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Archived 2016 Group Reads > Week 2 - And Ladies of the Club

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message 1: by jb (new)

jb Byrkit (jbbyrkit) Week 2 - July 17 1868 part 4, 1869, 1870 (54)


message 2: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments Discussion on this section starts on Sunday, July 17.


message 3: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments Only week 2, and so much is happening! Marriages, marriages, marriages, and a birth.

The marriage of Ann Alexander and John Gordon seemed to have been in the works for many years. And they certainly didn't wait around to have their first child, even though John presumably isn't earning all that much yet.

But what of the warning Anne's father gave her about John. Dr. Alexander worked with John in his practice, so probably knows him better than most men know their prospective sons-in-law. Is there any foreshadowing here of stormy times to come?

But the marriages keep coming. Some of these engagements and marriages seem to me a bit quick. Sally only met Ludwig I think at her graduation, but they do a fairly rapid job of falling in love and marrying. Miss Tucker and General Deming also seem not to have known each other very long before she, if I read the tea leaves right, scooped him up.

And then there's Thomasina and Samuel -- another fairly rapid, it seems to me, courtship and marriage.

Perhaps that was the norm in 1868; long engagements don't seem to have been very popular!

And then there's the reverse, as Mrs. Travers, the elder Lowery daughter, leaves her husband to come home to live with her parents (and replace a new teacher at the school and take the job herself.)

I'm only through 1869, still have 1870 to read (though I peeked ahead to Thomasina's marriage), but so many events! But then, I guess we're starting the story just as these young women reach their marital ages, so maybe not surprising. Of the young women we've been introduced to, there aren't that many still unattached!


message 4: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments I'm a bit disappointed that we aren't hearing more about the presentations made at the club. Since Helen Santmyer was an English professor, and later librarian, she must have had some fairly well formed opinions about the literary world, and I was expecting to see those come out in the presentations made to the club, but so far we've had very little. I hope that changes down the road!


message 5: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments In case anybody didn't get the reference to Mrs. Jellyby early in 1870, she's a character from Bleak House who is totally committed to doing good works for poor Africans while totally ignoring the needs of her own children and family, and basically turning her daughter into a slave to her "good works." She is generally seen as a mockery of liberals who have more concern for people worlds away than for those next door.


message 6: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments The people who are presented as Lyceum lecturers in 1870 were all actual people on the Lyceum lecture circuit. You can go look them all up if interested!


message 7: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments What do people think of a teacher who believes that "children were one of the awful and inescapable consequence of marriage." [Amanda Reid, early in 1870] I'm not sure I would want her teaching my children!


message 8: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) Charming lady ... ;-)


message 9: by SusanK (new)

SusanK I don't see that the author had any children either. Perhaps Amanda Reid is the author character.
Yes, I think engagements were much shorter in the olden days. It also varies by region. When I was growing up in the Midwest, a 6 month engagement was considered a LONG one. Now, years can go by.
No literature presentations, and very little of the interior life of the older ladies either. But then, the young ladies will get older.
Children came along quickly. After all, abstinence was the only birth control. No child after a year? Something must be wrong with "her".


message 10: by Dianne (new)

Dianne | 1263 comments Everyman wrote: "Only week 2, and so much is happening! Marriages, marriages, marriages, and a birth.

The marriage of Ann Alexander and John Gordon seemed to have been in the works for many years. And they certai..."


I think the marriage frenzy is a combination of the times and the good 'ol south. I suspect marriage was often much of a business or social arrangement. Interesting how 'falling in love' weighs more heavily these days! I suspect it was common to marry early, and rare to get divorced in those days. I think engagements and marriages still weigh heavily in the social calendar of a small town, especially in the south!


message 11: by Dianne (new)

Dianne | 1263 comments Everyman wrote: "In case anybody didn't get the reference to Mrs. Jellyby early in 1870, she's a character from Bleak House who is totally committed to doing good works for poor Africans while totally ignoring the ..."

thanks for this reference! Haven't read BH so much appreciated!


message 12: by Dianne (new)

