Half a Century eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 294 pages of information about Half a Century.

CHAPTER X.

KENTUCKY CONTEMPT FOR LABOR.—­AGE, 23, 24.

To a white woman in Louisville, work was a dire disgrace, and one Sabbath four of us sat suffering from thirst, with the pump across the street, when I learned that for me to go for a pitcher of water, would be so great a disgrace to the house as to demand my instant expulsion.

I grew tired doing nothing.  My husband’s business did not prosper, and I went to a dressmaker and asked for work.  She was a New England woman, and after some shrewd questions, exclaimed: 

“My dear child, go home to your mother!  What does your husband mean?  Does he not know you would be insulted at every step if you work for a living?  Go home—­go home to your mother!”

I was homesick, and the kindness of the voice and eyes made me cry.  I told her I could not leave my husband.

“Then let him support you, or send you home until he can!  I have seen too many like you go to destruction here.  Go home.”

I said that I could never go to destruction, but she interrupted me: 

“You know nothing about it.  You are a mere baby.  They all thought as you do.  Go home to your mother!”

“But I never can go to destruction!  No evil can befall me, for He that keepeth Israel slumbers not nor sleeps.”

She concluded to give me work, but said: 

“I will send it by a servant.  Don’t you come here.”

I never thrust my anti-slavery opinions on any one, but every Southerner inquired concerning them, and I gave true answers.  There were many boarders in the house, and one evening when there were eighteen men in the parlor, these questions brought on a warm discussion, when one said: 

“You had better take care how you talk, or we will give you a coat of tar and feathers.”

I agreed to accept such gratuitous suit, and a Mississippi planter, who seemed to realize the situation, said gently: 

“Indeed, madam, it is not safe for you to talk as you do.”

“When reminded of constitutional guarantees for freedom of speech, and his enjoyment of it in my native State, he replied: 

“There is no danger in Pennsylvania from freedom of speech, but if people were allowed to talk as you do here, it would overthrow our institutions.”

There were mobs in the air.  The mayor closed a Sunday-school, on the ground that in it slaves were taught to read.  The teacher, a New England woman, denied the charge, and claimed that only free children had been taught, while slaves were orally instructed to obey their masters, as good Presbyterians, who hoped to escape the worm that never dies.  Her defense failed, but seemed to establish the right of free colored people to a knowledge of the alphabet, but there was no school for them, and I thought to establish one.

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Half a Century from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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