The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #90418   Message #3322444
Posted By: Jon Corelis
13-Mar-12 - 07:08 PM
Thread Name: Folklore: Lady's alligator purse? Her own thread
Subject: RE: Folklore: Lady's alligator purse? Her own thread
I haven't read every one of the postings about the lady with the alligator purse on this site, but from what I've seen, the Susan B. Anthony theory of origin can't be accepted as anything but speculation. All I've been able to find on the internet is an unsupported statement that there was a "children's jump-rope rhyme that was recorded by the press when Anthony was campaigning for suffrage in California" which ended "Mumps! said the doctor. Measles! said the nurse. Vote!! said the lady with the alligator purse!!"

This statement isn't evidence of anything without a verifiable citation either of the name and date of the newspaper, or of a book or article by an academic historian verifying the quote. And even if the quote exists, it could have been a version of the rhyme just made up by a columnist or feature writer for political or comic effect. Maybe it wasn't, but the point is that there is no way of settling these speculations without more information.

But there's also the larger issue of what it means to say the image "came from somewhere." Even if we could establish that originally the image somehow worked its way into the rhyme from Susan B. Anthony, would that tell us what the rhyme "really" means? I mentioned a woman who knew it as a child in the 1970s: I doubt very much whether she or her fellow seven year olds knew anything about Susan B. Anthony, but that doesn't, I think, mean that the image had become meaningless by their time. For me, what the image "really" means is its symbolism in its living tradition, not whatever originally gave rise to it.

Jon Corelis
World's Only Pagan Country Blues