – and now I’m glad.
“But speakin’ of signs – of course, I don’t believe in ‘em – but have you heard a whippoorwill yet this spring?”
I said I had.
“Did you notice whuther you was a-goin’ up hill er down, when you heerd it?”
I said I didn’t.
“Well that’s shore too bad. You won’t know, now what to expect. If you’re a-goin’ uphilll when you hear one fer the fust time in the spring, it’s a sign that you’re a-goin’ to have a lucky year and git purty nigh rich, sometimes, maybe. But if you’re a-goin’ downhill, it shore means that you’re goin’ to git porer ever day of the year. Never knowed it to fail.
“Have you heard a turkle dove yet?”
I said I hadn’t.
“Well, you jist notice when you do. The year we left the old place and moved over here, I didn’t have no more idee of movin’ than a last year’s bird’s nest, but I heerd a turkle dove holler right over in this direction, and shore enough, that fall I traded farms with Buck Starnes and me and the gals moved.
“You see, whatever direction you hear the fust one holler frum, that’s the way you’re a-goin’ to move er take a trip afore the year is out. Never knowed it to fail, though, of course, they ain’t nothin’ in signs. That is, not so awful much.
“I reckon you don’t ever git lonesome fer the city?”
“Not often,” I admitted.
“Well, I shore wouldn’t reckon you’d ever miss it, ‘cept the way a person misses fleas and mice and other sich pestiferous articles. I was up to Sent Louis oncet, and the one trip shore done me. Ain’t never wanted to go no more. It jist ain’t my way of doin’, to jump around like a chicken with its head off. As near as I can figure, that’s jist about what a city is – jist a whole lpassel of people, all a-jumpin’ around like chicken with their heads off. No-sir-ree! I want to be where I can set down on a stump er a log and rest a spell when I feel in the notion or git tard.
“And them there street cars! The noise they don’t make! Go ‘way!
“And the lonesomeness of the thing. I purty nigh died the night I was there – with all the noise and people and things – jist frum lonesomeness. And I ain’t a feller to take on about things, nuther. That is, no so dawg-awful much. But I hate lonesomeness wuss than pizen. Jist give me a cob pile, a whippoorwill er two and a hill to look at while it’s a-gittin’ dark and I shore wouldn’t trade entertainments with no city on earth.
“But here comes the gals. I’ll take keer of La Belle fer you. She’d like a little snack of corn fust, I reckon, and a nibble on the meader to top off with.
“Jist light and go in. The gal’s be tickles to death to see how them signs of their’n turned out by bringing you this way for dinner.
“Say,” with a nod toward the four “little gals,” who were hurrying out to meet me, “do you reckon I believe women ort to have the vote? Well, jist ax me. That’s all. Jist ax me.”