Some of the Larger Aspects of the Votes for Women Movement, March, 1914

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SOME OF THE LARGER ASPECTS OF THE VOTES FOR WOMEN MOVEMENT.

In reviewing the enfranchisement of women, so [markedly] characteristic of the last quarter of a century, one finds it possible to make a certain classification of underlying trends, which while not always clear and sometimes overlapping, are yet international in their manifestations.

The VOTES FOR WOMEN movement is often amorphous and sporadic, but everywhere surprisingly spontaneous. It not only appears simultaneously in various countries but manifests itself in widely separated groups in the same country; it embraces the "Smart, Set" and the hard driven working woman; sometime it is sectarian and dogmatic, at others philosophic and [grandiloquent] but it is always vital and constantly becoming more wide spread.

We may first consider it in connection with that larger movement on the part of men who have hitherto been outside of government but are now obtaining direct representation for themselves. Not only have Russia and Portugal recently succeeded in establishing constitutional form of government, but the demand for it has even reached [Mohammedan] countries, such as Persia and Turkey where it is apparently opposed to their philosophy. The latter is including women in its new government with that inveterate tendency of [irresolution?] to incorporate into its program the most advanced features. Following a zig zag line of progress, both China and Siam, in spite of their Eastern customs, have given women a political status in their new constitution by extending to certain classes of them the right of Suffrage.

In addition to this immediate manifestation, the Woman Suffrage Movement is part of a wider [historical] development.

The comfortable man possessing a vote won for him in a previous generation is so often profoundly disturbed by the cry of "Votes for Women" seldom connects the present attempt to extend the Franchise with those former efforts but for which he himself would belong to a disenfranchised class. [page 2] Still less does the average voter reflect that self government must ever be built up anew in relation to changing experiences, and that the history of its development is largely a record of new human interests which have become the object of governmental action, and of the incorporation [into] the body politic of those classes who represented these new interests.

As the governing classes have been increased by the [enfranchisement] of one body of men after another, the art of government has been thus enriched in human interests and at the same time, as government has become so much more humanized, it has inevitably become further democratized through the [accession] of the new classes who represented those interests.

The two propositions are complementary; when the middle classes in every country in Europe struggled to wrest governmental power from the exclusive grasp of the nobles, the government of the nobles had already begun to concern itself with commercial affairs, and the merchants insisted both that government must consider the problems of a rising commerce from a wider point of view than the self interest of the nobles, and that when it did so consider these problems that the merchants themselves must have direct representation that it might be intelligently done.

When the working men of the nineteenth century, the chartist in England and "the men of forty eight" in Germany, vigorously demanded the franchise national Parliaments had already begun to [regularize] the condition of mines and the labor of little children. The working men insisted that they themselves could best represent their own interests, but at the same time, their very entrance into government increased the volume of pressure of those interests.

Much of the new demand on the part of women for political [enfranchisement] arises from a desire to remedy the unsatisfactory and degraded social conditions which are held responsible for so much wretchedness. The fate of all the unfortunate, the suffering and the criminal are daily forced upon woman's attention in painful and intimate ways and at the same time, she constantly sees the tendency to nationalize all [industrial] and commercial questions, to make [page 3] the State responsible for the care of the helpless, to safeguard by law the food we eat and the liquid we drink, to subordinate the claim of the individual family to the health and [wellbeing] [of] the community.

Certain it is that the [phenomenal] entrance of women into governmental responsibilities in the dawn of the Twentieth century is [coincident] with the consideration by Governmental bodies of the basic human interests with which women have traditionally been concerned, quite as the <membership> of the middle class and that of the working class each in turn followed its own interests and became a part of representative government.

A most advanced German statesman in the Reichstag declared recently that it was a reproach to the Imperial government that out of two million children born annually in Germany, four hundred thousand died during the first twelve months of their existence. He proceeded to instance various reforms which might remedy this, such as better housing, the increase of park areas, the erection of municipal hospitals, the provision for inadequate milk supply and many another but he did not make the very obvious suggestion that women might be of service in a situation involving the care of children less than a year old.

