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my economy quilt

“Well, mark my words: you’ll find it a dear quilt before you get through. Do be sensible now and sell them for tin-ware, or give them to the children to cut up into dolls’ clothes. You wouldn’t see my mother puttering over such foolery.”
      I was chafed again.

Mrs. Caroline A. Soule, “My Economy Quilt,” in The Ladies’ Repository 28:10 (April 1860) : 382-389 (384) (google books)
(384) (hathitrust)

Caroline Augusta White Soule (1824-1903), was an American novelist, poet, religious writer, editor, and ordained Universalist minister, who was in 1880 the first woman to be ordained as a minister in the United Kingdom; first president and one of the founders of the Woman’s Centenary Aid Association, the earliest national organization of American church women; and the first Universalist Church of America missionary when sent to Scotland in 1878.

see also the biography of Caroline Soule written by Alan Seaburg in the Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography, an on-line resource of the Unitarian Universalist History & Heritage Society.

The story begins with a challenge by the author’s late husband, Henry Birdsell Soule (1815-1852), who comes into the sitting room, in which the narrator has emptied out onto the floor two bags of “bits of bleached cotton of every shape,” as well as bits of calico, “all the colors of the rainbow.” She had thought he would be closeted in his study all day, working up a sermon, but he was making little headway, this day, had already spoiled two sermon books, and needed her to stitch half a dozen more for him.

And so we are introduced to the domestic life of a clergyman and his wife. Alas, the parson’s wife had planned on some own-some time this day. She outlives him — Soule, I mean — and will become a pastor herself, eventually in Glasgow. am recalled to detour, not really taken, 2-3 years ago, regarding the wives of parsons, their lives — their part in pastoral duties, social work for which some were perhaps better suited — fit — than others.

There is a strain of the unconscious (or stream of conscious) in all of this — “such a pile of them, and so many hours as I had spent cutting; but my pattern, though not very elaborate, had a great deal of waste to it, as I found by the shreds...” — that brings to mind some current reading, even Claire-Louise Bennett (and Ann Quin). It is not so unreasonable to transcribe the whole, to breathe in its rhythms — “floating rhythm” (“schwebender Rhythmus) — as (meanwhile) the country drifts into its “civil war” — is that an accurate term?

Click right for that transcription.

11 March 2022