Samantha Among The Bretheren

Marietta Holley

Chapter 20

Wall, we got the scrapin' done after three hard and arjous days' works, and then we preceeded to clean the house. The day we set to clean the meetin' house prior and before paperin', we all met in good season, for we knew the hardships of the job in front of us, and we all felt that we wanted to tackle it with our full strengths.

Sister Henzy, wife of Deacon Henzy, got there jest as I did. She wuz in middlin' good spirits and a old yeller belzerine dress.

Sister Gowdy had the ganders and newraligy and wore a flannel for 'em round her head, but she wuz in workin' spirits, her will wuz up in arms, and nerved up her body.

Sister Meechim wuz a-makin' soap, and so wuz Sister Sypher, and Sister Mead, and me. But we all felt that soap come after religion, not before. "Cleanliness next to godliness."

So we wuz all willin' to act accordin' and tackle the old meetin' house with a willin' mind.

Wall, we wuz all engaged in the very heat of the warfare, as you may say, a-scrubbin' the floors, and a-scourin' the benches by the door, and a-blackin' the 2 stoves that stood jest inside of the door. We wuz workin' jest as hard as wimmen ever worked - and all of the wimmen who wuzn't engaged in scourin' and moppin' wuz a-settin' round in the pews a-workin' hard on articles for the fair - when all of a suddin the outside door opened and in come Josiah Allen with 3 of the other men bretheren.

They had jest got the great news of wimmen bein' apinted for Deaconesses, and had come down on the first minute to tell us. She that wuz Celestine Bobbet wuz the only female present that had heard of it.

Josiah had heard it to the post-office, and he couldn't wait till noon to tell me about it, and Deacon Gowdy wuz anxius Miss Gowdy should hear it as soon es possible. Deacon Sypher wanted his wife to know at once that if she wuzn't married she could have become a deaconess under his derectin'.

And Josiah wanted me to know immegietly that I, too, could have had the privilege if I had been a more single woman, of becomin' a deaconess, and have had the chance of workin' all my hull life for the meetin' house, with a man to direct my movements and take charge on me, and tell me what to do, from day to day and from hour to hour.

And Deacon Henzy was anxious Miss Henzy should get the news as quick as she could. So they all hastened down to the meetin' house to tell us.

And we left off our work for a minute to hear 'em. It wuzn't nowhere near time for us to go home.

Josiah had lots of further business to do in Jonesville and so had the other men. But the news had excited 'em, and exhilerated 'em so, that they had dropped everything, and hastened right down to tell us, and then they wuz a-goin' back agin immegietly.

I, myself, took the news coolly, or as cool as I could, with my temperature up to five or five and a half, owin' to the hard work and the heat.


Miss Gowdy also took it pretty calm. She leaned on her mop handle, partly for rest (for she was tuckered out) and partly out of good manners, and didn't say much.

But Miss Sypheris such a admirin'woman, she looked fairly radiant at the news, and she spoke up to her husband in her enthusiastik warm-hearted way -

"Why, Deacon Sypher, is it possible that I, too, could become a deacon, jest like you?"

"No," sez Deacon Sypher solemnly, "no, Drusilly, not like me. But you wimmen have got the privelege now, if you are single, of workin' all your days at church work under the direction of us men."

"Then I could work at the Deacon trade under you," sez she admirin'ly, "I could work jest like you - pass round the bread and wine and the contribution box Sundays?"

"Oh, no, Drusilly," sez he condesendinly, "these hard and arjuous dutys belong to the male deaconship. That is their own one pertickiler work, that wimmen can't infringe upon. Their hull strength is spent in these duties, wimmen deacons have other fields of labor, such as relievin' the wants of the sick and sufferin', sittin' up nights with small-pox patients, takin' care of the sufferin' poor, etc., etc."

"But," sez Miss Sypher (she is so good-hearted, and so awful fond of the deacon), "wouldn't it be real sweet, Deacon, if you and I could work together as deacons, and tend the sick, relieve the sufferers - work for the good of the church together - go about doin' good?"

"No, Drusilly," sez he, "that is wimmen's work. I would not wish for a moment to curtail the holy rights of wimmen. I wouldn't want to stand in her way, and keep her from doin' all this modest, un-pretendin' work, for which her weaker frame and less hefty brain has fitted her.

"We will let it go on in the same old way. Let wimmen have the privelege of workin' hard, jest as she always has. Let her work all the time, day and night, and let men go on in the same sure old way of superentendin' her movements, guardin' her weaker footsteps, and bossin' her round generally."

Deacon Sypher is never happy in his choice of language, and his method of argiment is such that when he is up on the affirmative of a question, the negative is delighted, for they know he will bring victery to their side of the question. Now, he didn't mean to speak right out about men's usual way of bossin' wimmen round. It was only his unfortunate and transparent manner of speakin'.

And Deacon Bobbet hastened to cover up the remark by the statement that "he wuz so highly tickled that wimmen wuzn't goin' to be admitted to the Conference, because it would weaken the Conference."

"Yes," sez my Josiah, a-leanin' up aginst the meetin' house door, and talkin' pretty loud, for Sister Peedick and me had gone to liftin' round the big bench by the door, and it wuz fearful heavy, and our minds wuz excersised as to the best place to put it while we wuz a-cleanin' the floor.

"You see," sez he, "we feel, we men do, we feel that it would be weakenin' to the Conference to have wimmen admitted, both on account of her own lack of strength and also from the fact that every woman you would admit would keep out a man. And that," sez he (a-leanin' back in a still easier attitude, almust a luxurious one), "that, you see, would tend naterally to weakenin' the strength of a church."


"Wall," sez I, a-pantin' hard for breath under my burden, "move round a little, won't you, for we want to set the bench here while we scrub under it. And," sez I, a-stoppin' a minute and rubbin' the perspiratin and sweat offen my face, "Seein' you men are all here, can't you lay holt and help us move out the benches, so we can clean the floor under 'em? Some of 'em are very hefty," sez I, "and all of us Sisters almost are a-makin' soap, and we all want to get done here, so we can go home and bile down; we would dearly love a little help," sez I.

"I would help," sez Josiah in a willin' tone, "I would help in a minute, if I hadn't got so much work to do at home."

And all the other male bretheren said the same thing - they had got to git to get home to get to work. (Some on 'em wanted to play checkers, and I knew it.)

But some on 'em did have lots of work on their hands, I couldn't dispute it.