Nevertheless, in spite of this lack of perception, women all over the world are claiming and receiving a place in representative government because they insist upon the right to perform their traditional duties, which have been taken out of their hands by existing governments. This right has been accorded to them in Finland, in Norway and in Sweden where they have the full Franchise, in Denmark and Iceland where there are but few restrictions on their right to vote, in New Zealand and Australia where they have exercised it for quarter of a century. The [extension] of the franchise to women is discussed as an immediate possibility in England and France and has actually been given to almost four million women in the United States.

In certain aspects, the entrance of women into government differs from former efforts in the extension of the franchise. We recall that the final entrance [page 4] of the middle class into government was characterized by two dramatic revolutions, one in America and one in France, neither of them without bloodshed. This world-wide entrance into government on the part of women is happily a bloodless one and has been without a semblance of violence save in England where its manifestations are not unlike those of the English working men when the [Chartists] burned Hayricks and destroyed town property. In the second place the "Votes for Women" movement is doubtless one result of the fundamental change which is taking place in the conception of politics [analogous] to that in the basic conception of the educator, the criminologist and the political economist.

Graham [Wallas], in his very interesting book "Human Nature in Politics" points out that while we have learned to study education from the view of child psychology, so that teachers are prepared to understand children rather than to manage a school, and that while we have begun to understand criminal psychology so that instead of merely classifying the offender as to his crime and punishment, he is regarded as a human being, we have not yet learned to apply social psychology to the field of political action. The individual voter is still regarded merely as a party adjunct, a [useful] unit for party organization exactly as the old economist long considered the "economic man," who was a sort of lone wolf impelled by no other desire than to feed his family and himself and to save money for his old age. The science of political economy made little progress until it got rid of that fiction and looked at men as they really exist, each a bundle of complicated and overlapping motives. There is little doubt at the present moment that politics are in much the same dreary condition as the old economy was and that many blunders are made because political action is not founded upon study of the genuine facts of human existence.

Not for theoretical reasons but simply because women have studied all political matters from the simple view of human needs, it is easy for them to understand and push forward this new point of view. [page 5]

An able man long ago pointed out that the qualities most valuable in an electorate, are social sympathies and a sense of justice, then openness and plainness of character, lastly habits of action and a practical knowledge of social misery. Woman's value to the modern states which are constantly forced to consider social reforms, lies in the fact that she possesses at least a majority of these qualities in large degree. Her understanding of life is exactly what is most needed at the present moment, in the attempt to translate the new social sympathy into political action.

The contemporary efforts of Germany for instance, in extending the principles of social insurance to illness and old age, of England in controlling unemployment through national labor exchanges, are not so much social reform as titanic places of civil engineering in which the judgment of women is most necessary. Governmental Commissions constantly take the testimony of women identified with social reforms, as to legislation for better housing, for public health and education, for the care of dependents and many other remedial measures because it is obviously a perilous business to turn over delicate social experiment to men who have been elected to their legislative position solely upon the old political issues and who have remained quite untouched by social compunctions.

Women asking for the vote that the newer social reforms may be intelligently enacted into law are merely insisting that the State shall utilize for its own advantage that careful knowledge and judgment of social conditions which experience has brought to so many of them. Certainly under this new conception of politics it would be difficult to legislate for those human beings of whose condition the electorate were not "vividly aware", if it has come to pass that a political movement is imbued with life only when it [embodies] a movement for social amelioration or attempts industrial [readjustments] so that the burden of life shall be lifted for the hard pressed.

The public spirited women who have long written and talked about sorely needed social changes, who have tried, volunteered experiments as to their [page 6] practicability, and who have finally created public sentiment in their favor, know only too well that social reforms are never embodied in law until long after the need for them has been universally admitted, after the victims of existing conditions have passed through great suffering and even then always in the teeth of opposition from those who profit by the existing laws. They know the only political pressure will finally set in motion the heavy machinery by which alone the written [statute] may <be> changed.

