A Young Lady's Own Book

From Living the Water Underground

—1951. Isabel Pulcheria. (unbound). American West Publishing Co., Palo Alto, California.

Conditions had become dire by the mid century, especially in the Midwestern Watersheds. Hundreds of thousands of militant women, water-witches, wives, widows, matrons, and students had gone on strike, fomented by Sister Pulcheria and her Vivid Unionists. Historical studies gleaned from the Annals of Fernleigh's Grange suggested that female exertions were to be subordinate at all times. "Delicate and soluble women," it was written, "assume supine authority while reading cloud-signs in unison with rainwater soundings." The Oatmeal Mother was neither delicate nor soluble - her spinning never supine, her identity hard to verify. Her responses to the systematic disenfranchisement of women were as widely targeted as they were varied. Vacation girls, conscripted into the Vivid Unionists, silently held oat-straw brooms with floorboard deference and looked towards the fields with thoughts of autumnal flocks. At equinox, it is rumored, The Oatmeal Mother's seditious spinning increased in periodic frequency and rotational intensity. Seeds were primed and printed. Clouds loosened water, while vacation girls left their homes to forage for grain foods and animal fat. The Oatmeal Mother, soaking her bread in urine, rejected specific languages of captivity and longing, advocating widespread menstrual strikes against conservative standard-bearers.

October of 1938 witnessed the distribution of A Young Lady's Own Books, a series of cheaply produced and widely disseminated chapbooks advocating tactical withholding of intercourse, food, urine as well as the use of radical hydromancy as an early response of the Vivid Suffragette Unions. Husbands, fathers, uncles, bachelors, held frantic watershed meetings to determine what course to pursue in the imminence of rapidly impending industrial, political, and social paralysis. While they railed against the subtle tactics of the Vivid Unionists, their responses, though media-saturated, were largely ineffectual in altering either subsequent events or public opinion.

A few short years saw the escalation of vehement response with the beginning of the watercourse bombings, pegged "The War of the Spillways," targeting transmission lines, gas plants, steam power stations, and various water power developments including generator coils and damn and dike construction sites. The covert strikes culminated in the 1942 spillway attack at Taylor Falls, resulting in the death of a Stone & Webster Engineering Corporation Construction Supervisor, and the beginning of the Water Wars.

Even today, to visit a fashionable power house or damn, we witness, for example, dressed-to-the-tens society arriving for a wedding, the ladies placing their handbags, fur bundles and animal skulls on a belt before passing through the metal detectors: high security meeting haute couture. Rising Phoenix-like from the river banks, between the haunted carapace of the gutted Low Head Power Station and the nearby skeletal remains of the devastated St. George Hotel, we marvel at the two towers of the renovated station. Even with the restored fretwork balconies and a sleeker generator room housing 25,000 horsepower capacity turbines in a solid concrete gravity-flow spillway, we are reminded, yet again, of the ghosts of our difficult history.

(see Sister Pulcheria and the Jesuits)

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