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No Silent WitnessThe Eliot Parsonage Women and Their Unitarian World$
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Cynthia Tucker

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195390209

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195390209.001.0001

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Reduced to a Whisper

Reduced to a Whisper

(p.123) 6 Reduced to a Whisper
No Silent Witness

Cynthia Grant Tucker (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

In a tribe of resilient females whose compromises prevent their defeat, Etta's daughter‐in‐law Minna Sessinghaus Eliot (1868‐1944) is a tragic exception. A summa cum laude from Washington University, she abandons her dream of being a scholar to marry William G. Eliot, Jr. (1866‐1956). By 1906, when Will is installed as pastor in Portland, OR, Minna is losing the battle to squeeze herself into a life that has cramped her intellect. As laywomen turn from church work to more rewarding alternatives, leaving the minister's wife to pick up the slack and to envy their freedom to leave, Minna's symptoms of neurasthenia progress until she becomes an invalid. Will's duties expand correspondingly. He takes on the added roles of house‐husband, nurse, and primary parent for grandson Billy, whose young mother Ruth has left a bad marriage, obtained+ a divorce, and gone back to school.

Keywords:   Minna Sessinghaus Eliot (1868‐1944), William G. Eliot, Jr. (1866‐1956), Washington University, Portland, OR, neurasthenia, invalid, cramped intellect

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