(1901) Meta learns, while attending the Women’s Christian Temperance Union rally, that soiled dove Sadie has snuck out of the bordello and is hiding in the background. As Meta listens to the speakers advocating for women’s rights, and the men become angry at the progressive words, something unexpected happens.
Excerpts from The Last Bordello, Chapter 28: Eggs of Folly
“Due to the efforts of the WCTU, the age of consent has been raised from thirteen to fifteen. We strive for even higher,” Miss Fisher <Minnie Fisher Cunningham, Women’s Right Activist> said. “Every day, the newspapers report acts of violence against women and remind us of men’s incapacity to cope successfully with this monster evil of society.”
“What are you saying, missy? We men ain’t capable?” The man’s words elicited angry comments from the crowd.
Miss Fisher hesitated before she continued. “We know you men are hardworking gentlemen. For women, education is the key, both in and out of the home.”
Some women clapped. Others squinted in puzzlement as if the thought of learning something other than child-rearing had never occurred to them. Her words enlightened me and affirmed my goals.
A man, close to the front, pumped his fist. “My wife don’t have time for more learning. We got six kids needing supper on the table.”
Querulous male voices erupted from the crowd.
“Why do women prostitute themselves to the abnormal passion of man?” Miss Fisher continued. “Because they are poverty-stricken, destitute above temptation, and driven by necessity. They sell themselves, in marriage or out, for bread and shelter, for the necessities of life. How can we blame them? They have no other recourse but to live in a society that dictates what they—we—can and cannot do. To solve this problem, we demand that women be allowed to exercise their inherent, personal, citizen’s right to be a voice in the government—municipal, state, and national. Then, women will have the power to protect themselves.”
“We men protect our women just fine,” a man shouted. Other men yelled their agreement.
Mayor Hicks stepped to the podium, his lips pursed. “Enough of your heckling. Save your disagreements for editorials in the newspapers. She has a right to free speech.”
“So do we,” someone yelled back.
The mayor banged a fist on the podium. “These women are invited guests. By God, we will show them our Southern hospitality.”
The raw egg came from nowhere. It narrowly missed the mayor’s head before landing on the bandstand floor. He squinted, scouring the crowd.
Poor Mrs. Fenwick held a shaky hand over her mouth.
Miss Fisher reached below the dais and pulled out a speaking trumpet. “The true relation of the sexes can never be attained until women are free and equal with men,” she said, her determination thundering above the chaos.
The second egg hit the podium dead center. The crowd either gasped or laughed. Some men took hold of their wives and scurried them away, while the women in black remained steadfast in their chairs behind the podium.
… The yolk running down the front of the dais did not deter Miss Fisher. She stood firm, her voice amplified by the speaking trumpet. “As the great Susan B. Anthony said, whoever controls work and wages, controls morals. Independence is freedom. Independence means happiness. Therefore, we must have women employers, superintendents, legislators. For moral necessity, we must emancipate women, pull them out of prostitution, and safeguard our country. Thank you.”