The Ladies of Lanark County

Bill-newby L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.
Last evening I was thrown into the mix of about one hundred people at a retirement party.  Apart from

Ladies of Lanark County
Peter Morris 1841-1918 and Agnes Bradford 1842-1906, buried in Greenwood Cemetery, near Middleville, Ontario.

reflecting that these celebrations afford the same opportunity for catching up as do funerals and weddings, I was in particular moved by having reconnected with an elderly woman whom I have known for almost forty years.  Her kind and gentle personality remains unchanged, a welcome harbour in the stress of daily life.  The venture made me think about other memorable women I have known in Lanark County over the years.

When writing about women in the context of a romance there is no evident need to do any research as the text for the story-line naturally springs from within.  Certainly the private reaction any one of us has to the women in our life is personal and emanates from within but this hardly makes every experience a romance even though it speaks to the singularity of the sentiment. Thus when the subject of enquiry is women in general, it lends itself to a degree of analysis. The exploration further admits to some categorization as those relationships while varied nonetheless convey certain broad-stroke similarities.  At the risk of offending someone’s sister, mother or grandmother, herewith is a caricature of the ladies of Lanark County whom I have known.  Each of the synopses which follows is based upon women whom I have known and whom naturally I would not be so egregious as to mention by name.  Given the oversimplification of these lampoon versions I trust I shall be forgiven for what is assured to be at times unfair distortion.

The Farmer’s Wife

The farmer’s wife reflects the very best of of our heritage, classic rural British stock, the sensible shoes, the no-nonesense garb, practical hairdo, rugged features and quite possibly a stern countenance.  In matters of business there is an evident equality of influence from both husband and wife; the title of matriarch is not lost upon this woman.  It would be an adventurous person indeed who presumed to contradict the farmer’s wife. She has learned her lessons with no small effort and will not willingly reverse the synthesis of those trials.  When seeking the opinion of the farmer’s wife, you can generally count upon a polite reservation of opinion until all the facts and considerations have been tabled; but then will follow unwavering direction. The elemental features of land and family figure prominently in the ethos of the farmer’s wife; both are protected and advanced with equal vigour.

The Church Lady

The church lady is in many respects similar to the farmer’s wife, adopting a decided preference for respectability and restraint, often reflected in exceedingly tight hairdos. Most conversations begin with pursed lips so there is no misleading anticipation of either liberality or frivolity.  A lapse into the vernacular would be unthinkable!  A firm commitment to manners in general and propriety in particular is inescapable.  It is reasonable to assume that the church lady has a better comprehension than you do of matters affecting not only your mutual worship but also of the affairs touching the community at large including a surprising depth of historical knowledge perhaps fostered by a long-time association with the Women’s Institute.  Though they would likely not leap to confess it, the church lady privately favours the titular position of men but this acquiescence seldom dilutes the unadorned functionality of the woman’s role in the family and its society.

The Professional Lady

The influence of women in business is becoming commonplace. They nonetheless preserve an adherence to enviable standards so there is no mistaking their capability and power.  This is reflected in first-rate qualification, appearance and deportment.  Seldom will one witness the degeneration of a professional woman into anything approaching the sometimes vulgar antics of their male business counterparts.  The professional woman jealously guards her strategic position and the barrier – if indeed it is one – is frequently invioable by others.  The professional woman is in many instances a worthy adversary and one to be viewed with express calculation and cagey wariness.  By the same token, if given a wide berth and deserved respect, the professional lady can be an enviable ally.

The Funny Lady

The funny lady comes in as many shapes and sizes as imaginable.  Seldom are there any characteristic physical features and when the funny lady is seen from a distance the only identifying feature beneath the veneer is an unmistakeable twinkle in her eye.  It normally requires little introduction to acquaint oneself with the comedic talent of the funny lady as her dedication to frivolity and humour overrides almost everything about her.  A mere casual aside will illicit an instant laughable twist upon even the most serene circumstantes.  Once engaged the funny lady is like any other entertainer and can be counted upon for a steady stream of sarcastic vitriol or other adaptation of humour to lighten the conversation.  Seemingly paradoxically the funny lady does however have her serious side and anyone who pretends to get close to the funny lady must be prepared to separate the histrionics from the resolute.  At times even her laugh is serious.

The Classy Lady

We have a lot of classy ladies in Town!  Invariably they are remarkable for their fine apparel and sophisticated behaviour yet they have maintained that cultured refinement of the common touch.  Such disarming urbanity! You can count on the classy lady to breathe charm and elevation into any encounter, a reminder that the delicacy of human nature yet abounds in a world of competing crassness.  It would be naive to ignore that many of the classy ladies are united with equally agreeable gentlemen.  The sophisticated couple is one of those anomalies of nature which thrives upon mutuality and distinguishes itself by its interdependence.

The Activist Lady

We owe much to the activist women of Lanark County. Of the many notable organizations which are driven by publicly spirited fervour, most are promoted by women. The activist lady tends to be educated and independent. Often their husbands are either off the map or in the background. The activist lady is unabashed (even brazen) and usually easily recognized (and heard) in a crowd. Her determination makes lesser people quiver and there is no room for prevarication when addressing a social problem. The activist lady is by nature down-to-earth and normally little persuaded by social fictions.