suffragettes parade new york city

An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Twenty-Nine

Above, 1912 Suffragette Parade in New York City, National Archives

an ostrich-plumed hat

Begin with Chapter One ~ Return to Chapter Twenty-Eight

Hedda Burgemeister, July 1912

Hedda hops off the street car. Elated.

Emmy was right. She loves San Antonio. The temperature might be 98 degrees, even this late in the day, but the heat rising off the streets in New York City is more oppressive. And the people there always press in closer and closer, no matter how hot.

She longs to break into a joyous skip as she turns onto Hunstock Street. Her street.

Herr Cordt tips his hat to her as he hurries the opposite way. Her street. Her neighbor. Her neighbor who has lived here for 20 years, yet still speaks only German.

Oh, dear. She catches herself whistling. An unladylike habit picked up from the boys where her father taught. A habit she thought under better control.

The tune is lodged in her head now and refuses to leave. It affects her gait.

Oh, dear, what can the matter be?

Dear, dear, what can the matter be?

Here, she casts aside the traditional lyrics. The sardonic version is one Suffragettes sang repetitively in the huge parade she witnessed before she left New York City:

Oh, dear, what can the matter be?

Women are wanting to vote.

Women have husbands,

They are protected.

Women have sons

By whom they’re directed.

Women have fathers,

They’re not neglected.

Why are they wanting to vote?

Women have houses,

There they should labor….

Hedda’s interview today did not go as planned. Dr. Herff was delayed by an emergency, and she did not even get to meet him. But Mrs. Hatzenbuehler was so warm. After only a few minutes together they found themselves talking as though they had known each other for years. Hedda’s professional reserve melted immediately. But this was not bad. San Antonio is not like New York City. People are friendly, unguarded. She will be content here.

Hedda stops in her tracks in front of the constable’s house. Mr. Koehler’s horse and carriage are tethered in front of their house.

The door slams. Before Hedda can turn back up the street, he sees her. She cannot hide now.

Mr. Koehler appears irate. She slows her pace down to that of a snail, hoping to allow him time to drive off in his carriage.

Emmy must have been arguing with him again. While Hedda initially disapproved of her friend’s improper relationship, she has found Mr. Koehler polite. And kind. And generous. He is too honorable a man to desert his invalid wife, but Hedda understands the loneliness he must feel. Why does Emmy continue to infuriate him?

His left hand clenches a bouquet of flowers, upside down in some disarray.

Instead of heading toward the carriage, he stops. He removes both his hat and his scowl.

“Fraulein Burgemeister. How pleasant to encounter you once more! I trust you are finding our city to your liking.”

“Herr Koehler. Yes, most certainly. I am so grateful to you. Fraulein Dumpke said you were kind enough to have recommended my services to the senior Doctor Herff. While he had no need of assistance, he passed on your referral to his son.”

“Will you be working for the young doctor, then?”

“I have met only with Missus Hatzenbuehler. But she was so hospitable this afternoon, I am hopeful.”

“If you can meet the formidable Missus Hatzenbuehler’s approval, you have no worries, Miss Burgemeister. She is the gatekeeper. I am sure we will find you fully employed by the time we return from Germany.” The flowers now held upright, he offers them to her, “Might you have a place for these?”

“They are lovely. Thank you, Mister Koehler.”

“Enjoy your evening.”

“And you enjoy your trip.”

She turns up the sidewalk. Her sidewalk. Her home. Well, half her home. On her street. In her city. In the great state of Texas. In her country.

The flowers suffered little, but why on earth had Emmy not placed them in water? How rude to slight his gift. Emmy has become so hard to please. Where is the light-hearted girl she roomed with in school? Or the one who penned those jubilant letters describing her blissful life in San Antonio?

“Emmy? I am back.”

Hedda lays the bouquet gently on the console table and unpins her hat.

“Emmy?”

Emmy emerges from her room, her face puffy and streaked with tears.

“Hedda! How dare you accept flowers from that monstrous ogre?”

“Emmy, why do you insist on getting into arguments with Mister Koehler? He’s been nothing but generous with you.”

“I told him I didn’t want to go to Germany with them.”

“But, Emmy, that’s the responsibility you accepted. However would the poor man take care of his wife alone during such a long journey?”

“Poor man, indeed. He tips his hat, and you think he is a gentleman. You. You who know nothing about what horrid beasts men can be.”

Emmy slams the door behind her as she retreats to her bedroom.

Hedda will have to reason with her later. Perhaps it is the monthly pull of the moon that has rendered Emmy so emotional.

Footnotes

The Author always has had difficulty comprehending that women in this country have only had the right to vote for a century, so she is unable to resist making the female characters in this book eager to cast ballots.

Mrs. Hatzenbuehler is an invented character. She serves as an intermediary with Dr. Herff. Although Hedda did some work for the Doctors Herff, the Author has no idea how she obtained employment and to what extent. And the Author does not know how and when the after-hours relationship of Emma Dumpke and her employer began to unravel.

Continue to Chapter Thirty

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