Oreola Williams Haskell.

Banner bearers; tales of the suffrage campaigns online

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all day with discordant sounds cannot stand being torn to
shreds and patches at night. What animal are you torturing
in this room?'

*'None," said Esther haughtily. "Does my music annoy

"Music," said the stout woman crushingly. "I may not
be an opera star, but I have some faint inkling of melody.


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Scraping a saw across a kitchen grate and then ringing five
or six bells is not music/*

"I've jtist had one lesson," explained Esther Marr falter-
ingly. "It takes some time to play well."

"It mtist," says the stout woman with conviction. "If
I were you, I'd get in the closet and shut the door when I
practice. The clothes will muffle the sound. At any rate,
don't let n:ie hear that thing again, or I shall complain to
tiie landlady and to the police. Life in a big city is not
a pastoral dream, but, thank heaven, I am not obliged to
spend my evenings in a place where my ears are assailed by
assorted squeaks, grunts, shrieks, and groans. There is
such a thing as law. Good night."

She turned, went out, and slammed the door.

Her protest filled Esther with temporary despair. But
she soon realized that the stout woman was not the only one
^Brtw) had taken cognizance of her practice hour. For a little
Bote penned in a large masctdine hand was thrust under her
door a few minutes later.

"If I can do anything to make the passing away easier,"
it read, "don't fail to call upon me. I have large quantities
on hand of morphine, strj^hnine and chloroform. Judging
by to-night, the agony must be intense. Your Neighbor
Across the Hall Who Suffers With You."

Posted on her door, she found in the morning a third
reference to her musical efforts.

"If you're not strong enough. Kid, towring its neck, caU
ine in. I have choked many a squaller in my day, and my
ledings are now especially bloodthirsty."

Esther Marr took her troubles to Prof. Le Castro. He was
sympathetic but not helpful.

"All day long," he said with much gesticulation, "My house
is f tdl of bang, crash and drum-drum. The neighbors they


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are silent — ^they endtire. But at night, it is to rest,and the
landlord he insist. Saturday afternoon, I rent out to a
dancing professair with much pupils filling all possible spaces.
And Sunday — would one do the butt up against religion?"

Obviously one would not.

Esther Marr went away and for dajrs gloomily considered
her problem. She thought of faraway lots on the edge of
the city, of deserted paths in the parks, of silent suburban
places. But everything was overshadowed by the thought
of the omnipresent police who functioned in even out-of-the-
way spots and interfered with even the most harmless citizens.
And then, one day, she remembered the 3rard at headquarters,
the small stone-paved space, never used, lying under the
shadow of a large factory and back erf the room given up to
the suffrage restaurant. On Saturday afternoon, the factory
hands took their weekly half-holiday; at two thirty, the
restaurant crowds were gone. Saturday often meant week
ends for the aristocracy of suflEragedom and though head-
quarters remained open, it ran with a diminished fervor.
Esther Marr's face brightened with hope. She had solved
her perplexing problem. Somewhere in the big, teeming
city there was a place where a soul fired with the noblest
of ambitions, might wake musical echoes without at the same
time waking human resentment. She, therefore, selected
the first bright Saturday afternoon that came along in the
due process of time, slipped unobtrusively into headquarters,
asked to see the ho tse secretary, pondered a bit over the
doubt whether the latter's absence "on an outside errand
for a little while" should deter her from her purpose, decided •
to "take a chance," and so, eluding the quarters of the cook
in the basement, hastened down the lower stairs and, quite
tmobserved, reached the quiet and privacy of the back-



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Jtdia Long had an appointment with Mrs. Sylvester at
headquarters at three o'clock, and she was prompt to the
minute, entering the office of the Lectiu^ Bureau, over which
Mrs. Sylvester presided, on the first stroke of the designated
hour. Julia was extremely nervous. This was to be a try-
out, for Julia aspired to the position of a street speaker and
none could go on the official list who had not been vouched
for by some leader, been graduated from a suffrage school,
or had been heard by Mrs. Sylvester at some meeting or in
the quiet back office through which the orators for hundreds
of meetings were supplied. Mrs. Sylvester had suggested
the little rehearsal and Julia shut up in her own room had
been heard by her family declaiming an '^original*' speech
for several dajrs. A younger sister had at times assisted
as audience and critic, and had been regularly fought with as
"too particular*' by the family orator. Now, Julia Long
f tunbling in her memory for the first word of her declamation
and feeling the chills of stage fright galloping up and down her
spine, wondered forlornly whether Edith Long might not be
correct in designating her efforts as "the windy creaks of a
rusty hinge," and similar unflattering descriptions. How
to make her thin soprano voice sound loud and full enough
to carry above the roar of dty traffic, to cast a sonorous
spell over a crowd on a comer, to echo down the byways
so that others would come running, seemed to her now a
colossal and an impossible task.

