Suffragette at Home – December 1909

“I see that Gretchen isn’t a suffragette,” remarked the master of the house as I put two lumps of sugar into his fourth cup of tea. “She doesn’t expect the men to wait upon themselves.”

“Oh, Don’t be deceived by her soft little ways,” exclaimed the poultry woman coming in at that moment in her huge boots and her bemired golf cape, sprinkled with snow flakes . “She isn’t a rampant person but I believe, myself, that she would be as courageous as Mrs Pankhurst if she took it that way. You see there’s different kinds of suffragettes. We’re one kind and Gretchen’s another.”

“There’s such a lot of suffragettes in this house either the nominal master of it softening his crusts (to preserve his teeth as he says) that oor Jack has to pour out his ain tea.”

And why shouldn’t he? we cried in a chorus. We put a tea pot at his elbow and we know he is an able bodied young man.

“That is how it is,” continued our champion, the poultry woman. “They old fashioned women wore themselves out waiting upon great strong men. How can I pour out your tea when I am to shut up the hens and milk the cow with the sore teat.”

“And hoo often do you agree to shut up the hens, I’d like tae ken, when I am no at the market. It is an awful thing Gretchen tae hae sae mony women arguing with a man. Nae wonder my hair is turning gray.”

A few minutes later he returned to the attack. “Is there ony suffragette will bring me my slippers?”

They gave a severe warning glance in my direction as they emphatically assured him that they would not. Bring them once and they would have to bring them for ever afterwards — hunting them in unlikely places. He was obliged to confess that he did not know exactly where he had left them and sighed as he flicked the c’aff off his stocking on to the hearth rug — a sigh partly of affected self-pity and largely of satisfaction at the soothing warmth.

The arrival of a visitor compelled me to look for a smaller chair and I spied one exactly to my mind, but an able bodied young man in a large easy chair was blocking my way to it. After hesitating in the absurd hope that he would guess what I wanted I asked him if it would trouble him too much to lift that chair over for me; and while he was doing it with some show of alacrity I asked our censor and critic if a suffragette ought to lift her own chair and ask no assistance from him.

“No,” he answered promptly. “Oh, ye did quite right to demand his help. If he had been a young man ye wouldn’t have needed to ask.”

When the talk under the guileful guidance of our champion of the women’s cause seemed to be drifting perilously near the rocks, on which sit not siren mermaids but political women, my eye was suddenly caught by a big toe protruding from the stockinged foot of the man who had failed to persuade anyone to bring his slippers.

There was something ostentatious in the manner in which he stretched out that foot and crossed right under the eyes of his farmer guests and the representatives of two generations of women obviously neglectful of their elementary tasks.

In an electric flash we all saw it and exchanged looks of amused horror. Then, the champion paused in the marshalling of her most telling arguments, rushed swiftly out of the room and returned in a few minutes with a pair of slippers which she pushed beneath the outstretched limb of the neglected man. You should have seen the broad smile of triumph which illumined his face.

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