Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On Kathleen Devoy (A VERY Long Post)

Everyone seems to be having such fun explaining who they are (in the 1860s that is haha) that I thought I'd share, too. I've had "me" developed for a while now, but better late than never! One's self is, of course, a never-ending development of finding new evidence for things and changing things to one's age (eventually I'll probably be able to say I left Ireland as an adult during the famine as opposed to having been born just before it- one cannot be 17 forever! XP).

Most of the genealogy is accurate up to the point of Kate herself- after that she is a work of historical fiction. Henry and Sarah Devoy are only listed as being related to their nephew. I do not know the names of their actual children, or John's siblings or mother. My actual family can trace itself back to his father William, but I don't presume to say that Kate herself was a real person. That would be very limiting! XP
Note- the quotation of Thomas Whaley's about "two kinds of ladies" is from a journal I recently read of a girl whose uncle in Richmond said the same to her. I loved it, so I stole it. XP

Name: Kathleen Elizabeth Ann Devoy
Born: 6 June, 1844, in Philadelphia, PA.
Nicknames: I go by Kate to most people I know. My family calls me "Katie" and my tutor on occasion calls me "Kay" to irk me, as I think it sounds crass by itself.
Father: Henry Devoy
Mother: Sarah Devoy (neé Ferrell)
Siblings: I am the eldest of five:
-Daniel (1 years my junior)
-Patrick (2 years my junior)
-Sarah (2 years my junior)
-Elisabeth (3 years my junior)

My parents were some of the very first whose crops were effected by the Great Famine- there had been isolated incidents of crop failure prior to 1845, but nothing was thought of it until the mass outbreak in that year. My parents, who were at that time residing in Co. Laois, decided to sail to the States. My da was a man of pride, and could not bring himself to accept his brother William's offer of a home across the county border in Kildare- probably a good thing, as when the Famine hit William just a year later, he had quite enough mouths to feed.

My parents arrived in Philadelphia and settled into some of the factory lodgings therein. My ma managed to have me smack in the middle of the Philadelphia Nativist Riots, during which Da was injured in the leg, though not in any way which prevented him from working in a factory job.

In the next two years, my mam had my brother Danny and the twins, Paddy and Sarah. She was never healthy while she was pregnant with the others- she'd work herself all the time at the factory, usually not missing nearly enough time from work to nurse infants. I don't remember much about the tenements except for the fact that they smelled like grease and smoke. I remember Da coming home every night smelling of oil and Mam of raw meat. You can imagine the combination that created in the tiny room we called ours. Eventually that life killed my mother- she died giving birth to my sister Lizzie. Da didn't work for a month after that before he decided he couldn't support us all making what he did. He was right, too- but what was he supposed to do with four children, the oldest of them not yet four and the youngest just born?

He heard of the money you got to join the US Army- at that time, the States were one year into a war with Mexico. If there was one thing my father could do well, it was ride a horse, lame leg or no. He decided the most prudent thing to do would be to use some of the money to take a train down to my mother's relatives in Virginia and leave us there. He wrote us letters to remember our heritage by until he died in a hospital in California in 1849.

My mam's cousin, Mary Whaley, is the stock of a fiercely nationalist breed. Her da had come to the States after taking part the Rising of 1798 when he was just fifteen. Michael Roran had raised all twelve of his children, including Mary, never to forget that unless they were very good children, the British soldiers hiding in their closet would come out and take them away to a life of servitude and starvation whereafter they would never again lay eyes on another grain of sugar.

When Mary married Thomas Whaley, a rich farmer (a term my father apparently found to be a complete and utter paradox), she married well above her station. Though she is in her late forties (or perhaps early fifties- she never lets on), one can see that she would have been a great beauty in her former years. My "Aunt" Mary, as she is known to me, is not a particularly warm-hearted woman, though one more loyal to her family you could never meet with. Lucky for us, too, or my siblings and I should have no home. I don't believe my mother and Mary ever met, but my father was raised in an environment similar to hers and begged on behalf of "somesuch liberty and freedom for Ireland's children" , so perhaps it was that thought that finally induced her into taking in five strange ones into her own home.

Mary and Thomas have three children of their own- Thomas Jr., who is five years my senior, and the girls, three and two years older than I respectively, Adelaide and Louisa. The Whaley family has taken very strangely to us Devoys- individually, I suppose one could discern.

