Marriage and House Work

Lucy's autobiography introduces us to young George Washington Slater, "an innocent sort of boy". After Lucy finishes school at Coxsackie, she moves with her family to Long Eddy, and George soon follows. According to Lucy, she pities George Washington Slater, who had no mother or sister to take care of him. She claims that even though her father ordered her not to have anything to do with George, she married him anyways, against her father's wishes which would position her as a rebellious, disobedient daughter. However, neighbors living nearby claim Lucy had to be forced to marry in an effort to "tame" her, and Dr. Wise, who later interviews Lucy as his patient, reports that "it was after the earnest solicitation of her parents and friends that she consented to marry, in her twentieth year, a man for whom, she has repeatedly stated, she had no affection and from whom she never derived a moment's pleasure, although she endeavored to be a dutiful wife". The marriage is a rocky one as George and Lucy are ill-suited for one another. Lucy is educated and passionate about theological discussions. George is illiterate and not very religious. But the biggest issue is that Lucy refuses to be a passive, obedient wife, which causes conflict for the couple.

During the nineteenth century, society was guided by a philosophy known as the Cult of True Womanhood. Social order was divided into the public, male sphere, and the feminine, domestic sphere, and women were expected to be pious, pure, domestic, and submissive. While Lucy is pure and pious and capable of doing domestic things, she is never submissive. She openly disobeys her husband and frequently argues with him. By the time Lucy's daughter, Helen, is born, George has left and Lucy has returned to her parents' house.

Lucy offers some dark and dreary insights into life for a working class wife in the nineteenth century, including an endless list of chores, a complete lack of freedom, and no options to earn a decent living no matter how hard they work. The list issue of unequal pay is the reason she gives for leaving home dressed in men's clothes with the goal of earning enough money to take care of her daughter.