During the last Presidential election in the United States when measures of social reform suddenly became the basis of party pledges, many women were pushed into political action the stream of party politics with a momentum almost as instinctive as that of a mother who springs into the water to rescue her child. Naturally when women see their social causes, some of them tiny things and new born, about to be turned over to governmental officials, they insist upon an opportunity to help select the men who are to become the protagonists of their most cherished reforms.

The Presidential campaign was but a recent and dramatic presentation when the social reforms which women have brought forth and [nourished], afford material for political discussion; but in every country throughout the civilized world the same sort of social measures are constantly becoming matters not only for a legal enactment but also for executive enforcement and for judicial interpretation.

More than one woman while waiting in the Lobby for an opportunity to persuade recalcitrant [lawmakers] in regard to a legislative measure, has had ample time to regret that she had no vote by which to select the men upon whom her social reform had become so absolutely dependent. Such a woman can even recall some cherished project which has been so modified by uninformed legislators during the process of legal enactment, that the law finally passed injured the very people it was meant to protect. She has doubtless felt the maternal impulse to leap into the political stream, not only to save the life of her [page 7] child but to keep it from being transformed into a veritable [changeling]. She has discovered that the unrepresented are always liable to be given what they do not need by legislators who merely wish to placate them; a Child Labor law exempts street trade, the most dangerous of all trades, to a child's morals; a law releasing mothers from petty industry that they may rear worthy children, provides so inadequate attention that over-burdened women must continue to neglect their young in order to feed them.

Legislators are easily moved by an appeal in the name of childhood and of motherhood, but it requires an understanding of domestic life and a knowledge of the ways of children in order to legislate wisely for them or for their mothers.

Woman's need for the Franchise is however, not, confined to the legislative Department of government for the administration of a social reform is often quite as important as its enactment. After all, it depends upon the good will and understanding of a staff of factory inspectors whether an eight hour law for women is so enforced that girls are driven out of a given industry, or in such wise that the hours of men working with them are gradually reduced. It depends upon the management of public dance halls and social centers whether the women police so newly appointed in many cities, shall be allowed to act as veritable municipal chaperons, really guarding from danger the tired young girls who seek recreation there, or whether women police shall be reduced to the merely formal duty of keeping a [illegible] superficial decorum and their very presence lend a specious security to the new and promising movement for municipal recreation.

There may be a doubtful advantage in the fact that more and more women are appointed to positions in [administrative] government so long as the power of general direction, of determining the trend and temper of new social experiments, is lodged solely in the hands of men responsible only for <to> other voting men and politically freed from the public opinion of the women originally concerned for the measure. [page 8]

A multitude of women officials, carrying out the orders of such men, may come to be but a travesty of what women charged with responsibility could accomplish, unless at the same time the electorate is so enlarged that the women officials come to administer the will of the entire community.

Women need the franchise not only for the Legislative and administrative aspects of social reform but also in relation to the judiciary where all of those matters are at last interpreted.

An instance of woman's relation to the third aspect of government may be found in the Juvenile Court of Chicago where a woman acts as the Judge's assistant. She was formerly elected to the position by the Bench of the Circuit Court and she hears in chambers many pitiful causes of wayward and neglected children which are legally disposed of according to her decision.

Somewhat the same position is held less formally by two women in the Court of Domestic Relations, one called the Social secretary and a trained nurse who is a deputy [bailiff]. -- Last year settled out of Court one fourth of the cases. A [Morals] Court has now been established in Chicago. It is already supplied with woman physicians and Probation Officers, it goes without argument that some such position of Judges' assistant, as yet we careful avoid the phrase, Assistant Judge, will be created there.