Addie and Lou quite adopted Sarah into their cult of ignorance and frivolity (and a little malevolence, if I am truthful), and love her dearly to this day. I have never been able to abide by my younger sister for long, if the truth be told. I liken my opinion of her to that of Eliza Bennet to her younger sisters and mother- I would be a liar if I said the girls did not take after Mary, who, despite her good looks, probably never boasted very much intelligence. Perhaps I am wrong, for I cannot see Uncle Thomas loving a stupid woman, but if she was anything but that then she is no longer. Mary is not mean like her daughters are wont to be on those occasions they deem suitable, but she has certainly turned her life into a thing which boasts fewer cares than parties and dresses.

Danny died of consumption little more than a year after Da brought us to the Whaleys' farm in Warrenton, and Patrick (whom I got on well with as far as I can recall) died when he was thrown from his horse when I was ten. He had been playing with Thomas Jr. when it happened- we three had always gotten on well with both of the men in the family. I vaguely remember promising never to ride a horse again- the weather the day after was fine, and the promise broken quickly.

Upon my own arrival at Wildwood Manor (for a manor with farmland it is, though not quite large enough to be called a plantation) I was fortunate enough to immediately gain the favor of Mr. Whaley. Uncle Thomas is the best of men, with joviality beneath a stern façade. He is studious, and spends a great deal of time in his office, though he is the first in the field whenever there is something to be done. In congruence, he is very much a gentleman of society who has worked hard to get that way- I often thought that he allowed my brother and I to run so wild simply because we were, if displaying such behaviour, a product of his wife's cousin and not of him, for he would never let his own children act that way. He often scolded Thomas Jr. for playing in the mud with Paddy and I, and never discouraged his wife or daughters from becoming what they did.
I once went to Uncle Thomas in tears when I was twelve- Addie was starting Finishing School that year, and had told me that I was too bookish to ever be fit for real society. It was true, certainly, that I spent a great deal of time in the library- or as "great" a deal of time as free time allowed me working on a farm. The labor was never required of any of us except Thomas Jr., (Uncle Thomas did own servants, and always made it very clear that none of us had any debt to pay) but I always loved working with the soil, whether because I'd heard of the importance of the land through my father's letters or simply because it made me feel as if I had a purpose. Lizzie often helps me with small chores, but is too dreamy a child for any real labour. But I digress. To call me bookish would have probably been very accurate- and still would be- but at the time I despaired. I do not think I will ever forget what my uncle told me then- "Katharine," he said (being an "honest-to-goodness" Virginian whose family could've settled Jamestown the way he spoke of it, he always Anglicized my name), "there are two kinds of ladies. My daughters and your sister Sarah are one kind. They are what my father used to call "store-bought belles". They have all their things made up for them and spend all day talking about the dresses they'll have, the fine things they'll have, the beaus they'll have. They'll be just fine at flattery and looking pretty, and what's more they'll probably have no trouble at all getting a husband- nobody ever faulted a man for wanting a pretty wife. But then, my Katie, there's ladies like you whom all men admire- you'll not only be very pretty, but everything you have you won't just have, you'll have earned. You'll have put the time into every pretty thing you make because you'll make it yourself with a needle and thread. You'll win every beau you ever have because you'll have put the time into reading and becoming an interesting person to talk to. You'll make a good wife to a good man, because you'll have worked in a household and know how one's run. My daughters I allow the distinction of society because it is what I have worked to get them- but never forget, Katie, that what you have you shall have earned quite for yourself. And that is why I like talking to you, pet- we'll share fireside conversations about that feeling someday, you and I. "
I always took that to heart afterwards, and I think that I may call myself a credit to him today.

My final sister, Lizzie, has the good fortune of being positively angelic and loved by all, Devoy and Whaley alike. Indeed, all who meet her love her- she has all the sweetness of disposition of an angel and all the looks of a china doll. She can think ill of none, and is not easily moved to passion. She has all of Adelaide and Louisa's looks without any of their spite, all of my work ethic without any of my tendency for corybantics, and all of Thomas Jr.'s tendency towards studiousness without any of his shirking of it. If Lizzie has any faults, it is her fondness of solitude, though when she does appear in society she gives everyone so much delight that it hardly matters. She is too young to really go out as of yet, and Aunt Mary hopes that she will grow into the role before she is required to do so. I think in her heart she hopes to make an ally of Elisabeth, but The Quartet seems to me to have enough frivolity between it. Lizzie will have no trouble at all finding a husband- she is too sweet-tempered to avoid men falling in love with her, and now that the war has started, she would be a soldier's dream.