"I have to catch a train," said Mrs. Sylvester kindly,
sensing some of the panic behind Julia Long's twitching face.
**So we'll make the trial short. I shall judge you on three
points : your voice, its volume and modtilations ; your speech,
its arguments and general appeal; and your ntianner or
personality. Ctf course one has to be magnetic, or one does
not hold a crowd well. It just naturally fades away."


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At that moment Julia felt that she would like to emulate
such a crowd, but instead she stood her ground, and her
trembling voice uttered a sentence from the middle of her
speech. Naturally it did not sound like an introduction so
Julia choked, stopped, and began again.

"Through many years," said Julia gasping and sputtering,
"Woman has labored to obtain her rights. She has won her
educational, legal and industrial — er — rights through travail
— and through long years in this the Emp — Empire State she
has struggled to win her political rights. She has been
per-persecuted — opposed — rid — ridiculed — defeated — time
and time again. But though the fight is hard — the way is
long — enemies are many — does Woman give up?"

Here Julia promptly forgot the rest of her composition.
She gulped several times, burst into a cold and clammy
perspiration, glared into space in agony, clasped and un-
clasped her hands, repeated in a despairing tone her last
phrase. "Does woman give up?" and then fell into a deep
and adamantine silence.

This was rent suddenly by a succession of sounds rarely
or never heard in the big city that reverberated all day with
raucous noises. By Julia, lost to all outward circumstances,
and wallowing in fear, shame and despair, these sounds were
unnoted and unheeded. But upon Mrs. Sylvester's senses
they fell with hideotis jar and jangle Taken unawares, her
face immediately registered the surprise and horror that she

Looking suddenly upon her auditor and critic, whom her
faltering lips were beginning to ask again "Does woman give
up ?" Julia Long was petrified by the expression that she saw.
No words were needed, no verdict required; the human face
before her was significant and expressive enough. Beholding
her judge's bulging eyes and twisted mouth, Julia Long


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thought she saw what an effect she wotdd have upon an
atidience that she was attempting to charm.

"I think/' said Julia Long in a sad and sobbing voice»
"that there are times when woman does give up." And she
fled precipitately from the room, while Mrs. Sylvester, too
surprised and jarred to be relieved that she had thus easily
gotten rid of an inefficient speaker, stood in stunned atten-
tion, until the girl's stumping footsteps were heard no longer
on the stairs.

o o o

Madame Dumaire looked forth on her canvassing and
interviewing squad with tragic eyes. She had assembled them
at headquarters to get their reports and she was far from
pleased at the result.

"Mon Dieu," she ejaculated tempermentally, as Marie
De Laterre confessed that she had called only once upon
Monsieur Bon, the lecturer. "I begin to believe — ^that
these committees have no legs. The Scandanavian Com-
mittee, the Italienne ladies, the Roosians, even the Germans,
like dock work they go round, in the morning, at noon, to
the night. All races thus are rounded up, they speek in
public, they write des endorsement, they send lettaire to the
papier, they nudge up their great ones to help by talk, by
musique, by meetings packed to suffocation. And us, we
have one big meeting and we get some enrollments, and we
take it of an easiness and we lie down on the job, and trrample
the Cause, underfoot. As for me, I am ashamed, distrait,
disgust. One month, we been going, and save for one or
two, legs all give out, and tongues stuck fast, n'est-ce pas?
When, then. Mademoiselle Hale she ask of me reports.
What shall I say, me, Adrienne Dumairo, daughter of a
warrior for France, me, I shall say, the Jean D'Arc Com-
mittee, Moes Hale, their repost — c'est tout rien."


