Extract from Letter—
"...and now that women have the vote, do you honestly think that they are capable of using it."
Dear "Mere Man!"
That is just one of the things that women will look after in the future. Granted that thousands out of the 6,000,000 will not be in the position, educationally or intelligently, to grasp the fundamentals of their new powers, it is a state of things that cannot last very long. Women must be educated, and the 6,000,000 must see that they have equal opportunities with the men in this respect. We are reading in the papers just now a great deal about the morals of the Army, and the dangers which beset our boys through contamination. If we take the trouble to look at facts I think we shall find that the real causes of the condition of certain girls and women being as they are, are principally two, Ignorance, and Poverty. From what class of women are those poor unfortunates usually drawn? From the educated girls of the middle classes? No! From the well-paid, well-fed, well-housed girls, with happy homes and books to read; and who have had a chance in life? No! They are mostly drawn from the uneducated and the ignorant of all classes, and the badly paid workers. I have had some knowledge of college students, and so have you. What do we find as a result of Woman’s education? A crowd of happy, busy, highly moral, cultured young women. They have no time for idle hands and the mischief that Satan is said to bring to such. Their minds are filled with a desire for knowledge; they are studying the arts and the sciences, music, medicine, law, literature; and in the dignity and worth which learning brings lies the fact that they are the most highly moral women in the whole community. lf, in the future, the Women have any banners to display, let them bear such words as the following: Education For All Woman Alike. Down With Class Distractions. Away With Mayfair and Slumdom. Every Woman is a Child of God.
There is one great danger in the future, and that is that the old "devil" of snobbery will still thrive and do his deadly work. Are the women big enough, great enough, noble enough to slay this thing? If not, then I fear for their power. I have heard certain ladies speak with contempt of the education of the lower classes." When shall we learn that there are no "lower classes" except those who have made themselves "low" through calling others low? When shall we rise above all this petty caste system, this disrespect for one another, this making distinctions to the disparagement of some, for no reason but because they happen to be poor? You ask, "who is going to educate the women born of poor parents?" THE STATE. If there are those among us who cannot educate their sons and daughters because they have no money to pay the school and college fees, then the State must educate them, and give everyone of them a chance. It must come. God grant there may be sufficient large-souled noble women among the 6,000,000 to bring it about. When we have an educated people we shall have a moral people. When we have girls who can read the classics, and the poets, and the philosophers, then we shall have a race of women who will never sell their bodies for gold. Men must respect and protect the woman who is their equal, if not their superior, in learning and knowledge. Let our women have a chance to read. Give them more time, and the opportunities to use that time well. Not reading silly novels. Perhaps more moral filth lies at the door of the sensational and unreal novel than at any other. I once, some years since, went into a Library in a town which I will not mention, and I asked for certain scientific books. They were not to be had. I asked for the works of Bacon, Spenser, Darwin. No, they had never had such books in the Library. "Well, what have you here," I asked? "Nothing but novels," was the reply! Then I ceased to wonder at the lack of culture in the town, and the terrible amount of gossip, slander, petty tittle-tattle, and smallness. I could well understand that I had, during the time I had been in the town, heard of many bridge parties, numerous dances, scores of At Homes, brilliant dinner parties, but never had I heard of one Lecture, nor a Browning Society, not a Shakespearean Evening, nor a Literary Debating Society. Here was the reason plain enough. The town read nothing but novels. I am glad, however, to be able to say you can get more than the novel in that same Library today. Don’t let me be misunderstood. I greatly admire some novels, and the world is in debt to Dickens, Thackeray, Meredith, George Eliot, George Macdonald, R.L.S., Sir J. M. Barrie, and a host of others, whose books are at once an education and an inspiration. But the ordinary novel, scores of which teem from the press, I say no woman can get through her three or four a week and have a cultured and a wholesome mind. They give an unreal, unwholesome idea of life, and excite the imaginations of young and ignorant girls and boys, giving them false impressions, and wrong thoughts. Educate the people until every library in the kingdom will have to keep the works of the greatest thinkers of all time upon their shelves, because they have such a demand for them, and there will be less vice in our streets, less valuable time wasted in foolish and empty pleasures, and in a very short time no man will dare to ask, "And now that women have the vote do you honestly think they are capable of using it?" I am quite sure that the most highly moral women are to be found in those countries where the women are most highly educated. And by education I mean EDUCATION. I mean KNOWLEDGE. I do not mean being able to paint a little, and play the piano, and dance the latest waltz, and talk the latest "small talk" with a pleasing grace. I do not mean the polish of the "finishing school." l mean real Education. Happy is the future of that Land, and greatly to be envied, where the women have education—where every woman has education—and where such women have power. We, as a nation have failed in the past,—failed in all the things that matter. We are neither a pure nor a sober nation. Religion has been a "fashionable thing" with us, and not a reality. It was time a new order of things came about. You men have failed by your laws and your governments to bring us all those things that elevate a nation; you have had your day and reigned in your lofty superiority alone! Now you are partly dethroned, for you have to divide your power with Woman. May it be the dawn of a brighter and better day for England. If not, then God help us!
Lily L. Allen