Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Of Blatherskites and Dreamers

Josiah writes to his niece on 21 June 1874. The image above is part of this letter. Uncle Josiah is describing to Sarah the exciting news! The voters of Michigan, that is to say - men, are going to be voting on an amendment (in Josiah's own words), "to our constitution for the enfranchisement of women to be voted on yes or no".

He goes on to say, "needless to say that I am amongst the advocates of the measure, as all my children and grand children are that are old enough to distinguish between good and evil..." I am liking old Josiah more and more as I read through his letters to Sarah. You can almost sense his wonderment at the unfolding drama.

He tells Sarah about the 'mass convention' that was held in the 'longest hall in the city'. Sarah is told it was literally crammed with people far into the evening. The speakers were mostly women, including a female from Pittsburgh (whom he does not name) and a Miss Eastman from Massachusetts. She evidently spoke for over an hour in the most 'modest and telling' fashion, according to Josiah.

The newspaper article above and to the right is from the Grand Traverse Hearld dated 30 July 1874. I know it is a little hard to read, but this is another view of the same event. The Grand Traverse Herald was ardently anti-suffrage. Miss Eastman, (I think she is Lucy Eastman) is said to "come from Massachusetts to find some way 'to drive a coach and four' thro' the Michigan laws".

The author of this little diatribe goes on to explain just how lucky women are. They are always favored in regards to the law, and most of them don't even want to vote. At one point the author implies men have less legal protection than women! The final paragraph of this letter to the editor produces a passing shot at the like of Miss Eastman. He calls them blatherskites.

A blatherskite essentially is someone who talks nonsense. It really is more than that, though. Not only do they talk nonsense, they are contemptible too! This was about as close as one could come to using profanity in print in the 19th century.

In case you were wondering, the Michigan amendment failed by a vote of more than 2 to 1.

I guess Uncle Josiah was the dreamer....

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