“Carlotta Jergens. Nineteen years old. High school graduate-“
“Y-yes, sir. And, I was at the top of my class.” Carlotta blushed and lowered her dark brown eyes. Glancing up sheepishly, her heart leapt to her throat when met with her potential employer’s expression of extreme dissatisfaction.
“It’s not very lady-like to interrupt your superiors, Miss Jergens.”
“Yes, sir. I apologize.”
“Very well. You know, I don’t approve of women in the workplace. It just… muddies the waters, you understand?” He continued without waiting for a response, “Now, I won’t deny you seem to be an intelligent young woman. So, I think you’ll see the logic in my decision to not employ you at my establishment. We don’t need a mother or wife hanging around all day. Now, I suggest you go out there and find yourself a nice husband. Let’s leave the intellects to take care of the rest, ey? That’s a good girl.”
Carlotta rose. Without a word, she left the small, cramped office that had stunk of tobacco and something akin to halitosis. So infuriated was she at the blatant sexism she’d experienced, her rage led her straight to the county courthouse. There, she stood on the precipice and began to shout.
“I am more than my vagina! I am useful! I am relevant! And I am NOT going away!”
To her surprise, and to the shock and chagrin of many men, the women passing by began to applaud. One by one, they walked away from their spouses, brought their children along, and began to chant with Carlotta. “We are useful! We are relevant! We are NOT going away!” With hands intertwined, the women drew power and courage from one another. They all felt the incomprehensible knowledge that they were making history.
Of course, being on the steps of the county courthouse meant officers were on the scene within minutes, and Carlotta was arrested for ‘disturbing the peace’. When the time came for her trial, there was a complete media blackout. Soon, her case was forgotten by a majority of the public, which is exactly what the courts wanted. It would only be after Carlotta’s death that the truth would finally come out.
Carlotta Jergens desperately fought to live a life of purpose. Her sole desire had been to contribute to society by way of attaining a meaningful job. Yet in doing so, she realized how biased the world was against women, especially in the workplace – and within the government. In the end, Carlotta was charged with ‘hysteria‘, ‘over-action of the mind‘, and ‘political excitement‘. She was convicted and sentenced to live the rest of her life in an asylum for ‘troubled’ women.
As sad as Carlotta’s story is, it gave hope to the women who joined her that day. One of those women was Ann Kinkaid, who went on to be an influential leader in the Suffragette movement. It is thanks to brave and intelligent women like Ann and Carlotta that the women of today and tomorrow may actually attain true equality. If they had not unlocked the doors, we would never be able to open them.
Ann Kinkaid and Carlotta Jergens are fictional characters created to tell a story reflecting an era when women were wholly oppressed. While we have come a long way as a society, there still exists a massive gap in the way women are treated, paid, and portrayed in everyday life. I wanted to honor the real women who made the courageous choices to take a stand, but felt I would never be able to do them justice. I hoped I’ve represented their strength and resilience in the fight for equality. Thank you for reading, and please remember to love and honor everyone, regardless of their gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Let’s all do our small part in making this world a better place.
Written for Mindlovemisery’s Sunday Writing Prompt #MLMM #SWP