February 2, 1860, Boston Harbor, Boston, Massachusetts; The United States of America:
Nineteen-year-old Kathleen O'Rourke hurried away from the smelly ship that had taken her from her homeland, beautiful Erin, to the noisy, smog cloaked shore of America. Aye, she thought, And a mercy 'tis Deirdre didn't come. Her sister, Deidre, older by barely a year, had been supposed to board the ship with her and the two would journey to the strange county across the sea together. But four weeks before the voyage, Deirdre had shocked the entire family, Kathleen included, by eloping with Sean McFarland, the son of a Parliament senator. It would have been more than she could bear. Her sister, while not exactly frail, lacked the resilience and tenacity Kathleen possessed. It was those same qualities, she thought with some regret, that had landed her on the ship Emerald Lass to begin with. To say nothing of a generous dose o' stupidity eh, Kathleen? Not contended with waiting at home to be courted by some trade apprentice who should come calling, Kathleen had, from the time she was old enough to realize that her life was so planned, averted any attempt made to instill in her the qualities that made a proper lady- and a fine wife. She thought she was getting away with it, ignoring her parents' suggestions made to correct the errors in her ways. Not one to be crushed by defeat, she had pressed on with an unmatched determination to wage war on the strongholds of stereotyped femininity, and triumph as victor. Such language inspires thoughts of a noble knight riding home astride his white stallion, armor gleaming in the fading light, his trusty sword beside him in its scabbard. And such images Kathleen had enjoyed in her imagination, fancying herself as a white knight of a sort, freeing young women everywhere from the yoke of forced submission. That is until Da sat her down before the hearth one evening. "Daughter," he'd said softly- never one to raise his voice, Da, "Yer behavior of late has been inexcusable. Ye know the better ye ought be doing. All this, about women, not being keepers at home, tis blarney, lass. Ye know that women belong by the hearth, tending to the wee ones, cooking the meals. Stop spreading this nonsense, will ye, lass?" he most likely had more to say, but Kathleen didn't wait to hear it.
"Blarney, is it Da? Have ye n'er considered that women are merely slaves in the home. No better than hired servants they aren't. Tis'nt fair, I tell you, being forced to submit to the edicts of some tyranial king. Women have the right to equality, the right to decide their own futures."
"Aye, my little colleen; no one here is debating the equality of men and women. Our objection is to you going about spreading heresies designed to turn fine young lasses into spinsters. 'twoud me a mighty poor mind indeed what would entertain the notion that women are inferior, and a complete fool who would force one to submit. Examine things a bit more closely, lass- tisn't by force or tyranny, but love, that is why marriage be so popular."
Kathleen had strode from the room, head held high. She knew her parents disapproved of her actions, but there would be no repercussions. The next day she had gone to the village center and passed out handbills extolling the virtues of women's freedom. Two days later her parents took her into their bedroom and closed the door.
November 4, 1859, Killywool, Ireland:
"Why did ye not listen, lass?" Da asked, "I tried to warn ye, that ye were making trouble for yerself, why did ye go and do such a foolish thing?"
"What foolish thing, Da? Do ye mean providing information to people, women especially, about their right to equal citizenship?"
"Is that what ye call it, Kathleen?" her mother broke in, "Because all I can see is trouble. The leaders of the village were here today. They came last week too. Warning us they were the last time. Warning that if we couldn't control you, you would be charge with breach of peace. 'Tis a mercy that's all they've thought of as yet."
"How can good come except some endure pain?" Kathleen said, "I will face the charges if they're bent on law."
"Kathleen!" Her mother gasped. "Ye know the punishment on such a charge. Thirty days in the stocks it is."
"Aye," she replied, "'T'would be the same if I were a man, or so I hear. What better way to show them their double standards, but to endure them? I will face the sentence of a man, why must I be denied the rights of a man?"
"We will not allow such to happen, lass," Da said. "Ye are going to the south for a few weeks. Ye and Deirdre. Mayhap this will all go away."
"Go away?" Kathleen parroted. "Ye speak as though it were an ill-timed storm, Da. It's isn't going to blow over. Soon these ideals will shake the world. And I'll be right at the head of it."
The next morning, she and Deirdre left for the south. Deirdre tried desperately to counsel her sister during the time they were away, but Kathleen would have none of it. They returned on a Wednesday evening. The next day, she met with her cronies in town to finalize details on their next battle plan. When Kathleen returned home, her parents had another surprise waiting for her.
"Ye are going to America," Da told her, "Ye and Deirdre both. We can nay risk the wrath of the leaders, Kathleen. If we are sued for your antics, I could lose my land holdings, and what will we do for food then? No land to grow our potatoes, means no income. If ye will be naught but stubborn and disobedient, ye cannot stay, lass."
Kathleen had raved for several days. Twice the constable came to call on a noise complaint. Her parents feared she would be taken in for questioning or worse yet, arrested. For the next month she and Deirdre prepared for the trip across the ocean.
"Why must you go?" she asked her sister one night, "'Tis me with whom they're cross."
"To keep ye out of trouble, I suppose." Deirdre replied. "It's not meant as an exile."
One month to the day before the Emerald Lass sailed from Dublin, Deirdre came home from the village escorted by Mr. McFarland. "Da, Mum, and Kathleen, I wanted to let you know that Sean and I have gotten married today," It was all Kathleen heard. Her mind whirled. She would be going to America all alone. Thousands of miles from home without anyone she knew. It simply wasn't fair!
February 4, 1860 Boston, Massachusetts:
Kathleen strolled past several dry goods shops, admiring their wares. She had earlier visited a seamstress and had a new wardrobe commissioned for herself. Sean and Deirdre had given her a generous sum of cash as a going away present, and her sister had also enclosed the money she had received from the sale of her ship ticket, to another young woman with whom Kathleen had shared a cabin. She still had quite a bit of money left, and was contemplating borrowing against some land. She heard that in the southern part of America they had gigantic farms called plantations. Maybe she could start one.
Two weeks later Kathleen had completely abandoned the idea of buying her own plantation and moving south. While attempting to locate the post office, she stumbled upon, quite by accident, a women's rights meeting. Matilda Gage, a woman in her mid-thirties, and evidently a leader of some clout in the movement, welcomed her with open arms, as did several other members. Wouldn't Mum and Da be scandalized? She thought each time they held a meeting. Already Kathleen was deeply involved with the group. They had even organized a protest rally in downtown Boston. She was on her way there presently, walking along at a pretty good clip, as her landlady had kept her behind about ten minutes to discuss dining arrangements. Finally she reached the appropriate section of town and caught sight of Matilda and Elizabeth Stanton, the latter of which was readily sighted due to her overt tallness. The movement was by far wider-spread here than in Ireland, a fact which pleased Kathleen to no end. "Miss O'Rourke," she turned to see Susan Anthony beckoning to her, a question related to certain documents, which she had been in charge of filing away after the last meeting. Kathleen located the required papers with little trouble, and soon they were getting underway, the air charged with excitement from all the women anxious for their ideals and goals to be recognized.