22 Aug. 1908
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Delia Dissents


Delia Dissents

Her Diary Records the End of a Great Endeavor
Illustrated by May Wilson Preston
We dressed in our best. Miss Claire was after linding me her illygunt camio broach, for ses she shmiling:
“If yer’re afther rooning for pressydint you must dress betther than ye’re aponunt. Think of the broach undher ye’re chin, Delia,” ses she, “and ye’ll hold ye’re head hy and horty.”
The fuchure mimbers of the yunion began to arrive in boonches.
Some of thim came in carruges owned by the family they warked far and who had innersintly lint thim for the occashun, little dhreaming that insted of a grand parrty the Wolley servants (consisting of mesilf) aloan was afther giving in honor of the Poynt imployees, as Minnie ses tis now the fashun to call oursilves —little dhreaming, as I sed, that we were about to meet for the rightchous purpose of forming a yunion.
The last to arrive was the widder’s maid, the little cullud lass I’m afther tilling ye about befure—the wan named Lilly.
The meeting taking place in me kitchen. I natchurally took the place of chareman, and wid me pertater masher thoomping on the table, I called the meeting to ordher. Mr. Larry Mulvaney arose to rayspictably suggist, as he’s perlitely saying, that we precede to ilict a prisydint at wance and call the roll.
“Prisydint? is it?” ses I, “and who did ye think ye were afther being invited to meet. Sure it’s the Prissydint hersilf whose intertaining the boonch of ye.”
A noomber of those marselled oopstares girls started in to titter and at that me blood biled oop widin me. Raymimbering me camio pin I lifted me chin hortily aloft and sed swately:
“We’ll now preceed to talk of the roll. Minnie, darlint, will ye kindly show the ladies and gintlemin that we are able to call more than wan roll, but that refrishments are intinded to be sarved afther the meeting is over.”
Whereupon Minnie aroze and pulling back the illygunt American flag which Miss Claire is afther linding us as a screen in front of me stachunarry wash tubs, reveeled set enticingly upon thim the rolls and dilicussies in quischun.
“We are here,” ses I, raysing me voyse so it cud be hurd all over the naybyhood, “for the purpose of forming a sarvints yunion and to dishcuss the hard sircumstunses under which we puir loan hardwarking crachures labor wid the shweat of our brows and uther parts of us besides. We have been crooly composed upon for sinchuries, but the time has arrived at last” ses I, obsarving the effect of me oratry in the moyst eyes of minny of me lisseners, “when the worm is about to toorn around and walk home. Lit us, ladies and gintleman,” ses I wid passhun, “dishcuss the ways and meens of impooving, our crool and unforchnut position. Will somewan sphake some wards upon the booted subject, as Mr. James wud be afther calling it.”
“I move,” ses Mr. Tooth, he being the gardenir at the Doodleys, “that we shtart properly. Lit us ilect a Prissydint.”
A fat little schnipe aroze in the rear. She’s afther being the nurse over at the Regal’s house. She and the frorleen are seeted thegither thick as theeves.
“I take this opporchunity,” ses she, “to say that I am an American. I cum” ses she “froom the South, from which as perhaps ye all know hale all the refinied rich, grate and reel ladies and gintlemin in these Yunited States of America. I am opposed at the outset” ses she “to sitting in a meeting or joining a yunion where cullured peeple are admitted.”
Wid that she toorned a horty glance of disdane and scorn upon puir little Lilly Pearl Jackson, she wid the face the cullur of ye’re auld black cat.
I rose in rarth.
“I draw the line at the cullured quischun,” ses I. “Miss Lilly Pearl Jackson will be good enuff to kape her seet.”
“I sickond the moshun,” ses Mr. Mulvaney.
“Passed,” ses Museer, feercely pulling at his mustash on aich side of it.
“And now,” ses I swately, “we’ll preseed to business.”
The Rooshun Jew in charge of the inginearing privit illictrical plant of the Oil magnut, hoose afther owning half of the Poynt itsilf, aroze.
He’s a silint shpaking gintleman, niver known to open his mouth befure.
“For sinchuries” ses he, rolling his black eyes about, “we’ve been compoased upon. You spoke rightly, Miss Pressydint” ses he (I bowed grazefully) “the proverbyull worm is indade about to toorn. I congrachulate you upon this first shtep forward upward—onward. I belave, Miss Pressydint, the idear originated in your fertill brane—the idear germinated there, while you wint about your toil the brillyunt, heaven sint idear came to you, that you would, you could help yere equilly unforchnut bruthers and sisters. And my deer yung lady, while the idear was germinating in your brane, so did the seed in my brane bare fruit of a differunt sort. Behold, deer lady!”
