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Anna Dickinson: The Girl Orator
by [?]

Entirely absorbed in her own narrative now, she continued to pour out a flood of facts with such an eloquence and persuasive use of words that her hearer was lost in amazement over a young girl who was so fluent in her use of language. From her frank tale he gathered that she had been a wayward, wilful, intense, and very imaginative child, who, despite her evident devotion to her mother, had probably given her many hours of worry and unhappiness. It was evident also that as a younger child she had been considered an incorrigible pupil at school, for she seemed to have always rebelled against discipline which she thought unnecessary.

“They could punish me all they liked,” she said, with flashing eyes. “I would never obey a rule that had not been explained to me and that wasn’t fair–never! Teachers and mothers were always telling good little girls not to play with me, and I was glad ! Girls the teachers call ‘good’ sometimes are not that at all; they just know how to hide things from the teachers.” As her hearer made no comment, but listened with an amused smile curving his lips, Anna continued: “I adore books, but, oh, how I hate school, when the rich girls laugh at my clothes and then at me if I tell them that my mother is poor and we work for all we have! It isn’t fair, because we can’t help it, and we do the best we can. I never would say it to them in the world–never! In the first school I went to they used to tease the children who were timid, and bother them so much that they would forget their lessons and get punished when it was not their fault. But I looked after them,” declared Anna, proudly. “I fought their battles for them, until the others left them alone, because they were afraid to fight me, I was so strong. Oh, sir,” she cried, “why can’t people always be fair and square, I wonder?”

As if mesmerized by the intensity of this remarkable young reformer, the lawyer found himself repeating, “I wonder!” as if he had no opinions on the subject, but at the same time he was doing some thinking in regard to such a unique character as this one before him. When she had finished speaking he rose and put a bundle of work in her hand. “I will help you and your brave mother all I can,” he said. “While you are doing that copying I will speak to other lawyers, who, I am sure, will give you more to do. I have looked over what you have done, and can warmly recommend you as a copyist. I hope we shall have many more long talks together.”

So with her package under her arm, and a warm feeling of satisfaction in her heart because she had found a new friend who said she could do good work, she hurried home.

Almost from baby days it had been evident that Anna Dickinson was no ordinary child, and how to curb the restless spirit and develop the strong nature into a fine woman was a great problem for the already over-burdened mother. Even as a young child Anna had an iron will, and discipline, of which she later learned the value, so chafed her independent nature that she was generally in a state of rebellion. From her own story it was clear that she must have been a terror to unjust teachers or pupils; but she did not mention the many devoted friends she had gained by her championship of those who were not being treated fairly according to her ideas. Hers was a strong, talented, courageous, fearless nature, which was bound to be a great power for good or evil. The scales were turned in the right direction by her passionate love for her mother and an intense desire to lift some of the burden of financial worry from her shoulders, as she saw Mrs. Dickinson, with tireless industry, struggle to make ends meet, and to feed, clothe, and educate her fatherless children. Her one determination was to have them grow up into noble men and women, but in Anna’s early life it seemed as if the tumultuous nature would never be brought to any degree of poise and self-control. She showed a marked love of books, even when she was only seven years old, and would take one of her mother’s volumes of Byron’s poems and, hiding under a bed, where she would not be disturbed, read for hours.