The Light of Reason
Founded by James Allen, 1902
Editor Mrs. James Allen
Vol. XX. March 1918 No. 3
—Daily News, February 7th, 1918
Votes for Women! What a term of reproach it used to be. What a byword in the mouth of the cynic and the skeptic, the woman-hater, and those among men and women alike who said,—"as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end!" These were the folk who said,—Woman is not the equal of man in any way, neither in intellect, reason, brain power of any kind, business ability or anything else. They have even gone so far as to challenge you to point out the woman of any period great in anything, the historian, the poet, the painter, the dramatist—where, they asked, is your great woman? And I answer—Has woman had a chance? Has she not been kept down by man to serve his selfish ends? Has she ever had the opportunity to prove herself the equal of man in these things? Never. Why, only in the middle of the last century it was considered the right thing to educate the boys,—but the girls! Who ever thought of the girls going to college? What shall our boys become? What profession will Frank, and Tom, and Arthur choose? Where shall we send them to college? As for the girls—well, let them get married! Was it not so? And then there are those who say,—Point us out the woman who has done something great in Literature, Art, Poetry, Science! But that day has gone and gone forever! Let the dead bury their dead!
It is true that while many of us heartily disagreed with these objections, we were not in any way in tune with the militant suffragette with her concealed hammer for window smashing, her abusive pamphlets, her craze for the destruction of valuable property, and her passion for sewing terms of imprisonment. It is indeed a good thing for Woman, and for the Nation, that by no such means as those enumerated above has she come into her power. Had the vote been won by law breaking and violence, how could the people expect her to protect human interests, and respect the rights of citizens? Woman has gained this—her right place—by her unselfishness, her love for her country, her industry, her strength of mind and body, her patriotism and nobility during the last three and a half years. She has proven herself worthy, and her right can be no longer denied her.
Had woman won the parliamentary vote four years ago what a tumult of excitement and riotous joy would we have witnessed! Wild excitement and un- governed passions would have been rampant in our streets, with processions and banners, speeches, and banquets galore.
But pain and sorrow; the necessity for terrible sacrifices, and long hours of voluntary labor, have brought out those latent qualities which have ever slept within the heart of woman, but which could not be brought to active life in the stagnation of conventionality, neither could it be awakened in the throes of a false excitement, nor in the tumult of aggression and anarchy, nor in the hot hatred and opposition of the sexes.
Four year ago the real worth of the women of England was hidden behind the false masks of effete customs and worn out conventionalities. Woman felt her innate powers stirring within her, and all expression being denied her, she choose the (apparently) only way open to her, —that of strife, opposition, and violence. But Man—her self-made master—would not listen, and he would not listen simply because he could not understand—he did not know—for here again custom and conventionality had been at work rendering the mind of man incapable of comprehending what was taking place, and he could not see that he might as well stand upon the shore and command the waves to cease their onward sweep as to try to crush down the rising aspirations of the womanhood of the land. If he could have understood—if only he could have felt the urge of Evolution, he would have known that
the signs of the times (and they were very terrible) were only tokens of an irresistible force which must sooner or later, claim his serious attention and demand his recognition. Who, with any reasoning power could suppose for one moment that the women of the 20th century could be cramped within the social and domestic prisons in which the women of former centuries were quite content? And further, who with any insight at all could have measured England's Womanhood by the frantic, insane doings of a few women during the suffragette movement—women, who let it be acknowledged with all fairness, did not always represent their leaders, but threw all discretion to the winds, making their cause and its claims look ridiculous in the eyes of the great majority. But let it also be acknowledged that the frantic suffragette with her hammer and her bag of stones, her rope and her horse-whip did not, let me say again, represent the real leaders of the Woman Suffrage Movement. Like in all great movements of the past, at times the rank and file got "out of hand" and the animal passions, out of control for the time being, had to spend themselves in violence. But even the most violent suffragette has had a day in which to prove herself worthy of something higher and greater than window smashing, and hammer throwing, and house burning. She has proved herself in England's hour of need. Give her all the praise due to her. Three cheers for the wonderful women of England! Could Britain have done without her the last three years? For answer look at her in the Munitions factory proving herself capable in action, as enduring in strength of body, as brave in the midst of terrible dangers, and as truly patriotic as a man. Look at her in the hospitals with the wounded and the dying—strong, steadfast, brave, self-sacrif1cing, shrinking not at the sight of blood and agony—true Mother and Guardian of England and England’s sons. And she has done what woman has never done before, with very few exceptions in history, she has gone to the very edge of the battlefield to fetch the wounded and dying, unafraid, she has faced the horrors of shell fire and the terrors of the unseen foe so that she may carry help and succor to the brave fighting men. And are not thousands of women today ready even to stand by their husbands, sons, brothers, lovers, and friends in the trenches if need be? Hail! Women of England! Your day has come. Richly and well have you proved yourself worthy of it!