He took from his pocket sumthing rapped about in a peece of oil skin.
“Bruthers and sisters of toil,” ses he, “I show you here the object which will wance and for all settle all quischuns of this sort in the fuchure. Poot this” ses he, “in frunt of the roast. Let your masters think it a—stone—for sharpening the carving knife upon.”
Wid that he paused, then hissed out the follering terryfying ixplunashun:
It’s an unfirnal masheen! ses he.
“Grashus!” ses I, joomping on the table, follared by ivery female in the room, all haulding up there shkirts as though the kitchen were alive wid mice, while the men—the crachures made a onited move tord the winders and doors.
“Poot it in the fire!” yelled Minnie Carnavan at the top of her voyse.
“Throw it out of the window!” yells I.
But Larry Mulvaney had dropped it in the dishpan.
“Let it soke,” ses he. “Mr. Moriarty will ye oblige me by pooting out the loonytick.”
Ordher being raystored wid the ecksit of the Rooshun the minits of the meeting preseeded.
“Let us,” ses I, “dishcuss our sad sichuwashun as ladies and gintleman. Mr. Momose,” ses I, “let us here a ward from you, being a furriner, upon the subject.”
The little Jap aroze promply, and tooched his hed to the flure itsilf. Whin hes throo bowing and hissing in his breth he shpoke at last:
“In Japan —” ses he.
“Shpake to the quischun darlint,” ses I. “We’re in America.”
“Wimmen,” ses the Jap, “have been given but these wan opporchoonity to show what they can do in the warld—namely” ses he—“the wark of rooling the home. Does it not,” ses he, “prove the sex infeerior—incompetent—weak? Man handles his biziness problems well and wiz biziness dispach,” ses he; “but wimmen, given this wan only biziness to attind to fale —fale—badly. The solushun is, let men—”
The American girl aroze hastily.
“Are you making an attack upon our sex?” asks she wid indignashun.
“No, madame,” ses the Jap, bowing for tin minits again. “Only upon ye’re misthresses.”
“Talking of misthresses,” ses Mr. Moriarty, butting in. “Some are grand and uthers are not. Nuthing makes me madder on airth than to have the ladies of the house interfeering in the shtable, pinning bo-nots on to the harnesses and ribbons about me own auld legs. I’m in favor,” ses he, “of doing away wid all ladies in the shtable.”
“Be careful” ses I “of the subjick matter of discurse. Sertin subjecks are dangerous. Rolls, teeching, cullur, unfirnal masheens, and, finully, sex. Drop the paneful subjick. Talk of misthresses as if they was sexless.”
“My madum,” ses a spunky little Irish girl, “requires me to get up at seven A. M. in the morning. Whin are we to be alloud to have a moment for our beauty sleep?”
The quischun aroused instunt intrest among the fare sex—aven the men being intrested.
“Look at us all,” ses the frorleen exsitedly. “Sum of us are—homely. Som few are not. Is it fare—is it rite,” ses she, “that we be not given a chance all—to be beeyutiful?”
“Frorleen,” ses I, “do you think a bit of shlape the morning will take the cracks out of yere face or make Minnie Carnavan’s mouth shmaller?”
At that Minnie aroze in doodgin.
“Is it me ye’re shpaking about?” ses she shcrewing up her mouth, so it looks like a cracked bad egg.
Up spoke the American girl.
“What of the ladies?” asks she shrilly. “Are they not given the chance to have cumplickshuns—”
“—of strorberries and creem?” finishes the frorleen, whose own skin is the cullur of pie paste.
A neet little crachure stood up.
“I have a secret to tell,” ses the girl, and I seen at wance that she was Frinch, lady’s maid to Miss Una Robins.
“Behold zese hands!” ses she. “Do zay look pretty  to you?”
“Very,” ses Larry, and then shrunk back in his place at the look of contimp I’m afther giving him.
“It ees only looks zen,” ses she. “But feel zem—feel zem—annybody—you, Meester Moolvaney!”
But I throost mesilf betune her and Larry.
“Miss—what’s yere name?”
“Marie Montybilly,” ses she.
“Well, then, Miss Monty for short,” ses I, “allow me to infarm you that this is nayther a Coney Island car nor a box at the opera, as Miss Claire would be saying. There’ll be no shly haulding of hands in the shadows.”
