Thursday, 9 October 2014

“PITY SHE’S A GIRL”: ELIZABETH CADY STANTON’S CHILDHOOD

Lindley Murray Speller

When Elizabeth’ sister was born, she overheard visitors say “What a pity it is she’s a girl!” She therefore felt a kind of compassion for the little baby without understanding what was wrong with her -- that girls were considered an inferior order of beings.

The garret was the children’s favourite playground. Nuts, cakes of maple sugar, and dried herbs were stored there, as well as a spinning wheel and old clothes. She remembers: We would crack the nuts, nibble the sharp edges of the maple sugar, chew some favorite herb, whirl the old spinning wheel, and dress up in our ancestors’ clothes.

Elizabeth recalls learning to spell words, using Murray’s Spelling- Book, where Old Father Time, with his scythe, and the farmer stoning the boys in his apple trees gave rise in my mind to many serious reflections.

The girls wore dresses with starched ruffles that chafed the skin. But if we ventured to introduce our little fingers between the delicate skin and the irritating linen, our hands were slapped and the ruffle readjusted a degree closer.

The nursery maids found the Cady children a very troublesome, obstinate, and disobedient set. Elizabeth once asked her nurse: Why is everything we like to do a sin, and everything we dislike is commanded by God or someone on earth. I am so tired of that everlasting no! no! no! The nurse was dreadfully shocked and exhorted Elizabeth to cultivate the virtues of obedience and humility.

The window of the children’s bedroom was barred, but they managed to wiggle through the bars and snugly braced against the house, we would sit and enjoy the moon and stars…while the nurse, gossiping at the back door, imagined we were safely asleep.

(Source: E. Cady Stanton, Eighty Years and More. Reminiscences 1815-1897)

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