Shoes From St. Louis: An Unbelievable Story
Fashioning Thoughtful Smiles With Shoes From St. Louis
When our kids went to college we would often have a group of their friends “in for a visit,” as we say in the South.
A Shoe Story
One of the neatest things about inviting them was that they were literally from all over the world. A bona fide princess came for a visit one time--and she was a very sweet girl.
We had the wonderful privilege of meeting some neat people. Most were from all over the good ole U. S. of A., but there were young adults from Russia, Japan and many other Oriental countries, several African countries, France, all parts of Canada, Poland, Mexico, Germany, Haiti and other islands, England, Ireland, India, and more.
To a person they were a joy to meet. Some of their impressions were quite funny. Some of their idioms were impossible to understand apart from long explanations, and they found ours interesting, too. Their accents were each one lovely to the ear and I often told them that I wished I could hear our accents through their ears.
They took time to visit other places in America when they could and they studied up on our states so they had no trouble keeping up with conversations about the U.S. Most were not shy about asking questions if they did not understand something, and we were able to learn about their birth countries.
One of my ice breakers with these groups involved a pair of shoes that still sit in our livingroom. When making a change in our decor several years ago I surprised everyone by going to a refined look with a good solid touch of whimsy. Using loads of wow-pow color and some odd retro accent pieces, fun Victorian would probably best describe the outcome.
The unique shoes are a part of the decor. They are not easily missed because they are placed beside the black brick fireplace. The heeled ankle boots lace up and have pointed toes that state, “For a lady.” Made of tapestry with a busy cream based floral design they stand out even though they are a small.
These shoes were on my grandmother’s feet when she stepped off the train in St. Louis to be that city’s first woman attorney.
They are one of my accent pieces that people usually notice right away but men often ignore them after seeing them. Their expressions make me wonder what their thoughts are--”Oh brother,” most likely. Women, though, always want to know where the shoes came from, and that is how my story was born.
I decided to have a little fun with the shoes so I concocted an elaborate story about their extraordinary journey in life. I always used my strongest Southern accent to the utmost and tried to use the most dramatic Southern phrases I could think of at any given moment.
It was such a funny sight to watch eyes grow wide with interest and curiosity that I would sometimes laugh before I could finish. The story goes something like this:
My Grandmother's St. Louis Shoes
These shoes? Oh, honey child, they have a long history. These shoes belonged to my little grandmother.
She was one of the first women in her entire county to go to college, and do you know, she became the very first woman attorney in the Southeast. What a time she had! If it weren’t for her aunt I doubt she would have made it, but make it she did.
She had to work harder than any of the men in her classes, but she finished at the top. You know, she still wouldn’t have been allowed to graduate if it hadn’t been for one of the alumni threatening to withdraw funding from the school.
I think the school has a different name now--Hollins, I think--but that was the South back then, I can tell you.
Well, after all she went through there were no jobs anywhere on the east coast for her. I think her reputation preceded her resumes, or maybe I should say her gender.
Anyway, her only choice was to apply elsewhere and she quickly learned that she would need to leave the fact that she was female off her applications. Still, it wasn’t an easy task she set for herself.
Finally, an opening in a fledgling law office in St. Louis, of all places, hired her sight unseen. Her given name being Francis they never bothered to ask if she was a man or a woman.
The story goes that she was both happy and scared. Who wouldn’t be, knowing that the minute they showed up the truth about being a “her” would be out? She had sufficient courage, though, and made plans to go.
Hover Shoes For You!
All was in place, and the day before she left her mother presented her with new shoes to match her traveling outfit and travel bag. Her mom was puzzled by the move, but she was excited for her daughter.
These shoes were on my grandmother’s feet when she stepped off the train in St. Louis to be that city’s first woman attorney. Look, I think they still have some of the dirt from the muddy streets on them, although St. Louis did have a good deal of those wooden sidewalks by then.
Rather than create a scandal that would reveal how gullible they had been, the office that hired her kept her on staff thinking that she would not be able to do the job and would therefore quit. It didn’t quite turn out that way, though.
The city’s Jones & Vilch became Jones, Vilch & Choates before all was said and done. There is now a statue of Francis Choates wearing these very shoes in St. Louis’ financial district.
Would you tell the truth at the end of the story? :)
The Truth About The St. Louis Shoes Is A Thought Provoker
The finale to my story for the young ladies was to ask them if they believed what I had told them. Finishing by telling them the truth wasn’t always easy. The story had stereotypical truths in it, and they wanted it to be true.
My point was to tell them to be careful about what they hear and then we would always laugh together. I think they thought twice about what I said after that, and I’m glad they learned to do so for they didn’t really know me.
It was interesting to try to teach young women not to be naive and gullible--and it didn’t hurt the young men one little bit to hear the shoe story and realize that they, too, can be taken in by a tall tale.
Do You Know Naot?
- Barefoot Shoes: Fad or Functional?
Although barefoot shoes were originally designed for people enjoying sailing and climbing as an alternative to going completely barefoot, runners quickly picked up the invention as a revolutionary way to enjoy the sport and reduce injury and pain.