In The Fullness of Time

In The Fullness of Time

One South Carolina woman’s story of growth and empowerment in the woman suffrage era.

Cover of In the Fullness of Time|Katherine P. Stillerman|Historical Fiction

In this sequel to Hattie’s Place, the year is 1913 and Hattie Robinson is married to the widowed Charles Barton. She has left her teaching position at Calhoun School to raise Charles’s sons and manage the Barton estate. Now she must reconcile her role as mother and wife with her work for women’s suffrage, a cause that ignited her passion when attending the Women’s Suffrage Procession in Washington, on the eve of Woodrow Wilson’s first inauguration.

As a young bride, twenty-three years her husband’s junior, Hattie struggles for acceptance in the community and Barton family. And then, Will Kendrick, her first love, appears, causing old feelings to resurface. When Julia Martin, the widow of Charles’s best friend Percy, reaches out to Charles for legal advice in settling her husband’s estate, Hattie discovers clues casting doubt on Charles’s fidelity, and begins to question her marriage.

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As Hattie throws herself into her work to gain the vote for women, South Carolina’s reactionary politicians Ben Tillman and “Cotton Ed” Smith thwart suffrage efforts in the state at every turn. Even the progressive president Wilson drags his feet, invoking states rights as the only pathway to an amendment. Equally discouraging is the anti-suffragist sentiment among those of Hattie’s own gender.

When Hattie’s sister-in-law Alice learns to drive and purchases a 1916 Saxon touring car, Hattie agrees to go on a road trip to join the peaceful protests in Washington on the eve of President Wilson’s second inauguration. Alice also invites Julia Martin to go along, and to Hattie’s chagrin,

Julia is sitting in the passenger seat when the two arrive from Columbia to pick her up. The journey brings new insight and fresh perspective, enabling Hattie to resolve misunderstandings with Charles and convincing her to continue her work for suffrage, with her husband’s blessings.

But the road Hattie has chosen becomes even more fraught with disappointing setbacks and delays. In 1917, the US declares war on Germany and the president mobilizes the country in the fight for freedom in Europe, ignoring the oppression of the rights of women at home. Public opinion shifts, casting the women’s movement as unpatriotic and subversive.

Hattie does her part for the war and agonizes when Charles Jr. and the boys from Calhoun are drafted and sent to the front. She continues to support the suffrage cause, but must cancel a second road trip due to gas rationing.

When the war ends, she travels with Alice and Julia and Charles Jr.’s fiancée Pauline, to Washington to join the peaceful protests at the White House, organized by Alice Paul and the Woman’s Party. The women become inspired to drive on to New York to join the demonstration against president Wilson, who is speaking at the New York Opera House on the eve of his return to the Paris peace negotiations. The peaceful demonstration turns violent when the police and soldiers, who have flooded the ports on their return from war, begin shoving the suffragists and breaking and burning their banners.

Amidst the uproar, Pauline becomes convinced that she has spotted Charles Jr. in the crowd and is determined to go and look for him. Hattie persuades her that they must first go to police headquarters to find Alice and Julia, who have been arrested and detained there.

The Susan B. Anthony Amendment finally passes the Senate in 1919. But Hattie and the South Carolina suffragists endure their greatest disappointment yet when the South Carolina legislature refuses to ratify the amendment by an overwhelming majority. They must now depend on the men of other states to ensure their enfranchisement.

In August, the Tennessee legislature becomes the thirty-fourth state to ratify, ending the long struggle for suffrage, and making the 19th Amendment the law of the land, just in time for Hattie to cast her first vote in the 1920 presidential election.

Study Guide

Study Questions

  1. Hattie compared the way men elevated women onto pedestals for their virtue, to “a prison without bars.” What did she mean by this statement? How did that attitude impede the suffrage movement?
  2. How were Charles and Percy different and alike? What bonds did they share that would cause Charles to pay off Percy’s debt?
  3. Much of the dialogue takes place through telephone conversations. How effective are Alice’s “phone habits” in advancing the story?
  4. How is Alice changed by the death of her sister, Willie Mae? What do we learn about Willie Mae in Chapter 13 that allows Alice to move on?
  5. When the point of view in the story changes from Hattie to Charles, what do we find out about Charles that we didn’t know before? How had Charles’ attitude toward Hattie changed between his first and last visit to see Julia?
  6. In chapter 23, how does the bridesmaid’s luncheon reveal the differences in the Barton family members, in their attitudes about the proper role of women? Which of the women around the table represents your feelings best?
  7. Which of the main characters—Hattie, Charles, or Alice—changed the most over the course of the story? Explain your answer.
  8. Which of the minor characters would you nominate for playing his/her role most effectively? Why? (Charles Jr., Richard, Georgia, Pauline, Mary, Rosa, Earline, Velma, Lila Givens, Julia, Will)