Dianne | 1263 comments Everyman wrote: "The people who are presented as Lyceum lecturers in 1870 were all actual people on the Lyceum lecture circuit. You can go look them all up if interested!"

this is why I love these chats, I learn so many interesting things and am directed to research all kinds of tidbits. I didn't really know much about the lyceum movement, and found this interesting:

http://www.journalofphilosophyandhist...


message 13: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) I know that I have no business in commenting here (but I am!) as I'm only a few pages in, but I also appreciate the Mrs Jellyby reference. As I had not reread recently, I had forgotten much of the detail. Mrs Jellyby was a desperately overbearing lady.


message 14: by Dianne (new)

Dianne | 1263 comments What does everyone think about John at this point? At the end of this section he is so detached, disconnected, it as if Anne "had no reality for him." I have the feeling that this behavior will persist, that is somehow is related to more than just the suicide. As far as the suicide, do you think there was more to the story than the note? What about Anne's thoughts that a suicide hanging over her family "seemed a greater menace than a living woman?"


message 15: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 885 comments Dianne wrote: "What does everyone think about John at this point? At the end of this section he is so detached, disconnected, it as if Anne "had no reality for him." I have the feeling that this behavior will per..."

Good questions. I'm still not sure exactly what Dr. Alexander meant about John, but he seems to have at least some amount of what we today would call PTSD (and after WWI was called shell shock) from having to minister to all that death, particularly that of his friend Rob. Ludwig seems to have gotten over his war experience and gotten onto a positive and energetic track. John, not so much.

As to Kate's suicide, I'm still not sure what's behind it. Do people think she was responding to a failed lesbian relationship?


message 16: by SusanK (last edited Jul 23, 2016 05:24PM) (new)

SusanK Everyman wrote: "Dianne wrote: "What does everyone think about John at this point? At the end of this section he is so detached, disconnected, it as if Anne "had no reality for him." I have the feeling that this be..."

My immediate thought about Kate's suicide ran along those same lines. The author had a lifelong companion of 30 years that moved into the retirement home with her. Willa Cather similarly had a lifetime companion. These ladies also served as literary help. Whether or not these relationships had a physical expression, (and in that age of greater privacy, no one would have necessarily known) the idea of living alone and isolated on a farm certainly would lead to great unhappiness in most people. Kate seemed to have befriended other poor girls in the country, also with no success. And to be so eccentric in an age of absolute conformity must have been painful to her.


message 17: by Dianne (new)

Dianne | 1263 comments Good points Everyman and Susan. I guess every post war era has its contingent of self medicating veterans, and perhaps this was the era of whiskey and possibly laudanum. However John seems to be deeply disturbed even beyond his war experience, and I detect some significant unraveling to come.

I hadn't realized the author had a 30 year live in companion, and I wonder about her personality and if she identified with Kate at all. I totally agree that nonconformity was not an asset during this time, and I wonder if we will learn more about Kate's circumstances later in the book.


message 18: by Tanya (new)

Tanya Booklovinghippo (booklovinghippo) | 33 comments Sorry im so far behind, just finished reading this section today. I was surprised by the number of marriages, but i guess in those days what else did you do? You went through school, got married and had your own family; women then raised the family (thank heavens i was not born during that time... i would not have survived!)

I am curious to know what Dr. Alexander meant about John. I really hope that nothing terrible happens to Anne because she seems like such a sweet girl. Although, i feel like Kate's suicide will have a terrible effect on John, which will just cause a tail spin.