But—what are we going to do now we have the vote? How are we going to use this power that has been put into our hands? It has been the boast of women for years that the cause of woman should be their first consideration. They have said that the laws which obtain in regard to woman in all phases of her life should have consideration. There is much that needs alteration, there are many wrongs to be righted, we all know them. In the January Epoch I cried out to the men in authority asking them what they were doing to stem the awful flood of impurity that was threatening to destroy the youth and manhood of our country. An evil more deadly than any poisoned gas or shell tire, for they can only destroy the life of the physical body, while the traffic in human bodies destroys both body and soul, and leave men and women to drag out a life of misery, contamination and shame. Women of England, you SIX MILLION with your votes, are you going to stand quietly by and see this thing going on? Are you going to be silent while at every turn our boys are met with the allurements of the tempter, and in their ignorance, and often in their innocence, betrayed by the gloss and glamour of vice as it walks unmolested in our midst today? I was thanked by some, a few of them soldiers, for my "courage" in writing as I did. Oh, God, that it should need any courage on the part of any mother to speak when the need is so terrible. I now cry out to the SIX MILLION women of England who have the vote; who will presently have it in their power to say,—These things must cease. If the SIX MILLION cannot make England clean, then their power will be in vain, and their vote not worth the paper it is recorded on.
There are thousands of great and strong men, pure and noble men in our great armies today. Perhaps never before in the world’s history has there been such a moral and pure army. But there are weak and ignorant among them, there are those who have not the strength to resist the tempter, even their innocence being their ruin. Can the tempter be removed? Yes, if the SIX MILLION will have it so. I have culled the following from one of the Daily Papers,—
In regard to the morals of the troops, the Archbishop said the problem was rendered more difficult by the fact that the control and regulation of vice abroad was different from the state of things prevailing at home. He had been a good deal disquieted by certain things that had come to his knowledge, but no one would wish to make a general accusation against the morality of our Army. There were tens of thousands of our best men among those serving, who were eager not only to maintain themselves, but to foster among others the highest possible standard. There was no reflection, therefore upon the general tone of morality of the British Army.
U.S. MORAL SAFEGUARDS
But where huge numbers of men were concentrated far from the safeguards of domestic life it was obvious that the dangers were great, and precautions were supremely necessary. If they contrasted the rules laid down for the American forces in France and those laid down for our own the result was markedly in favor of the American system, although it would not be fair to say that rules laid down for forces which had only been a few weeks in the country could be taken as universally accepted and practical.
The Bishop of Litchfield submitted the report of the joint Committee on Purity of Life, who regretted that in at least one military base abroad the leave card given to soldiers put within bounds at certain hours a street credibly reported to be the site of little else than disorderly houses. Action was taken, but they failed to secure any alteration. The committee suggested a united crusade for the raising of the protected age to 18, and the power to commit young persons under 18 who should have entered on a life on the streets to authorized homes instead of to goal.
The Bishop of Oxford said "there is a lamentably low tone in many country places as well as in the towns. I feel bowed down with humiliation and misery, yet I do know what to do."
Let such men as the Bishop of Oxford continue to speak out like this,—let us also, as well we may, bow down our heads in humiliation and misery; but let us also act, and act with no uncertainty when the time comes for action.
Are we going to alter the conditions of Factory life? Are the wearisome conditions under which thousands of women work going to claim our attention? Are we going to see to it that the woman who works side by side with the man, doing equally as good work, shall receive the same wages? Are we going to make it impossible in the future for women to bring up large families in one room, with no more space that affords sufficient air for one healthy person?
Are we going to face the Drink Traffic with all the courage and determination necessary to overthrow that terrible giant of evil? Or will "vested interests” and "dividends" be put into the scales as they ever have been? And—what seems to us now so great, so overwhelmingly important—what will be the result of woman’s power on War—this war, and on the fate of Europe in the future? Will the SIX MILLION favor the League of Nations? Will they throw the weight of their vote on the side of Peace in the years to come? Can it be possible that women will now, in the day of their power, bear sons to become fodder for cannon—bear sons to be called to the slaughter at the whim of some arrogant Kaiser or King, because he, in his mad ambition and craze for power, demands that the best blood of the nations shall be spilt like water? Can these things continue?
It has been said that the great majority of women will never use the vote when they get it. God forbid that this should prove true. Woman must use her power. The blood of ten thousand of her sons cries out to her from the fields of Flanders, from the dark gullies of Gallipoli, from the deeps of the ocean, to use her power so that future generations may be freed from the grip of the tyrant; so that such a carnage of blood and death may never again stain the annals of civilization, or mock the claims of Christianity.
These are but a few of the evils waiting to be put right. The world is waiting in the throes of her agony for the birth of the New Day, and one of the greatest—perhaps the greatest—force for good in that day will lie in the vote of the SIX MILLION.
May that which has been used in the past as the battle cry of violence, opposition, and sex against sex, may it in the days to come be the victorious shout of Purity, Temperance, Education, Freedom. Peace, and true Religion.—"Votes for Women!"