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Missouri, 1907

She bore the burden of taunts with grace;

after all it was her own fault.

As she walked home and heard another

whisper of “hussy” shouted her way,

Audrey reached a protective hand

towards the baby growing inside her.

She thought back seven months to

the night her life changed so dramatically.

She had been walking home after the social,

only then it had been bitterly cold.

She thought how lucky she was

when her neighbor pulled up with his buggy.

“Hop up.  The horses are used to stopping at your house.

How’s your pa?”

Gratefully, she climbed up to the seat.

She had been so cold,

and when he offered his arm around her

it was warm and safe.

She should have known better than to act in such a way–

ladies do not act in a manner

to tempt a man to lustful thoughts.

That’s what she had done–

“Tempt a married man, a good man.  How could she?”

That’s what he had said when she finished crying,

and he returned her to her family.

Later when she realized that she carried his baby,

she determined to correct her mistake.

She would deliver this baby without a mention of his name.

She alone would suffer from such shame.

It’s the least she could do for being such a temptress–

gracefully she would bear her burden.

When her family demanded to know who she’d been with,

she sat quietly.

When the minister spoke to her of repenting and confessing,

she sat quietly.

When the neighbor’s wife now passed her on the street

and whispered harlot, she walked on quietly.

Soon she would quietly give birth without family celebration

and name her daughter Grace.

This week’s topic for the Monday Poetry Potluck is romance.  I don’t do romance.  Instead, I’ve looked into my family history to my great-great aunt.  All I know is that she gave birth out of wedlock in 1907 at the age of 17.  In all my genealogical research, I’ve learned that a couple’s first baby can come as soon as three months after the wedding and it is normal.  It’s only with the second baby that it requires a full nine months to develop.  Because of her age and because she did not marry, I can only assume the father of her child was someone who took advantage of her.  At this time, however, she bore the sole burden for her situation, and her own family even whispered about her.  It’s finally time we stopped holding her accountable for being taken advantage of.

30 thoughts on “Missouri, 1907

  1. Love and romance was the topic.
    This represents love to me.
    Taken the shame on her own.
    Looking for love in an arm around her shoulder.
    This is a magnificent piece.
    It really moves me and the fact that there is history behind it makes it all the more poignant.

  2. Because this was culled from your own family’s past made it even more intriguing and “real”, Teresa. I loved this sad tale but also a very brave one too. Such dignity in the face of so much pressure…

    What a great job you did here–thank you for sharing this.

    Gayle xoxo

  3. woahhh This one took me back in time! I haven’t ever read such a well written time-traveling piece before this. I like the way you unfolded a piece of history through poetry. Well done.

  4. ahhh ‘grace’.. my very favorite word. has such depth. the story is beautiful.. reminds me totally of The Scarlet Letter with the minister and all. Seems to have been the story of many – women alone being accused as though they did it to themselves or did it alone.

    Well this is amazing grace. 🙂 May God bless her wherever she is now.

  5. This is incredible! Rich with your own family history.
    love (your love of people and this woman is strong!)

    …and the baby was named Grace. A stunning ending that evokes tenderness, strength, and beauty.

    I love the history!

    Thanks for being you!

  6. Through history, the shame was the girl/ woman’s. Till now…may all babies be loved, all women be strong..
    You brought such an emotional feel to this tragic tale..your ancestor is not forgotten!

  7. Teresa,

    You reached back in time and gave voice to a woman who could not speak for herself. It wasn’t so long ago. Your great-great aunt sounds like a tremendous person, having to endure all that pain, the shame, the “scarlet A,” when of course the man was never blamed.

    Actually, a lot of it is still true today. Bless you for sharing this! Amy BL

  8. Romance isn’t just about ‘lovey-dovey’ feelings, it’s also about deeper emotions like dispair or woe.

    Your piece was romantic the way it shared the emotional struggles of the character, and the fact that she was a real person only serves to make it more powerful.

    (See? You DO do romance!)

    Excellent dish for the Poetry Potluck, Razz!

  9. Pardon my expression here- I was born as a “legitimate” child since mom and dad were a married couple.. that’s the terminology used here (in India) to describe someone who is born to a married couple.. xx

  10. Very well done Teresa.. Your Aunt was a very tough woman.. One who made her own decisions and knew how to stick to those..
    I am definitely aware of the hardships she must have gone through bringing Grace up!! I was born out of wedlock. Dad had chosen to abandon me and mom and walked away. After mom passed away when I was 17, soon thereafter, I too was thrown out of my house..

    Now I am known with a “name” chosen by mom and I have dropped my dad’d name too!! Legally and on all papers!! On certain papers I write mom’s name till I press charges to use not my dad’s name in any document whatsoever.. wish me Luck!!

    That aside, I have seen my mom slog- till she died a very helpless death- that’s what I now write about in my Biography.. http://oliviasbiopiclog.wordpress.com/about-2/

    The atrocities didn’t end here.. it’s still on- now, I have learnt how to smile through those..

    I salute your aunt and you for bringing HER up here and with so much Pride..

    Loads of Love and wishes My Dear.. xxxx
    My entry- http://oliviasmindlymatters.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/for-you-my-him/

  11. In some countries we are better about this now; but, there are places where young women and their children still suffer.

    This is a nice way of paying homage to your aunt and honoring her strength.

    Good job.

  12. Grace –
    a state of sanctification by God; the state of one who is under such divine influence;

    Something to think about. Hah, maybe Grace wasn’t a mistake. :]

  13. heart broken piece,
    you said it beautifully…

    Thanks for the reminders.
    I heard of such from my old grandmother.
    hurray for today’s women, we are luck to live in 21 century.

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