“I mearly,” ses she appolygiticully, “vished to show the crool cundishun of me hands. I ern my living,” ses she, “viz zeses hands. See! I do so—ladies—so!” and she passed her hands over her face and pinched it.
“Ah,” ses the Swedish sewing girl who calls hersilf a seamstriss also, “You are massuse.”
“A beauty massoor,” corrects Miss Monty hortily. “My hands were vonce loavely and soft,” ses she. “But now look—feel —”
And again I was obliged to poot a shtop to her ackshuns. The teers cum into her eyes. “Ah,” ses she, “how my loavely hands are hard—rooined —rooined!”
“And why?” asks I, coming to the point.
“Because,” ses she, “all my life is spint in rubbing the face and body of my mishtress wiz alcohol.”
“What?” asks Mr. Moriarty, “Did you say whishkey.”
“Well,” ses I, “and isn’t it yere biziness? Wud you rather cook the alcohol, thin?”
“No, no,” ses she, “I meerly vished to illistrate the sacryvices made by us for ze ladies booty. See! all morning zay sleep—the sleep of beauty. Zen zay wake—the wake of beauty. Zen the chocolate—ze barth—ze rub—ze-”
“That will do,” ses I, interrupting. “We’ll not go into detales. What is the vote?”
“Later rising hours,” ses the American girl bluntly.
“Somewan suggist an hour,” ses I shmiling.
“Nine A. M.” ses the frorleen firmly.
“My!” I joomped out of me seet. “Mr. John,” sez I, “must have brekfust by ate sharp, and the babby is afther wanting his sereal at seven A. M. in the marning.”
Minnie aroze.
“Allow me to shpake,” ses she defyintly. “Its not so much the hours,” ses she, “but the duties!”
A roar wint up at this.
“Yes, yes. That’s it.”
“That’s it! That’s it!” shouts the intire yunion at wance. As the noyse grajoolly subsides, I seen the frorleen stand up firmly. Shes as histurical and ixsited as Mrs. Wolley whin somethings gone rong.
“First of all,” shreeks the frorleen, “set down on papaer in order what we desire—demand,” ses she. “Our hours must be the same as those of any other warking wimmen—8 to 5—or 9 to 6.”
“Are you crazy, frorleen?” ses I pityingly. “Shure the family ates at 7 P.M. at nite. Wud ye have me leeving the dishes over till marning?”  
“That’s a quischun for the mistresses to settle,” ses the American girl, tossing up her chin as if she had a camio broach undher it also. “I move that moshun be passed.”
“I’ll be dammed if you do,” ses I, litting the potato masher shtrike a turrible blow on the table. “Now,” ses I, “I’m pressydint of this yunion. I’ve perlitely infarmed ye all that the babby is afther wanting his sereal at 7 A.M. in the marnin and dinner is sarved at the same hour at night. Are you thrying to confoose me figures. How do ye make eight hours of that?” ses I.
“But you must shange—shange!” cries the frorleen exsitedly. “Rayfoose to sarve sereal till 9.”
“What’s that ye’re saying?” ses I, shtaring at her wid me mouth open. “And have the lamb go hungry?”
“Ah! Ah! Ah!” cries she, shaking hands first wid the American and then the Frinch and Swedish girl, “It is no use. She is impossible—impossible!”
“Am I or am I not Pressydint of this Yunion?” inquires I.
“You are,” ses she, promply, “but help us all to help our condishuns.”
“The hours will remane oonchanged,” ses I.
And thin a new quischun aroze.
“Mistresses,” ses the American girl, “shud have more regard for the feelings of their sarvints. Why shud we be addrissed by our Chrischun names?”
“And what wud ye have them calling you by?” inquiries I.
I seen her look exasperatedly at the frorleen.
“Why shud we be insoolted by the gift of there old clothes?” shrilly demanded the American girl.
“Are ye ixpicting the new wans?” inquires I, sarsarskulluly.
“No—no,” ses she. “Let us not accipt charaty at all. Let us have wages which will enable us to buy new articuls.”
Bridgay Fogarty arose. She’s the cook over at Dudleys and ways three hundred pounds. Shes after being cristened Bridget, but, being swate on Museer, she’s changed the name to Bridgay and made it Frinch. Wance upon a time she shpoke wid sinse, letting loose anny dummed ward which sooted her tung. But now shes all simpers and titters.
“Can we not,” ses she, “inthrajuice the Frinch methods into the houses? Let us say —”
“For the luve of Mike sit down,” ses Larry, whose the crachures own first cousin. Museer pulled the inds of his mustash, and toorned perlitely to me.
“Let us heer your opinyun of ze misthresses, mumsell,” ses he. I beemed upon him.
“I’m glad for the opporchoonity to shpake,” ses I, “if I’m alloud a ward in idgeways. There are misthresses and misthresses. The frorleen over there dishpises hers because she is foolish enuff to call her familyurly Frorleen. We all know what that meens,” ses I wid contimp.
