The villagers of Forestville were certainly revolting by the light of the lantern.
“Mr. Meighen only pays us in script, not money. I think we should revolt!” exclaimed Forestville villager and worker Lou Grabau (Blake Coleman), rousing up some rebels for his cause last Saturday evening in the wagon barn, inciting even the young’uns to rally for cash instead of store credit Saturday during Forestville’s annual “By the Light of the Lantern” event. “We should organize a labor movement, get Samuel Gompers down here — he’s the head of the American Federal Labor.”
Grabau’s fellow worker, Mr. Ball (Jake Stacken), inquired, “What if I make a complaint to this Mr. Gompers?”
Grabau replied, “He could shut down Mr. Meighen’s bank in Preston.”
Talk then turned to how the ladies were organizing to hold a meeting in the parlor for suffrage, and how the menfolk might do well to go over and have a gander at the handbills they were reading. Liquored up, that made some mighty fine sense, so that they did…charging into the parlor as an unruly elephantine herd.
Martha (Jette Berken) suggested that they seek out Thomas Meighen in his office if they had business to do with him, but they asserted that it was high time they found out what the ladies were up to.
Mary (Vicki Benson) addressed Mr. Meighen (George Colbenson) as he came to find out what the ruckus was in the parlor. “Oh, Thomas, some of your workers have interrupted our meeting!”
One of the workers took a good look around, asking, “Have you seen my wife?” and was quickly reminded, “You don’t have a wife.”
Mr. Meighen showed consternation as he questioned his workers about the noise they were making regarding receiving cash pay instead of store credit. “Is this one of those unions you’re talking about?”
Grabau posited, “We’ve gotta start somewhere for equality!”
Mr. Meighen boomed, “I told you out in the barn that I won’t hear of talk of unions. I can replace all of you!”
The posse of workers protested just enough to call themselves men of conviction, then concluded, “I think we’re not wanted here” as Mr. Meighen shouted, “Out! Out!”
The ladies, whose mission was just as important but handled in a much more genteel manner, gathered in the parlor if they were done with their work in the kitchen, hearing Martha’s speech about “the broom and the ballot” — an appeal to the gentlemen who maintain that the streets are too dirty for the women to be out and about, casting their votes for legislators and getting into politics.
A handbill she shared read “To the Voters from the Would Be Voters At the Polls: You are here to show your interest in civic affairs and to vote for your and our representatives who will carry out your political ideas. We are here to show our interest in civic affairs and to ask you to vote for representatives who will carry out one of our political ideas – VOTES FOR WOMEN. We want to do our part in the house-cleaning of our city and state! The broom is a domestic necessity, the ballot is a democratic necessity. The ballot is the broom of democracy. If half of the housekeepers had to rely on the brooms used only by the other half — our homes would not be as clean as they are. If all, instead of half, of the city keepers — citizens — were using the ballot, our city and public premises generally, would be cleaner than they are. ‘Pardon me,’ say the courteous Father, Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Husband — ‘Pardon me, the streets and public premises are too dirty for women to deal with. We the city keepers will use the ballot, and you, the homekeepers, shall use the broom.’”
She also shared “Twelve Reasons Why Women Should Vote,” originally distributed by the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association, headquartered in Boston, and it argued for women’s rights for suffrage “Because those who obey the laws should help to choose those who make the laws, because laws affect women as much as men, laws which affect WOMEN are now passed without consulting them, laws affecting CHILDREN should include the woman’s point of view as well as the man’s, laws affecting the HOME are voted on in every session of the legislature, women have experience which would be helpful to legislation, because to deprive women of the vote is to lower their position in common estimation, having the vote would increase the sense of responsibility among women toward questions of public importance, because hundreds of thousands of intelligent, thoughtful, hard-working women want the vote, the objections against their having the vote are based on prejudice, not on reason, and because to sum up all reasons in one – IT IS FOR THE COMMON GOOD OF ALL.”
Martha punctuated that statement with a sign on the fireplace mantel: “Women Bring All Voters Into the World. Let Women Vote.”
Catherine (Enid Dunn), who is not married, but lives with her brother, argued against that, saying, “Educate the husband — he takes care of the household,” and the ladies to her left and right countered that living with her brother provided comforts that other women did not enjoy. They maintained, “Why can’t we have more than influence…when we can have direct influence?”
Outside, in the wagon barn, the Saturday evening poker game continued, but talk of unionizing and revolting quieted down as the lanterns flared up and the bats began chasing their dinners on the wing under an elegant late-summer moon.
“By the Light of the Lantern” was Historic Forestville’s final regular season event — extended season events are still on the calendar, and tours are still available, but not during the entire week. For more information, call (507) 765-2785.