As a result of the newly awakened intelligence in regard to the white slave traffic and its social implications, a Magistrate in New York city has recently requested that before he pronounced a sentence upon any such girl, she shall be made the subject of careful observation by experts; that he may be guided by the recommendation of the able women in the Institution in which this preliminary study is made.

This entire change of court procedure in regard to the victims of the white slave traffic, is of primary interest to women; yet neither in Chicago nor in New York, where these experiments are being tried, are women allowed to vote for the legislators even now changing our barbarous laws, nor for [page 9] the city administration which enforces existing laws, nor yet for the magistrates upon whom depends their final application, and this in spite of the fact that any one of these departments of government, the entire modern effort to deal intelligently with the unclassed continually breaks down through lack of sympathy and understanding on the part of elected officials.

If the vote were extended to women as inevitably as such social reforms were taken over by the State, the entire matter of equal suffrage would take care of itself. As social reforms in which women as well as men are naturally concerned, were found [useful] to an advancing social order, the State as it incorporated them into its own activity, would automatically grant the [franchise] to women, not only in order to utilize her experience, but also to secure the genuine value of these reforms.

To one who had never before attended a meeting of the International Suffrage Alliance, the [Budapest] Convention as the status of equal suffrage was reported by the delegates from twenty six parliamentary nations, not only gave a [worldwide] view of the movement, but further more strikingly presented its various evolutionary stages.

The very earliest stage was doubtless represented by the women of Asia who are making in the first struggle, against those traditional barriers and customs "whose roots creep back into primitive times", and whose efforts are as yet in that unorganized and incipient stage which characterize the Western women one hundred years ago. In the words of the President of the Convention "As we review the slow tragic struggle upward of the women of the West, we know that there is no escape for these Eastern women, that they must follow the vision in their souls as we have done and as other women have done before us."

Another stage of the Woman's Movement was represented by the reports from such States as Bohemia, [Silesia] and Hungary where women with certain property qualifications are permitted to send members to Parliament who directly represent their interests. This right of women to vote has survived from the [page 10] days when the ownership of property was the only basis upon which either men or women were given the franchise. When the vote for men was placed upon a broader qualification than that of property, the vote, although it was not extended to other women, was not taken away from the women previously qualified. It was upon such a basis that women a few centuries ago sat in the English Parliament and at this moment are voting upon the same terms as men in the municipal government of [Rangoon] in Bombay and other Indian cities. These surviving votes therefore, not only represented a stage long past but were also a reproach to existing governments which at the present moment, are making a greater disparity between the political status of men and women than that which existed three hundred years ago.

Another stage was indicated when the women of South Africa reported to the Convention at [Budapest] that the conservative Boers of the early Dutch Republics had given the right of <the> franchise to the women who had [trekked] and fought and ploughed by their sides in <evincing> the spirt of the early German women described by Tacitus.

[illegible] <Because> good government is not a matter of sex when it means a method of identifying cattle which have become mixed with the neighboring herd or of defending little children from the dangers incident to frontier life, it has evidently [illegible] <been> difficult for the pioneer men to withhold political rights from women when government has later become more conventional. Such a condition is represented by all of the Australian States, one following another in the granting of the franchise to women until the entire seven are included; by Wyoming which gave Suffrage to women in 1869 and by others of the Western States in America and last of all by Alaska.

In the [Budapest] Convention three members of Parliament sat in the fine delegation from Finland and public servants were also found in the imposing delegation from Sweden and Norway. It was these Northern women, who perhaps more than any others represented the final stage of the movement and it [page 11] was through their report as well as through those from the enfranchised States of America that one realized that freed from the necessity of further agitation for securing the franchise, women are most eager to turn to the amelioration of social wrongs.

The [final] impression of the Convention at [Budapest], was that the movement for equal suffrage is growing, pushing and developing in all nations upon the face of the earth, that the coming together of its representatives was no [perfunctory] matter but the free exchange of experiences and hopes in a worldwide vital movement. [page 12]

Written in Ashville March 1914