Saturday, October 08, 2005

History of Textile Arts in Pocahontas County, Episode 2

Here's the reference to the things Carie Stulting, Pocahontas County fiber artist, knitted for her family. I had thought it was in The Exile, by Pearl S. Buck, the source I quoted earlier this week. Instead, it is from Fighting Angel: Portrait of a Soul by Pearl S. Buck. (p. 138)

Carie knitted our stockings and sweaters and little cuffs she called wristlets.

That's so brief, I feel the need to include the knitting missionary ladies, although it has nothing to do with Pocahontas County. Speaking about the old-school Presbyterian adherence to the Pauline doctrines about women, Buck describes the missionary wives in China.

...the inevitable result of this religious subjection of women was to breed in them an irrepressible independence and desire for self-expression, born of their innate and unconscious sense of injury and injustice. All subject people so suffer. If men were wise they would give women complete freedom and their rebellions would dissipate into mildness and uncertainty.

But in these repressed, strong, vigorous missionary women the blood ran high. Their very faces were stormy and hewn into lines of determination and grimness, with more often than not a touch of humour. There was a good deal of pathos about them, too, particularly among those not yet quite old, who still longed for a little pleasure or were interested in a new dress or what 'the styles' were at home. If one were to choose between the men and the women, the women would have won for the look of strong patience in their eyes and for the stubbornness upon their lips. And in mission meeting, though only the men could rise and speak before the assembly, beside every man sat his woman, her hand ready to grasp his coat tails. How many times I have seen a man leap to his feet, his grizzled beard working, his eyes flashing, and open his mouth to speak, only to sit abruptly, subdued by a strong downward pull upon his coat tails. There would be a vigorous whispered conference between man and woman. Sometimes he was as stubborn as she, and if he could not say what he wanted, he would say nothing. But more often he stood up again after a few moments, the fire gone from his eyes, and clearing his throat, he would begin to speak, and his voice came out as mild as a summer wind. They all knitted, those women, while their men gave reports and passed laws of the church and made prayers. Their strong hard fingers flew while they had to remain mute. Into those stitches went what curbed desires and stubborn wills and plans! They would have burst, I think, without that vent. (p. 170)

Dosen't that make Madame Dufarge seem like a lightweight?


Dave said...

That's a great quote! Thanks for sharing it.

Rebecca Clayton said...

Thanks for reading. Pearl Buck's books about her parents are some of her best work, in my opinion.