I mentioned before that my aunt and uncle hold 'servants', as they are called. If I am honest, I never really thought about their place in life before a few years ago when Ms. Beecher Stowe published her book. There was a great uproar, you understand. I have never felt the need to become secretive about how the farm is run- my tutor, (excuse me, my former tutor, for he returned to the Federal army) Col. William McLain, has often felt this openness keenly when arguing the point with me. He is a very staunch Unionist from up North (his family was of Scottish descent, both from Michigan, though he was educated in my own place of birth and then at West Point), and never were a pair of people in less agreement with one another. William and I had some truly magnificent fights, many of which were about slavery and states' rights (and, before last April, which one of them was the cause of secession) . William seemed to have some kind of notion that the United States had become "the United State" in 1783, and that each man owed his loyalty to the federal government some hundreds of miles away as opposed to his own state government. My father had often told us of what this was- tyranny. I always had a very strong belief about it-
"An Englishman of leisure has no right to rule Ireland of farmers. A North of factories has no right to rule a South of agriculture! It isn't logical. You wouldn't let your heart rule your choice of investments, would you? You wouldn't let your mind tell you to handle your sabre with your foot! So why should Boston shipmakers have any say in Georgians grow cotton? Why should the South let Northern lawmakers tax them?! You speak of liberty during the Revolution when it was against English law, and yet your law allows for secession and it is now treason?"
"Englishmen cannot rule Irishmen, and yet you can rule over negroes?"
"You're changing the subject!"
"I'm not. You're championing freedom in moderation."
"One cannot be moderately free."
"I agree."
"You know that I do not think bondage of any kind a good thing. But there simply isn't a feasible way to replace that kind of workforce, William, not at the moment."
"Don't make it right."
"No, but does it make it right that had things ended up differently, I would be in an equal servitude to some Philadelphian factory? A slave in all but name to the whims of a factory owner who could have thrown me out on the streets because I couldn't come to work on a day i was having a child? A slave to a tenement room a third of the size of any slave cabin at Wildwood? A slave to wages not even enough to feed myself, let alone my family? At least we feed our servants, William."
"So it's their life for yours."
"You're a part of this family?"
"So you are the mistress of all the so-called 'servants' in this house."
"Legally, yes. I also work just as hard as they do most days to keep this farm running, but yes, I am."
"I don't see them studying. Some families like to educate their negroes."
"There isn't any time to study. Hellfire, William, if I worked as much in the field as I needed to, neither would I. My mother couldn't read. More besides, what you speak of is against the law. Why be a scofflaw just for the sake of it?"
"Your mother was free."
"Was she? From the day she was born she was an English subject."
"Then she came here."
"And became a slave to a factory."
"But you loved your mother. She had your respect, didn't she? You didn't just see her as something to work in a factory. She was another human being."
"She wasn't a human being to the Nativist who smashed my father's leg in front of her."
"But he was a Nativist."
"So there's a difference? Next you're going to say 'But she was Irish'. What differences are you willing to recognize?"
"None that condemn a man to an existence of servitude!"
"Ha! What do you think you do to every man woman and child who walks off those planks on Governor's Island? At least here, the servants are respected for the work they do, since we do it right along with them. They are part of the family, if not legally. We treat them well. Ms. Stowe would disagree, but why would you mistreat your workforce, why would you beat an investment?"
"So admit they are 'an investment'. A human being!"
"Oh, come now, what do you think Bill Tweed sees the immigrants as? Friends of his family?! No! An investment, if that!"
And so we would go on in circles until one of us looked at the clock and realized we hadn't actually been studying anything at all.

When Manassas broke out in July, I was visiting relatives there. We turned her porch into a hospital... There was a woman there from Richmond, who mentioned something about a Ladies' Aid Society founded by the famed Mrs. Randolph. I was intrigued. She told me the best thing about the LAS was that any lady could join, just so long as she professed that her goal was to help the soldiers of the CSA. It was fantastic, she said. Ladies of society usually preferred to hold parties and bazaars to raise funds for the Confederacy, while ladies who lived in more rural settings often did mending and washing, etc. for the soldiers.

Well, the next time I got the chance, I went and signed up. A better group of ladies I have never been prouder to know- we serve as nurses, seamstresses, laundresses, all while serving as ladies...

The first time the Yankees came around Warrenton, they burned a house "as warning". I'm beginning to feel as if I know a great deal better what my father went through...

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