Gallatin, Missouri's main claim to fame was that Jesse James and gang, approximately 20 years earlier, had robbed the local bank. Ed Cauthorn, a cousin of Mrs. Givens (Nat's mother), had been the clerk at Frank James trial. Other than that the small farming community in Western Missouri, County seat of Daviess County, was important only to its 2000 or so residents.
Though the Hollingsworths had originally been Quakers, they had taken up the less restrictive dogma of the Methodists. The Givens were Methodists too. Adherence to a strict, but gentle code of Christianity characterized the late 19th century Methodists. They were Bible readers, but not thumpers; they were warm but rarely passionate; they eschewed vanity in all its forms but approved Christian dignity. Cleanliness was usually next to godliness; dancing and alcoholic drinks should never be allowed. Gambling? a normal Methodist wouldn't even think of it. What remained of public emotional indulgences included eating. Methodist women cooked for their families, for church gatherings, for the poor and for bereaved neighbors. Methodist women expressed their love, their standards and their achievements through cooking. Most women of the time did.
In the last post Mattie and Nat, the newlyweds, were on the train bound for Gallatin.
Mattie was dying on the inside with the thought of meeting Nat's family. She felt as though she was being pushed into a den of lions. She was so relieved the Estelle and Charley were present for the post wedding reception at the Given's home, but she understood that her parents couldn't come. Her father, a carpenter, jobless and depressed, would have been humiliated in front of Dr. Givens. Nat's father was not only a medical doctor, he had been the first mayor of Gallatin. What would her dad have in common with him?
Mattie need not have worried though she was welcomed with as much enthusiasm the stoic methodists could muster. Sade, Nat's brother, must have put in a good word for her. Nat's sisters welcomed the extra help caring for the aging Dr. and his wife and they all had willingly signed over the deed of the family home to Nat in return for allowing their parents to live out their days in the home
The Givens family turned out to be kind and welcoming to the young woman from the west who would tame young Nat. Most of the small town turned out for the reception held at the stately brick home. Despite the absence of liquor it was a festive occasion. Nat's young niece, Adeline Givens Wynne an accomplished pianist at 13 and destined to study at Julliard in New York, played classical and popular music as background for the gathering. [on page 1087 of THIS publication there is mention of a recital in New York by Ms. Wynne]
Mattie was aware of a definite Southern sympathy in the songs that were played. The Givens family harkened back to Kentucky so the sentimentality of Stephen Foster's "My Old Kentucky Home" and "The Old Folks at Home" had long been favorites. Though she had no Kentucky roots, she almost cried at the thoughts of her own folks far away in Colorado.
Everyone remarked on the cake and the punch and the sweetness of the new bride for weeks to come. A wedding is an event in a small town and provided much to talk about.
Mattie took the vow "for better or worse" seriously and knew that caring for Nat was not going to be her only responsibility. Nat's aging parents were going to need caring for too. While Mattie entered into the Givens family and Nat and Mattie started their own family the rest of the world was progressing in science, politics, social reform, and industrialization.
1896 ushered in the Progressive Era which lasted until 1916 and was marked by social activism that sought to solve problems resulting from industrialization, urbanization, immigration and political corruption. Sound familiar? A hundred years later we still are dealing with similar issues.
I recently watched the movie Radioactive, about the life of Marie Curie and couldn't help comparing her life with that of Mattie Hollingsworth Givens who was about the same age. While Mattie was saying her vows Marie Curie was in Paris discovering, with her husband of one year, the properties of uranium and how x-rays work. Madam Curie rejected the stereotypical women's role of the day and continued to work with her husband and as a teacher even after her children were born. It was certainly a risk to choose that lifestyle.
Mattie stayed informed of the events of the world but even as the Victorian Era domestic values were fading and Progressivism rising, Mattie, along with most women of the day, especially in Midwestern America, sought to become the best wife and mother and daughter-in-law she could in her new community.
She knew what she was getting into but could not have foreseen the trials and humiliation that lie ahead.