“It is a rayspictable term for miss,” screems the frorleen exsitedly.
I nodded as if I didn’t belave her, and wint on camly:
“The lady frum the South—at yere rite, museer—the wan also ankshiss to dishcuss the sex quischun, hates her mistresses because the lady wont call her frorleen in English. The Frinch musoo, who shpoke a moment sinse is mad clane throo because insted of rubbing her lady’s face and body she’d like to be pinching it insted—Frinch fingers being fond of that exsisose. Excuse me, Museer,” ses I perlitely. “Prisint company is always accepted. Minnie Carnavan dishpises all her misthress,” I wint on, “for she’s niver long enuff wid wan to get acquinted wid the puir crachure at all at all. The men have all been silint upon the paneful subject—all save wan—the  gintleman frum Japan, who has so shmilingly explained to you why women fail as misthresses because of there sex; but, noon the less, all the men sarvints in this cuntry nearly who wark oonder these same ladies—mimbers of the aforesed dishpised sex—are almost intirely from the proud race proclaming the speeriarity of the mail sex. We cum at last to the reel quischun. Are misthresses, good, bad, or indiffrunt? They are! The quischun is ansered!”
 There was silince after me iloquant wards. Then up rose the American girl again.
“Let us get down to bisiness,” ses she. “Let us put several quischuns to the meeting and pass them. First shorter hours.”
“That is decided,” ses I, conthrolling the pertater masher.
“Sicond,” ses she, ignoaring me. “The use of the parlor wance a week, already agytated by our frinds, the club ladies, to see our company in.”
“What would ye be doing there?” asks I. “And sure how manny of you will occupy it at wance? Where will ye dance a quiet little jig, if ye’ve a mind to it, and where wud Mr. Moriarty or Bridgay Fogarty, or Minnie Carnavan there, be taking in peece her little nip of the crachure itsilf?”
Minnie shtood up.
“No gineral housewark!” she suddenly shouted at the top of her voyse.
The frorleen became histiricul. The Frinch musoo was weeping. The eyes of the American girl were flushing out of her hed. Up jumps the Frinch wan.
“Vunce,” ses she, “Ven ze nurse was seek, I mind zose awful leetle divils for tree hours by my vatch. Mon joor! Me—a mussoo!”
The cam voyse of the American girl indivvured to make itsilf hurd above the hubub of uther voyses.
“One wark only for each girl,” ses she.
All over the room now, from the men as well as the wimmen the cries broke out.
“Yes—yes—yes. One wark only!”
“A cook,” ses Bridgay Fogarty, “shall cook only.”
“A waiter wait,” pipes anuther.
“A nurse nurse.”
“Miss Pressydint,” ses the American girl; “may we ask that you kindly sit down these moshuns in ordher.”
“Museer,” ses I, toorning to him perlitely, “will ye kindly have the goodness to act as me suckercherry.”
So Museer rote. Aich wan of us was to have a grand time indade, doing nuthing all day but wan articul of wark, folding our hands betune times. Ivery family, rich or puir was to kape at leest five in hilp. “Whin,” ses the frorleen, “the wark is properly devided and aich girl assined her proper wark—doing not a thing else—we shall have come to the mile-endium.”
“Yes,” ses the American girl fevently, “whin gineral housewarkers is an oonknown quolity.”
“And what,” finilly inquires the frorleen, looking at me cross-eyed, “shall we vote the fate of the wan who brakes the rools?”
“The scab?” ses Minnie savugely, shnarling in me very face.
“She shall be torn to peeces—wiz our tungs!” whispers the Frinch mussoo at the top of her voyse.
I shtood up. The trooth doned upon me. Here was I the Pressydint and fownder of the yunion, a victim of a base conspirissy—for, among the hole boonch of thim, I was the only general housewarker. The shtriking was to be dun by me aloan. I gripped titely hold of me faithful weppon, and shtarted for thim. I sloshed out rite and left.
Bridgay Fogarty faynted ded away in the arms of museer —and she waying three hundred pounds. The frorleen wint into vyillent histiricks as she run for her life frum the room, the hole lot of thim folering her leed, fleeing for there lives out of reech of me pertater masher, there preshus rools, resilations and moshuns moving wid thim. I turned to Larry Mulvaney, the only wan of the boonch left.
“The meeting,” ses I, “has broken up in dishorder.”
“Delia, darlint.” ses he, “wud ye mind calling the roll.”


