Reading the Minutes

Fresh Ribbon

I’ve been more than a little busy. So much so that only today have I given a closer look to some of my junk shop purchases from the recent Fordyce, Arkansas side trip.

I found this day book in the only downtown shop with a closed front door. Down here, that means air conditioning, although once inside we found that the AC had in fact just quit and the nice woman who owns the shop was frantically making calls. Since she only had the one fan by the cash register, a closed door, and 103 degrees of south Arkansas sunshine baking us like a pie in there, we speed-shopped.

I found the day book sitting on some old magazines, flipped through the empty pages, and figured a half-dozen delightful uses for it. Not bad for two dollars. Steph found something that wasn’t overpriced, so we quickly paid for everything and ran for the functioning AC of the car.

To be truthful, I was so excited about the two typewriters I’d bought earlier in the week that I didn’t check the rest of my bounty until today. The day book is actually not empty. There are a few pages here and there scribbled in and there’s the faintest hint of a name and purpose on the inside cover. What I’d bought were some hastily-written minutes from the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, circa 1940. Clearly, this secretary-recorder was temporarily filling in for someone else. There’s a hesitancy and lack of detail. It was also (gasp) written in pencil.

Now, I don’t know much about the DAR in other parts of the country, but down here in Arkansas it has a rich legacy of unofficial (and occasionally, quite official) racism. Only women from the best families belonged to the DAR, women who married well and whose important husbands sometimes jaunted out late at night in white sheets.

I know this because my great-grandmother Minnie Mae was a card-carrying member. She was The Doctor’s Wife in a small town called Stamps back when logging and oil were the rage. It was also in the same time and town where Maya Angelou knew how the caged bird sang. Although my grandfather did spend more than a few late nights out, I suspect he was mainly attending medical emergencies or the pool hall. I don’t know. Luther went to his Great Reward before I was born. I knew Minnie Mae. She was something else.

I doubt Minnie Mae ever met the doodling secretary-recorder from Fordyce, even though it’s only an hour away. She was a controlling woman with a fine house and six sets of china who preferred to do her own hostessing, thank you. They might have met at one of those DAR state get-togethers in Little Rock, though. It’s likely some of these women took out the good jewelry and made the train trip.

What all this means is that I have an open invitation to membership. So does my daughter, and if she only bears sons then we’ll be the end of it. The DAR has had seventy years to change since this day book, but I suspect the ladies aren’t ready for the likes of either one of us. The Daughters of the American Revolution will have to work their genealogies and give out those scholarships and whatnot without our help. Not that they’d let us in, legacy or not. Out of the 46 chapters still active in Arkansas, every member listed has “Mrs.” in front of her name.

(Eleanor Roosevelt’s letter of resignation to the DAR. Click on the picture for more.)

Again, maybe it’s a Southern Thing. Maybe I’m dead wrong and the DAR’s become all progressive and inclusive and politically correct. Maybe.

Not bad, buying a bit of Southern feminine history for a couple of bucks. Maybe I’ll use the empty pages to write in a few “minutes” of my own.