A small, worn envelope lies on the dusty wooden floor outside my apartment. Peering down the hallway, I find it empty and silent, vacant of any clue of who knocked on the door. I pick up the envelope anyway and retreat back into the apartment.
Faded ink sprawls across the front of the envelope.
1918? Why would I be getting mail from a hundred years ago? But I must admit; it’s intriguing. I pull a handful of folded papers out, all yellow with age. The first one is even missing a corner where a mouse seemingly bit into it. Unfolding it, I drink in the words, eager to see why I’ve been delivered these elderly letters.
Please, please, please do not bail me out. At least not today. I was just arrested for leading a suffrage march (Now is not the time to say “I told you so”). My anger has already sparked anger among the other suffragists. Bail me out in a week, after this has been reported in the papers and the others build their anger. It will draw more attention to the cause. Nobody will be able to ignore us anymore. Feed Louie for me!
P.S: If after you bail me out you’d like to set fire to the police station, I’d be so grateful.
“What are you reading?” my sister asks as she pulls leftovers from the fridge.
“Correspondence” I mumble.
“Didn’t we have a great-grandmother named Gwendolyn?”
“Look.” I hand her the letter I just read before reading the next one. All I knew if my great-grandmother was her name. I’ve never heard of this.
You are a fool, but an honorable one. The suffragists are organizing a protest in front of the police station on the day I bail you out. We hope for it to look like the police are releasing you because of the protest. Clever, isn’t it?
Father is beside himself. I think it goes without saying that he discovered you haven’t been in a sewing circle these past two years. This was the most amusing way he could have ever found out. He nearly fainted when he heard you’d been arrested! We all await your return.
“Did you know about her?” I ask my sister.
“No. Grandma never talked about her. She said it was too painful. I wish she had.”
“When did she die? I don’t even think we met her.” I hand her the letter I just read and pick up the next one.
“I don’t know,” she shrugs before reading.
The suffragists has another March today. As soon as the police threatened their arrest nearly half of them yielded. They need your determination. Also, I’ve included a newspaper article from today’s paper. You certainly are getting attention. But I’m not sure if it’s good attention.
“Do you know anything about Emma? She’s our great aunt.” My sister looks at me for an answer but I’m distracted by my disappointment in not finding the article in the envelope.
“Um, I think we met her once. She died when I was five.” I read the last letter.
Any attention is good. I am too excited to sleep over it! Just imagine: Next year at this time, we’ll probably have the right to vote. Isn’t that the most bewitching thought? I must try to rest now. Tell the suffragists good luck for me?
“Here,” I hand my sister the last letter. But she doesn’t take it. It’s then that I notice she is holding a newspaper clipping. Thinking it must be the article Emma mentioned, I snatch it. I am horrifically mistaken. It’s an obituary.
September 30, 1925
In Memory of My Sister, Gwendolyn Sophia Thomas by Emma Thomas
On Thursday morning, my sister, Gwendolyn, was beaten to death while walking home from the market. The editor of this fine newspaper asked me to exclude the brutal details, but I cannot fulfill that request. My sister was murdered. My sister was murdered by a group of men because she fought for women’s suffrage. I know. I was with her. I watched my sister die as these men left a six year old girl without a mother. I beg everyone to report any information that may help find these men to the police. Thank you.
Emma Eugenia Thomas
“Oh my God,” I breathe.
“Now I understand why grandma never spoke of her,” my sister says. I stare down at the correspondence, mysteriously delivered and leaving me with a history I’m not even sure if I wish I knew.