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People Mentioned

Winnifred Eaton

  • Born: August 21, 1875
  • Died: April 08, 1954
See the Biographical Timeline for biographical information on Winnifred Eaton.

Pseudonym used in this text

Mary Chapman

Mary Chapman is the Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive, a Professor of English, and Academic Director of the Public Humanities Hub at University of British Columbia. She is the author of the award-winning monograph Making Noise, Making News: Suffrage Print Culture and US Modernism (Oxford UP) and of numerous articles about American literature and women writers. She has also edited Becoming Sui Sin Far: Early Fiction, Journalism and Travel Writing by Edith Maude Eaton (McGill-Queen’s UP) and published essays on the Eaton sisters in American Quarterly, MELUS, Legacy, Canadian Literature, and American Periodicals. Her current research project is a microhistory of the Eaton family. For more information, see

Joey Takeda

Joey Takeda is the Technical Director of The Winnifred Eaton Archive and a Developer at Simon Fraser University’s Digital Humanities Innovation Lab (DHIL). He is a graduate of the M.A. program in English at the University of British Columbia where he specialized in Indigenous and diasporic literature, science and technology studies, and the digital humanities.

Organizations Mentioned

Saturday Evening Post

An American general interest magazine first published in 1821 and is still published today. Initially a weekly magazine, now bimonthly.
Written by Samantha Bowen