Women a Beast of Burden

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter XIX (9) | Start of Chapter

The car was now coming, and with joy I hailed it. "No room," was the answer, and onward was the only alternative. Reaching the bottom of the steep hill, two girls were resting by a wall, one with a little bundle, the other with a basket of turf; to me it looked sufficiently weighty to make a donkey stagger. "And do you, my girl, carry this on your back?" "I does, ma'am; but ye are wairy, ma'am, and have ye long to walk?" The girl with the small bundle took up my basket, and the other adjusted the turf upon her head; this was done by a rope of straw put in one side of the basket, and fastened across the forehead; a cloth is doubled and put over the forehead first, that the rope need not fret it. When I looked at this rosy-faced girl of seventeen and saw the symmetry of her features, the brilliancy of her eye, and beauty of her teeth, what a pity and what a sin, I thought, to take such a finished piece of God's workmanship and convert it to a beast of burden! Weary and crippled as I was, my real condition called for fresh gratitude, that I was not born in oppressed Ireland, where woman can never be woman if not born to an earthly inheritance.

Asking the girl if she was not tired of my basket, "O no, ma'am, I wish it was greater, if it would lighten your fut." We sat down upon a bank, and taking the books from my basket, I presented each of them with portions of the Scripture. Offering the girl who had carried them a tract, telling her it contained an interesting story, "I will take the Word of God," was the answer. This "Word of God" at the south seems to possess peculiar value in the minds of many of the peasantry, in spite of all training, and often have they not only astonished, but instructed me, by the appropriate applications they have made of this Word.

Ireland’s Welome to the Stranger is one of the best accounts of Irish social conditions, customs, quirks and habits that you could wish for. The author, Mrs Asenath Nicholson, was an American widow who travelled extensively in Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine and meticulously observed the Irish peasantry at work and play, as well as noting their living conditions and diet. The book is also available from Kindle.