Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A letter to Miss Hattie

My paternal grandmother's older sister was a Methodist missionary worker, and in our family she always had a reputation as an uptight, overly righteous, domineering termagant.

But when I was cleaning out my Mom's house, I came across an unfinished scrapbook of hers. It dated from a fourteen-year period in the 1920s when she worked as the assistant to the pastor at Travis Park Methodist Church in San Antonio, Texas. In San Antonio, Aunt Hattie had worked with disadvantaged young women, and with women incarcerated in the town jail. She arranged for them to work on sewing projects to make clothes for the children in the Protestant Orphan Home, and she raised funds to buy the prison a piano so the women prisoners could learn to sing and play music.

Aunt Hattie may have been a self-righteous prig, but she wasn't afraid to get involved with people who were hurting. In her scrapbook, she preserved this letter, written on a sheaf of pages torn from a cheap lined notepad:
City Clinic Hospital

Dear Miss Hattie,

Just these few lines to let you know I am well + hoping you are the same. But I am feeling very blue and heart sick and I certainly hope you will come here to see me, as I have very important business to talk over with you.

If I had of taken your advice when you told me I wouldn't be in trouble now. And I am praying to God for you to give me just one more chance and I'll do the right thing.

Miss Hattie if you see Mother Culberson of the Mission Home ask her for God's sake to take me back for I have lost all the hopes in the world, that is my baby and you.

God knows I do want to lead a straight life from now all.

And please Miss Hattie come and see me, I am in the City Clinic again. And if you do I'll promise to be a decent girl forever and please try to get my baby back for me.

I never realize the advice you gave me until it was too late.

I talked to Mrs. Bailey last week and she said she would talk with you and see what you could do.

You are the only one who can help me now, as mother has gone away.

I am praying to God that he will help you to understand and I am willing to do anything you tell me to do.

if you could only win my baby back. You and my baby could make me happy again.

Hoping that you will do me this personal favor. I remaine as Ever,

Truly your freind,
Anita Webb

I am praying to God for you + He to forgive me for the mistakes I have made. And am hoping to
see you very soon please not not forget me. May God bless you.
Library of Congress photo, Harlingen, TX 1939, mother and child relief clients.

I wonder what happened to Anita Webb and her baby. I hope they were reunited. I hope Aunt Hattie interceded on her behalf. I am hoping the reason Aunt Hattie kept Anita's letter is that Anita succeeded in her quest for happiness.


mo.stoneskin said...

Fascinating. Did you find anymore about the background to all that or was that all you've got to go on?

Mingus said...

Beautiful. Really.

Gilly said...

How interesting! I'm always fascinated to discover how peopled lived in the past. So often all we have are "posed" photos - rarely such interesting perasonal letters. I also wonder how Anita got on.

Aunt Hattie was probably very typical of Methodist workers in the 1920's - there was a much stricter moral code then. I think many people of that time would be shocked rigid to see what happens today!

Margo said...

what a fascinating and beautiful blog you have here. I'm so glad to have found you! To answer your question to me over at the Women's Colony... I could steer my bike without hands, but only to turn right! I hadn't thought about this in ages. Have a great day :)

KBeau said...

I love reading your family history posts. It's a passion of mine as well. I had a conversation with my cousin last night that is going to be the basis for a post I'm working on.

Tristan Robin said...

terrific story and letter - thanks for posting.

Mojo said...

How many times is this story repeated even today...

Lulda Casadaga said...

Wow...what an amazing story and your Great Aunt Hattie must have been one very special person!
Did you ever watch that program called the "Locater" on WE? He finds long lost family members for people. My husband & I say we are not going to cry at the end of each show, but we do...The Locater should do this story as a Historical search regarding that baby! :)

Ok, you are near Hollywood...time to pitch this one! :D

CaShThoMa said...

Love these historical pieces from you family's past...

I also love learning new words..."termagant", didn't know that one. Thank you.

I hope that Aunt Hattie was able to help Anita; sounds like she (Hattie) was her last hope.

Woman in a Window said...

Me too. It touches me so and feels like that request is being made today. Of course, there are desperate requests like that every day. What a neat snapshot into her life. I love old letters.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

I'm sure your theory is correct. Hattie saved that letter because she was successful in her effort to help. I'm sure of it.