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 “May 25, 1696: Major Nathaniel Wade shall have liberty to build a pew in the meeting-house when he shall see reason to do so.” Nothing appears in the record to explain this “liberty;” and therefore we are left to set it down to our forefathers' charity, or submission to wealth, or traditional toleration of rank. As the major was the richest citizen, he had probably done most for the building of the house. But, although this liberty was granted to build when he “saw reason,” the town was nervously careful to define the form of his pew, and to fix its exact position. One vote, on another occasion, directed the committee to see that “it should not go beyond the first bar of the window.” A grant subsequently made to another gentleman was accompanied with this condition,--that “he must take into his pew one or two persons, not belonging to his family, whom the town may name.” March 6, 1699: Thomas Willis presented to the town, as a gift, a deed of the piece of land on which the meeting-house was standing. On the same day, the town voted “to build a fore-gallery in the meeting-house, with three seats; said seats to be parted in the middle, one-half to be used by the men, and the other by the women.” This custom of making the gallery-seats free, and of confining those on one side to the use of males, and the others to the use of females, continued in Medford until our day. This “fore-gallery” became a cause of conflict between the two sexes! By the vote of 1699, the “women” were to occupy one side, and the “men” the other. Of course this just decision satisfied the gentler sex; and they enjoyed the boon till Jan. 31, 1701, when the town voted that men only should sit in the front gallery of the meeting-house! This unexplained outrage on female rights roused into ominous activity certain lively members, whose indignant eloquence procured the call of another town-meeting within five weeks, when it was voted to reconsider the decision of the 31st of January, and thus put the matter statu quo ante bellum. When the history of the “women movement” of our day shall be written, we commend the above fact to their biographer. At the same meeting, Lieut. Peter Tufts, Ebenezer Brooks, and Stephen Willis, had leave granted them to build each a pew. This vote was strangely modified, with respect to one
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