Interview with the Woman Citizen, ca. April 19, 1924


Jane Addams

"What More Can You Ask Than That They Study?"

Miss Addams, head of Hull-House, Chicago, is beyond doubt the leading American woman in social work.

"WHY don't you ask if suffrage in general is failing?" asked Jane Addams with a twinkle. "It is a mistake to think of the extension of suffrage to women as an isolated phenomenon. It is merely part of a movement which has extended over centuries, in which the vote was given first to nobles, then to freemen, and so on. In the entire history of the movement there never was a group so well prepared for suffrage as the women were. Preparation was the keynote of the pre-suffrage campaign, and after that was over they [page 2] seemed to redouble their efforts. Everywhere I go I'm asked to speak in citizenship schools, study clubs, lecture courses on government. What more can you ask of a large body of new voters than that they study the ballot and study the institutions and offices which it affects?

"It may be that we need governmental changes; perhaps our ballot is too long, perhaps public responsibility is too much subdivided. Women are trying to find out, they're bringing fresh and enthusiastic brains to work over those and kindred problems with which men have struggled for so many years."

"At Hull-House we find that suffrage is having a marked effect on the wives of working men. They are more interested in political matters, more alive to problems. They ask more questions. There are three or four hundred of them in a single club, and they're always seeking people who will talk to them about politics. Not how to vote -- they shy off from that kind of advice -- but how the city is run, why taxes are imposed, and what becomes of the money, what the county does and where the state's responsibility begins, and other matters of public interest. We don't know how they're voting in specific instances, but we are sure they are learning what their own vote means."

"I think that the influence of woman suffrage is even perceptible in the work for international peace. To the women it has given a more vivid sense of participation in international affairs, for it is easier to realize you are a citizen of the world if you are actually a citizen of your own country. To the whole movement it has brought an added impetus, because it has made more human beings politically conscious, and therefore eager to think and study and write about world peace."

"I've been watching women vote around the world, even in India and Burma. Eastern women take it more naturally, more simply than we do. You see, during the long years of the suffrage campaign we actually set up barriers to knock down. That is, we pointed out and emphasized all the disabilities of women, all the things they were forbidden to do. We made people conscious of them in order to work up more energy against them. Consequently every time a barrier goes down, the whole country talks about it. On the other hand, voting was quite outside the thought of the eastern women. It came to them without any particular discussion, and hence without any moral or religious taboos against it. So women went out and voted as simply as their husbands did."

"It will take America longer to achieve that same simplicity of viewpoint. After all, there are only two real classes of voters, those who vote intelligently, and those who do not."

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