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Madame Dumaire stalked about her committee room and
pulled her hair when she was not waving her arms in artistic
anguish. Just so, she prodded up her musical pupils and
obtained wonderful results. Her committee, conscious of
much good work, well aware that, shorn of its exaggeration
and picturesqueness, her adjuration only amotmted to what
one of a non-Gallic race might express lightly as "let's do
better," nevertheless followed her example, and gave way
to wails, tragic denials, and calls upon high heaven to testify
to their self-denial and their persistent effort. The French
Committee was really enjoying itself.

But the French Committee had one big balance wheel.
This was Mrs. Anna Wicks, fluent linguist, but not of French
descent. Slowly she rose to her feet and held up a protesting

"This bedlam seems unnecessary," she said severely.
"Madame is right in wanting us to do better, always better,
but for a newly organized body we have accomplished won-
ders. Our meeting was a great success, our canvassing is
going well, we have the endorsements of ten eminent French-
men and the Couriere des Etats Unis is printing our news
regularly. We all expect to get up more speed as we go on."

This was goodsense, and Madame recognized it as such. But
the musical temperament wishes the dramatic above all else.

"It may be as Madame Wick, suggest," said Madame
darkly. "It may be, mes amis, that Adrienne Dumaire
expects too much — ^the perfect — ^the impossible — ^Je ne sais
pas — But me, I am not satisfy, far from it. My soul, it
writhe when it think of the report for Mees Hale. Thees
committee must get its legs going. Without this, the
noises in my head from which I suffaire greatly will increase.
As for me, often I think someone less sensitive should be at
the head — of thees commeetee — "


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"Non-non," cried the members of the French Committee
in concert, for they adored and thoroughly tmderstood

Madame looked at them sadly.

"It was in fact to say adieu that this afternoon I came."
"To rest, this is my need — "

Marie Delaterre was at once on her feet.

"To rest," said she dramatically. "Where in New York
will Madame find a quieter room than this? In front all the
traflBc of the city rings and roars, but behind in this house
as we are, all is still and restful. The big buildings shut out
all sounds — save for a faint murmur. For Madame to
come here, once a week, is for her to come to quiet and peace.
And we will do the work, faithfully and well. If Madame
does not believe — I ask her now to stop and listen — I ask all
to listen — ^to listen to the silence."

The French Committee sighed contentedly and, in a deep
hush, listened.

Madame followed their example. And then there came
upon the quiet air suddenly and cruelly a succession of
piercing sounds that rose louder and louder in volume,
reaching at last a crescendo that was an onslaught on sen-
sitive nerve centers.

Madame blanched, gasped and shook. Marie Delaterre
stood transfixed with stirprise, her mouth slightly agape.
The French Committee stared into space, with eyes big with
astonishment. Even Madam Wicks was more than taken
back. The sounds went on and on. Evidently there was
to be no end.

All the musician susceptible to the slightest discords was
overwhelmed in Madame Dtmiaire by these noises.

"If thees is peace and quiet," she said rising in a grim
determination, "I prefer much tumult. My friends, this
make me decide. Another must take my place — another

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who can stand what I cannot. I resign you my place. I go.
I will work from afar with you for the Cause. But Madame
Wicks with nerve of the iron — ^thees vice chairman — she
takes my place. Farewell — I can stand no more."

And thus there passed from the room a truly sensitive
soul, and the French Committee exchanged a temperamen-
tal chairman for a level-headed woman under whose cool and
capable leadership, it was destined to achieve wonders for
the Cause.

o o o

The Board of Directors was meeting in Miss Hale's private
office. They were an august body, but in the privacy of their
meetings they often unbent in a way unbelievable to the head-
quarters staff. Jokes were not tmknown, and there were
various other manifestations of actual human nature. To-
day, however, the members of the board were as grave as
they were popularly supposed to be all the time. For two
solid hours they had thrashed out a certain question, con-
tended over a certain policy, and had found their forces
evenly divided, both sides equally unyielding and deter-
mined to win. Patiently and painstakingly, Miss Hale
had time and time again stated the issue, suggested ccffnpro-
mises, called for a vote.

