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The Strike At Putney
by [?]

Then the thunderbolt descended on the W.F.M.A. of Putney from a clear sky. The elders of the church rose up to a man and declared that no woman should occupy the pulpit of the Putney church. It was in direct contravention to the teachings of St. Paul.

To make matters worse, Mr. Sinclair declared himself on the elders’ side. He said that he could not conscientiously give his consent to a woman occupying his pulpit, even when that woman was Mrs. Cotterell and her subject foreign missions.

The members of the Auxiliary were aghast. They called a meeting extraordinary in the classroom and, discarding all forms and ceremonies in their wrath, talked their indignation out.

Out of doors the world basked in June sunshine and preened itself in blossom. The birds sang and chirped in the lichened maples that cupped the little church in, and peace was over all the Putney valley. Inside the classroom disgusted women buzzed like angry bees.

“What on earth are we to do?” sighed the secretary plaintively. Mary Kilburn was always plaintive. She sat on the steps of the platform, being too wrought up in her mind to sit in her chair at the desk, and her thin, faded little face was twisted with anxiety. “All the arrangements are made and Mrs. Cotterell is coming on the tenth. How can we tell her that the men won’t let her speak?”

“There was never anything like this in Putney church before,” groaned Mrs. Elder Knox. “It was Andrew McKittrick put them up to it. I always said that man would make trouble here yet, ever since he moved to Putney from Danbridge. I’ve talked and argued with Thomas until I’m dumb, but he is as set as a rock.”

“I don’t see what business the men have to interfere with us anyhow,” said her daughter Lucy, who was sitting on one of the window-sills. “We don’t meddle with them, I’m sure. As if Mrs. Cotterell would contaminate the pulpit!”

“One would think we were still in the dark ages,” said Frances Spenslow sharply. Frances was the Putney schoolteacher. Her father was one of the recalcitrant elders and Frances felt it bitterly–all the more that she had tried to argue with him and had been sat upon as a “child who couldn’t understand.”

“I’m more surprised at Mr. Sinclair than at the elders,” said Mrs. Abner Keech, fanning herself vigorously. “Elders are subject to queer spells periodically. They think they assert their authority that way. But Mr. Sinclair has always seemed so liberal and broad-minded.”

“You never can tell what crotchet an old bachelor will take into his head,” said Alethea Craig bitingly.

The others nodded agreement. Mr. Sinclair’s inveterate celibacy was a standing grievance with the Putney women.

“If he had a wife who could be our president this would never have happened, I warrant you,” said Mrs. King sagely.

“But what are we going to do, ladies?” said Mrs. Robbins briskly. Mrs. Robbins was the president. She was a big, bustling woman with clear blue eyes and crisp, incisive ways. Hitherto she had held her peace. “They must talk themselves out before they can get down to business,” she had reflected sagely. But she thought the time had now come to speak.

“You know,” she went on, “we can talk and rage against the men all day if we like. They are not trying to prevent us. But that will do no good. Here’s Mrs. Cotterell invited, and all the neighbouring auxiliaries notified–and the men won’t let us have the church. The point is, how are we going to get out of the scrape?”

A helpless silence descended upon the classroom. The eyes of every woman present turned to Myra Wilson. Everyone could talk, but when it came to action they had a fashion of turning to Myra.

She had a reputation for cleverness and originality. She never talked much. So far today she had not said a word. She was sitting on the sill of the window across from Lucy Knox. She swung her hat on her knee, and loose, moist rings of dark hair curled around her dark, alert face. There was a sparkle in her grey eyes that boded ill to the men who were peaceably pursuing their avocations, rashly indifferent to what the women might be saying in the maple-shaded classroom.