Everyman, you mentioned that you thought a failed lesbian relationship was behind the suicide. I actually had a similar thought especially when it was mentioned that Kate got really upset that the girls she hired kept running off. I wonder if she was hoping that they would become her lover?


message 19: by jb (new)

jb Byrkit (jbbyrkit) I found the advice that Anne's father gave her rather foreboding or warning like...emphasizing a wife's duty especially to a doctor.


message 20: by Dianne (new)

Dianne | 1263 comments jennbunny wrote: "I found the advice that Anne's father gave her rather foreboding or warning like...emphasizing a wife's duty especially to a doctor."

this is the part of this book I just have so much trouble with... a 'woman's role' ... a 'woman's duty'.... UGH! I guess you just have to recall that this was quite some time ago when women did just not have the same opportunities, and getting married and having babies were the light of a woman's life! Don't get me wrong, I love my babies (big kids now, at 4 and 7) but I value my independence to an extreme degree. Anne doesn't seem that much of a spitfire however, somehow I wonder if she would have taken advantage of additional opportunities if they were granted to her. If john ends up being a ne'er do well I suspect she may opt to remain as oblivious as possible.


message 21: by jb (new)

jb Byrkit (jbbyrkit) Anne strikes me (so far) as maybe a girl who just goes through life with her head stuck in the sand. Her essay was short sighted in my opinion based on how little work she did. But I do keep in mind she is still very young at 18. Now the whole wife role is a bit gloomy but at that time it was a role a woman clung to. With my kids all grown, I tried to express to each the importance of going for more in life.

Sally seems a bit judgmental at this point too.


message 22: by Dianne (new)

Dianne | 1263 comments That's a good point about her being 18. Who knows anything at 18??


message 23: by Ami (new)

Ami Dianne wrote: "jennbunny wrote: "I found the advice that Anne's father gave her rather foreboding or warning like...emphasizing a wife's duty especially to a doctor."

this is the part of this book I just have so..."


this was a really good section to read, especially the latter years. I for one was rather intrigued by Kate's shenanigans. At first, I thought, she was reminiscent of Miss Havisham from Dickens' "Great Expectations..." The grooming of youngsters into early adulthood, companionship with them, and of course, the fear of solitude. But deep down, I think I was really hoping that Kate would end up being a lesbian (HA!); nurturing and maintaining a quality of life for those who are otherwise unable to do so, living with her under false pretenses, only to be jilted inevitably for a man? Kate's suicide, I was surprised at how callous Sally's support for both Anna and John felt...Wasn't it?

The other detail that stood out to me was how John would have rather sought comfort/"release" from a promiscuous woman and not his wife, where he could merely be a man and not John Gordan. He says specifically, His wife could not give him that kind of release; she loved him too much for that; he looked into her eyes and saw himself mirrored there (142). What is he saying here, exactly...That he doesn't want to be himself for a moment, or could it also possibly be something sexual? At the end of this section, Ann says she won't ask him to give up any of his minor vices thinking drinking after work is understandable. But John goes on to think that if he promised her to give up something (committing suicide) he never thought of doing in the first place, does making her that promise set him free to indulge in the other 'minor vices' without violating his conscience...John Gordon is totally a frequenter of that house down the railroad where promiscuity was walled in, and identities left outside the walls (142 & 45).


message 24: by Ami (last edited Sep 04, 2016 08:37PM) (new)

Ami Dianne wrote: "What does everyone think about John at this point? At the end of this section he is so detached, disconnected, it as if Anne "had no reality for him." I have the feeling that this behavior will per..."

John is like Jeb Bush...Low energy (poor guy. SMH!). It's not necessarily a bad thing, maybe just ineffective? He definitely seems to be ailing from something, shellshocked as Everyman says, but he's been pretty consistent since the beginning. However, I don't believe he's disconnected from Anne, he loves her and is attentive to her when they are together. After Kate's passing, I think it would be understood him being rather listless. I curious to reading about if it continues and if Kate's death will plague him. John's a busy doctor trying to build upon a preexisting predetermined medical practice...It's got to be difficult trying to convince your father-in-law/partner/fellow doctor of newer and better methods to age old reasoning and practices, let alone the already existing patient roster who are so used to Dr. Alexander's ways and means. Perhaps, this is exactly what Dr. Alexander was telling his daughter before she and John were married...To not give him a hard time because his occupation is demanding?

Oh, there's definitely something going on with all of these men...We already know Dr. Alexander has a laudanum addiction (right?), John could possibly be finding "release" in the arms of another, even Mr. Travers is up to something (supposedly), etc...


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