**If persisted in, this course of action would disrupt the
organization, repel thousands of our members, kill the
cause," maintained Dr. Tavis with loud assertion, and it
was indicative of the tension that no one smiled. In fact,
the fate of the world seemed of no greater moment than the
matter in dispute.

'That is absurd," cried Mrs. Sanford of the opposing
faction. "To take this stand would attract hosts oi new
members, would bring us money, influence, distinction,
power, would make the antis tremble in their fortresses, the


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public acclaim us, the world acknowledge us. None are so
blind as those who won't see.*'

"Or those who see what isn't there," added Dr. Tavis
sotto voce.

"Time is going on," said Miss Hale firmly, "and we all
have other engagements. It might be well to postpone this
ntiatter tmtil another meeting. In fact, let us decide to do
just that."

"I don't agree with that," said Mrs. Sanford. "This
is the first quiet meeting we've been able to have of late.
We have had visitors before us with various propositions to
consider, we have had numerous photographers coming to
take our pictures, and one time we had to adjourn and go to a
State Party conference. Let's take advantage of this quiet
spell and get some things settled."

"But the heat is terrific, and we're all more or less fatigued.
It would be better to think this proposition over carefully.
It's been sprung on us here to-day," objected Mrs. Tabor
wearily. "Let's go home where we can be at peace."

"Peace?" repeated Mrs. Laits scornfully. "What peace
do some of us have at home? I for one have turned my
boudoir into an ofl&ce. I have a secretary there and a type-
writer going and a telephone ringing all day long. Some of
lis come here every day, and during the week this head-
quarters is far from peaceful. We'd better do our thinking
right now, Mrs. Tabor."

"All right," acquiesced Mrs. Tabor. "As you say — ^it is
restful here."

"In view of the fact that suffrage headquarters is our only
quiet haven to-day, I believe it is the sense of the meeting
to go on with the debate," said Miss Hale facetiously, and
raised her gavel to hit the desk a decisive blow. But her
hand remained suspended in midair, while a sudden electric


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shock seemed to pass through every member of the Board of
Directors, freezing the smiles on their faces, and forcing them
to sit in a sudden and petrified silence. For, dear and loud
upon the summer air, so near that it seemed tmder their
very window, arose a succession of sounds that nwght be aptly
described in the paraphrased words of a great dramatist, as
warranted "to harrow up their souls, freeze their young bloods»
make their two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres.
Their knotted and combined locks to part and each particular
hair to stand on end, like quills upon the fretful porpentine.'*

For a moment or two the members of the Board sat in a
rigid attention, and then, the sounds continuing with horrible
intensity, with one concerted move they cast dignity to the
winds, and rushed to the two windows of the room, thrusting
out handsomely millinered heads to see from whence the
uproar proceeded. Below them in the yard, they beheld
one slender girl ,in dark blue, standing in the shadows, and
holding to her lips an inoffensive musical instrument.

"Oh," said the Board in unison, and withdrew from the
windows. But the sudden change of thought, the rising
from their seats, had changed their mood. They showed a
decided aversion to going on with the debate. And although
Mrs. Sanford annoimced that she knew now that there were
enough votes to pass the measure she had proposed, there was
a motion made at once to postpone a vote until another
time, and the meeting adjourned. The question was never,
brought up again, circumstances arising that made it an
impossible matter to consider, and confirming the opposition
who had stated, more or less dramatically, that it would be
fatal to the progress of the suffrage moven^nt.

o o o o

And a few minutes later when a protesting musician was
pulled unceremoniously into the front oflSce by an irate ofl&ce


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staflf, she met their reproaches only with the statement
repeated over and over again:

"I wanted to do something good for the catise."
And, truly, it might have consoled Esther Marr somewhat
if she had known that already her musical efforts had done
three things for the Cause she loved; had dismissed a poor
speaker, forced a poor officer to resign and had downed a
bad measure. But not knowing this, poor Esther went home
with saddened mein, and for days thereafter suffered the
agonies of a musical martyr, imtil the swiftly rushing emo-
tional tides of youth flowed over her soul and washed away
her disappointment and her grief.

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"Why, Pbtbr, have you come to say good-bye?"

The girl who asked the question raised an astonished and
smiling face to the young man who had just joined her, but
received no friendly response from him. Instead he said,

"Hester, may I speak to you alone a minute?"

