Help from the dictionary

Heir presumptive-person who will be heir unless a nearer relative is born.

This exercise: Close your eyes, open the dictionary, and put your finger on a word. Use that word as a springboard, and begin writing.

Well. What have I done? Heir presumptive? How in the world am I going to write about that? The first thing I think of is Downton Abbey—how a family with three daughters with no male heir was hoping that the eldest girl would marry the heir presumptive before he went down in the Titanic. The new heir presumptive was a commoner, son of a (gasp) doctor.

Then, of course, there are the British novels of the Georgian and Victorian eras, Austen particularly—Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion—where because females cannot inherit, their estates and their futures are in peril.

I think about the real women of the age who, when they married, forfeited their inheritances to their husbands who were totally in charge, and, sometimes, bankrupted them. Jenny Jerome, an American heiress who married Winston Churchill’s father and became Lady Randolph Churchill, lost her fortune to her husband’s profligate spending. Some women decided it was better to remain unmarried than to cede their independence. They were in the minority.

I think about women who were teachers and had to give up their jobs when they married. I, myself, was forced to resign in 1969 when I became pregnant with my first child. 1969! Recently I read two books involving teachers—one set in WWI “The Summer Before the War” by Helen Simonson, and one set in WWII “Everyone Brave is Forgiven” by Chris Cleave. In both cases, women were “allowed” to be teachers only in special circumstances. I marched in the Women’s March with my daughter and granddaughter because I fear a return to the paternalistic days of yore.

I think about “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” and wonder about those who believe the slogan to be strident and divisive. I wonder how it would be if there were more women in congress and in state houses. Would there be more compromise? I don’t know. I think there would be.

I wonder how “heir presumptive” got me here today.

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6 thoughts on “Help from the dictionary

  1. HI, Diane! I love your dictionary challenge and may have to try it. You certainly did a great job with heir presumptive. While reading your piece, I thought about Alva Vanderbilt Belmont who had the good sense to ask her first husband, William K. Vanderbilt, to gift her with Marble House as part of their divorce settlement. In those days, women could not own property unless they were given the property as a gift! Later, she became a fighter for women’s equality. It’s interesting that this piece took on a life ofits own as you followed its trail. Politics and the state of affairs in our country is weighing heavily on our minds.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your post is a great example of how one idea takes you to another and another and another. It made me think of the book I am reading now (but not really enjoying Shhh…don’t tell my book group) about Queen Isabella of Spain. Lots of politics there so that she could maneuver her way to the crown since she was not the heir presumptive.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So creative — I feel so boring in my writing as I see so many slicers pushing themselves with scaffolds and exercises. I have grand plans and then I sit down and I can’t stop my fingers from typing what they need to say. I love all these ideas — I am putting them in a file to explore someday. Right now, I plan to follow my fingers… I love that you shard your stream of thinking – fascinating to see how you processed and connected. Thank you.
    Clare

    Liked by 1 person

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