When Pa said yes to my request to go to town for further schooling, my mother was furious. She was adamantly opposed to me leaving the farm, believing as she did that I had enough education to prepare me for the job of wife and mother. Besides, Ma argued that I was much too young to board out and she needed my help at the farm as Bertha had left home to board in town and attend school when I was a toddler.
I knew, even as a little girl, that my father would prevail. He was a small, soft-spoken man, but his word, however quiet, was law. Unlike my mother, he believed that girls should be educated beyond the minimum of reading, writing and sums. He said that it was important for women to have a trade, and pointed to the examples of Bertha, going to school in town, and my cousin Nell, who had left our small town to go to Toronto to learn to be a teacher. The plan was that I would stay in Nell’s old bedroom at Uncle John’s through the week, and come home to help on the farm at the weekends.
So it was that, despite my frantic mother’s tears and entreaties, when the end of September came and most of the harvest was complete, I packed my small valise with clean collars and other necessities for the week, and clambered into the wagon with Pa. My older brothers loaded the wagon with my precious box of books and foodstuffs and jars of preserves for Uncle John and Cousin Will, Pa slapped the reins on the back of our old brown horse, the wagon lurched forward and we were on our way. I knew there was no turning back now. If nothing else, my stubborn pride prevented me from jumping out and running back to my tearful mother.
When we arrived in town, I felt small and frightened as I looked up at Uncle John’s tall brick house, but this was my chance at more education and the only one I would get. I had got my way and I was determined to do well and make Pa proud of me. He was not given to displays of emotion, and had said little to me on the journey to town, beyond reminding me that I was to mind my manners, work hard at school and be sure to have the tea ready for Uncle John each day. He worked each afternoon job as a Church warden. Now, Pa patted me gently on the shoulder, then lifted me down and gathered up several boxes of food. I hefted my valise and a bag of tomatoes to carry up the walkway and across the narrow porch.
Uncle John and Cousin Will came out to greet us and together we unloaded the wagon. With no more ceremony, Pa exchanged a few words with Uncle John, climbed back into the wagon, clicked his tongue to the horses, and and my life in town began.
*Wagon and house samples of what to expect for the times.