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May 23 2013

The Strike at Putney

I’ve read rather a lot of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s work. So it is that, frequently over the last couple of years, a particular story has been called to mind. Today, between Monette’s guest post this morning and a friend on Twitter asking why she is “still involved with a movement where the idea of not cornering women in enclosed spaces created a two-year-and-counting blood feud”, it seemed an appropriate time to share it.

This isn’t to suggest any particular course of action. It’s simply a note that I try never to forget how much any group that runs on volunteer effort relies on the unpaid work of women.

“But what are we going to do, ladies?” said Mrs. Robbins briskly. Mrs. Robbins was the president. She was a big, bustling woman with clear blue eyes and crisp, incisive ways. Hitherto she had held her peace. “They must talk themselves out before they can get down to business,” she had reflected sagely. But she thought the time had now come to speak.

“You know,” she went on, “we can talk and rage against the men all day if we like. They are not trying to prevent us. But that will do no good. Here’s Mrs. Cotterell invited, and all the neighbouring auxiliaries notified–and the men won’t let us have the church. The point is, how are we going to get out of the scrape?”

A helpless silence descended upon the classroom. The eyes of every woman present turned to Myra Wilson. Everyone could talk, but when it came to action they had a fashion of turning to Myra.

She had a reputation for cleverness and originality. She never talked much. So far today she had not said a word. She was sitting on the sill of the window across from Lucy Knox. She swung her hat on her knee, and loose, moist rings of dark hair curled around her dark, alert face. There was a sparkle in her grey eyes that boded ill to the men who were peaceably pursuing their avocations, rashly indifferent to what the women might be saying in the maple-shaded classroom.

“Have you any suggestion to make, Miss Wilson?” said Mrs. Robbins, with a return to her official voice and manner.

Myra put her long, slender index finger to her chin.

“I think,” she said decidedly, “that we must strike.”

Keep reading.

3 comments

  1. 1
    smhll

    I am an Anne fan, and bought the complete set of Green Gables ebooks for 99 cents recently.

  2. 2
    sheila

    Yes, I think certain people might miss their sandwich-making service more than they think. Partly because they haven’t noticed that it’s a lot more than sandwiches.

  3. 3
    Martha

    I love this!

    I suspect that women’s church groups also got quite a bit done by keeping their own counsel. I can just hear my grandmother chuckling about how infuriated the men of the church would be if they knew how the women used the money raised in their second-hand clothing store. Sending young girls out of town for abortions and paying the heating bills for poor African-American families in the segregated South were just a couple of the items on their agenda.

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