In the short story, by Eudora Welty, “Lily Daw and the Three Ladies” the fate of a young, retarded woman is haphazardly manipulated by a trio of overbearing southern women; Mrs. Watts, Mrs. Carson the Baptist preacher’s wife, and Aimee Slocum who works at the post office. The story begins with the three ladies together at the post office. Mrs. Carson has just received a letter of acceptance for Lily Daw from the Ellisville Institute for the Feeble Minded in Mississippi. The three ladies are overjoyed to have procured a nice future for Lily. Lily’s mother died when she was very young, and was living in poverty with an abusive father that tried to saw her head off. Since then, these three ladies have been committed to the charitable care of Lily; even having her baptized. But Lily is maturing into a young woman and she is now decided to marry – whoever or anyone. The rest of the small southern town aids the women in watching over her and “the boys of Victory are on their honor” to not take advantage of her disabled nature. The night before the news of Lily’s commitment arrives she manages a trist with a xylopho1ne player in the traveling band. The three ladies eventually find her hovering over her hope chest that contains only soap and a washrag, anxious to make her own announcement of marriage. The women are horrified. But the musician is now out of town. They manage to convince Lily to go to Ellisville bribing her with offering of a Bible with her name in gold on it from Mrs. Carson, “a pink crepe de chine brassiere with adjustable shoulder straps (Welty, 13)” from Mrs. Watts, and a little toy bank souvenir from Jackson from Aimee Slocum. Just as the train is leaving the xylophone player shows up at the station looking for Lily to marry her. The ladies are able to whisk Lily off the train, leaving her hope chest, and have the couple married right there by Mr.
Carson the Baptist preacher.
The three ladies and Lily are wonderful brief examples of southern stereotypical women. Lily is the unfortunate young woman not able to make her own decisions for herself. The gifts that the ladies each offer Lily gave me some insight to their roles in the community of Victory. Mrs. Carson, the preacher’s wife, is always in control of aiding the souls of others with the Bible in hand. Aimee Slocum is the single old-maid post office attendant who considers herself worldy as she lives her whole life through the correspondence and business of others; offering her trinkets from some far away town, and Mrs. Watts is probably the aging beauty queen with her gift completely impractical lingerie. I really do think the women had Lily’s best interests at heart in sending her to Ellisville. The hasty marriage really was in Lily’s best interests. Considering the time period of the early 1900’s marriage for Lily to a man who had affections for her would be a much better fate than a school for the retarded. So it was Lily that had made the best decision for her own future after all. It is too bad her hope chest was lost on the train. As her gifts were completely ridiculous for placement in a school for the disabled, they were perfect for a marriage; a bible, a bank, and lingerie. I cannot characterize any of these women as bad or terribly misguided. All of them are just real.