Monday, August 13, 2018

Back to School

Cornelia scrutinized the row of averaged scores one last time. With a wry smile and a shake of her head, she erased the word “Failed” and replaced it with “Pelle Dentium” (Latin for “skin of the teeth”) She had enjoyed Henry’s wit in her Latin classes and decided to pass him in spite of his absences during spring planting season.
            With a sigh, her thoughts returned to her future. Young women are supposed to look forward to marriage and be thankful for being spared a life of spinsterhood. However, once she married Joseph, she would have to give up her position as English and Latin teacher at Oneida High School and assume the responsibilities as head of the household at the Mosher Farm.
            “I should be ashamed of myself,” she thought. “Joseph is a fine man with a strong sense of responsibility and a warm sense of humor. He has worked for my father for several years and will soon be ready to capably manage the farm operation. He is respected in the church and community and has been a godsend to my mother during the years that I have been away. God forgive me for any reservations about marrying him.”
            Grades and attendance records competed, she left the school and walked the two blocks to the neat, white house where she had boarded for the last four school years. She had less than half an hour to finish packing before her father came to pick her up. Most of her belongings were already packed in the familiar wooden trunk. The first time she had packed the trunk was when she had boarded in Galesburg to finish her high school education. At that time, Oneida offered only two years of high school, and her father had been determined that she would receive the best possible education. How proud she had been; many of her grade school companions had not even completed eight full years in the country school near her home. She had excelled in her high school studies, and in 1900 had packed her trunk again, this time to move to Whiting Hall at Knox College.
            She was nearly finished with her packing; the last item to place in the trunk was a long, narrow pressed wood box, a gift from her sister when she had left home. Containing important mementos, this box had held a place of honor on the bureau of her bedroom in Galesburg, Whiting Hall, and Onelda. Most of the mementos were from those stimulating days at Knox--where she was known as Kit, not Cornelia. She picked up the white kid gloves, remembering the many special occasions when she had worn them. She looked at her graduation photo, recalling how stylish she had felt in her new shirtwaist with the smart, high collar. Unfolding the the Commencement bulletin dated June 10, 1905 she again felt the pride she had felt when the Dean had called, “Cornelia Mosher, Summa Cum Laude.” Her family had all been there, equally proud. Her eyes lingered on several letters from close college friends, now married and caring for young children. She knew that she must accept a new period in her life.
            She would marry Joseph, and they would take over the family farm and home as her parents had done thirty-three years earlier. She would care for her aging parents in gratitude for the sacrifices they had made for her education. Even though she would likely never teach again, she would use her talents in the Congregational Church her grandfather had helped to organize. She and Joseph  would provide a loving, Christian home for the family that they would have.
            This would be her life, a rich fulfilling domestic lie...but she would never forget those few stimulating years of her academic life. Cornelia could not help wondering if there would ever be a time and place when a woman could combine the best of both those worlds.