"Certainly," replied Hester good-naturedly. "Let us
leave the madding crowd."

Calmly she led the way past a long line of women garbed
in dark walking suits and heavy outing shoes, past an auto-
mobile filled with baggage, banners, and paper packages,
past moving picttu^ men cranking their cameras, past news-
paper reporters taking notes, past policemen on horseback,
past three girl buglers resting from their musical labors,
past little groups of women and girls smartly attired and wear-
ing broad Votes for Women sashes, and past a miscellaneous
crowd of onlookers to where at one side of the road an empty
space made private conversation possible.

"So you're going?" said Peter Ghent sullenly.

"Certainly I'm going, and in an important capacity. I
carry the oflSdal message to the Governor."

She held out a leather portfolio, opened it a little and dis-
played an important-looking document, typed on yellow-
bordered paper and bearing in print a long list of officers and

"Of course, there are no mails to take the blooming thing,"
said Peter Ghent sarcastically. "It must have forty-five



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to fifty women inarching on foot to get it to its destination."

"The message — ^poof. Who cares about that? Nobody."
replied the girl. "It's just an excuse to pull off the stunt.
But the stunt itself — ^that's great."

"It is if you pant for the limelight and notoriety. Out-
side of that it's the silliest thing extant. To go tramping
about country roads, subjecting yourselves to all kinds of
accidents and all kinds of weather when you don't have to
do it, and calling down upon your heads the condemnation
of all sensible people, the silly jokes of the coarse and the
witless is nothing short of crazy. Of course, I have always
believed in your supporting the theory of woman sufl&age, but
I credited you with some sense. I never thought you'd
get mixed up with the wild ones like this."

"Peter, Peter," cried the girl. "You are simply showing
you don't understand the thing, that's all. Why don't
you ask for an explanation before you condemn? We are
going out to interest the country folk, and they are well
worth interesting. When you once get them convinced
they don't throw aside their convictions Ughtly. They don't
get a chance to go to meetings, they don't read .dry leaflets,
and we can't afford anyway to mail our literature to all of
them, so we are going to nmrch along their roads and speak
to them, women to women, visit their villages and gather
them into outdoor meetings, give them the personal, human
touch that makes all the difference in the world. Heralded
as we shall be by every country newspaper, they will fed a
curiosity to see us they would never feel if we came to them
in the ordinary way as speakers and reformers. Why the
plan is simply perfect, as a striking bit of propaganda."

"Well, maybe," returned Peter unconvinced. "But why
not let others do these things if they must be done. Why
don't you stick to work more becoming a lady?"


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"A lady," said Hester Price gaily. "Don't insult me by
calling me by that much-abused name. No, this thing
really appeals to me. I have worked so long among city
folk, I am tired of their sophistication and their complexities.
I just long for simple people with a straight and plain out-
look on life. I know I can talk to them, right from my
heart, and that they will understand. They have so few
interests, they won't crowd suffrage in with the opera,
dances, shopping expeditions, house hunting, matinees,
child culture, clubs, and a thousand other things. In their
minds, it will loom up as the big thing it is, a part of the
democracy that to them is sacred."

"Don't expect too much," warned Peter pessimistically.
"The farming folk I have met in my summer vacations did
not scintillate intellectually. If you go into your idealistic,
highbrow ravings, you will leave them five miles in the rear
wallowing in a mental ditch. I thought maybe you had
acquired some such impractical idea and I came up to ham-
mer it out of you. Come on back, Hester, and give up your—' '

"Pilgrimage," prompted Hester. "No indeed. I flatter
myself I make a pretty good pilgrim."

Peter Ghent looked at her trim figure in its neat blue serge
suit, at her shapely feet, shod in thick but natty shoes, at
the jaunty hat that sat on her bright brown hair, at the
vail tautly pulled over her rosy face and across her large brown
eyes, at the neatly gloved hands clasping the crooked pil-
grim's staff adorned with long strips of chocolate in lieu of
script, at the leather portfolio, and acknowledged that she
spoke the truth.

"Of course, you would look well in a potato sack," he said.
"But that is no reason you should take to wearing one.

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Online LibraryOreola Williams HaskellBanner bearers; tales of the suffrage campaigns → online text (page 13 of 26)