Why Women Should Vote, March 29, 1911

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Jane Addams Shows Why Women Should Have Hand in Affairs of State

[image: drawing of all-women jury and defendant, inset head shot of Jane Addams]

Miss Jane Addams [page 2]

Girls Condemned Irrevocably to Life of Horror by Men Who Go Scot Free for Baiting Them

The third installment of Miss Jane Addams' forceful plea for woman's suffrage is printed herewith. It is perhaps the most striking chapter of the three so far printed. Miss Addams continues, by a clever transposition of the shoe to the other foot, to indicate what would happen if women now held control and men were suppliants for the franchise. The writer turns man's arguments against votes for women into boomerangs that hurtle about the heads of her opponents in showers.


By Jane Addams

The United States alone spends every year five hundred million dollars more on its policemen, courts and prisons than upon all its works of religion, charity and education. The price of one trial expended on a criminal early in life might save the state thousands of dollars and the man untold horrors. And yet with all this vast expenditure little is done to reduce crime.

Men are kept in jails and penitentiaries where there is not even the semblance of education or reformatory measures; young men are returned over and over again to the same institution, until they have grown old and gray, and in all of that time they have not once been taught a trade, nor have they been in any wise prepared to withstand the temptations of life.

A homeless young girl looking for a lodging may be arrested for soliciting on the street and sent to prison for six months, although there is no proof against her save the impression of the policeman.

May be Insulted.

A young girl under such suggestion may be obliged to answer the most harassing questions put to her by the city attorney with no woman near to protect her from assault: she may be subjected to the most trying physical examination conducted by a physician in the presence of a policeman, and no matron to whom to appeal.

These things happen consistently in the United States, in Chicago for instance, but possibly not in the Scandinavian countries, where juries of women sit upon such cases, women whose patience has been many times tested by wayward girls, and who know the untold mortal harm which may result from such a physical and psychic shock.

Then these same women would go further and, because they had lived in a real world and had administered large affairs and were therefore not prudish and affected, would say that "worse than anything which we have mentioned is the fact that in every man-ruled city the world over, a great army of women are so set aside as outcasts that it is considered a shame to speak the mere name which designates them."

Because their very existence is illegal, they may be arrested whenever any police captain chooses, they may be brought before a magistrate, fined and imprisoned. The men whose money sustains their houses, supplies their tawdry clothing, and provides them with intoxicating drinks and drugs, are never arrested, nor indeed even considered lawbreakers.

"Lecky calls this type of woman, 'the most mournful and the most awful figure in history.' He says that 'she remains, while creeds and civilizations rise and fall, the eternal sacrifice of humanity, blasted for the sins of the people.'

"Would not these fearless women whose concern for the morals of the family had always been able to express itself through state laws, have meted out equal punishment to men as well as women, when they had equally transgressed the statue law? Would they not secure publicity concerning this darkest side of city life?"

Objections are Fatuous.

Did the enfranchised women evoked by our imagination speak thus to the disenfranchised men, the latter would at least respect their scruples and their hesitation in regard to an extension of the obligation of citizenship, but what would be the temper of the masculine mind if the voting women representing the existing state should present them only with the following half-dozen objections which are unhappily so familiar to many of us; if the women should say, first, that men would find politics corrupting; second, that they would doubtless vote as their wives and mothers did; third, that men's suffrage would only double the vote without changing the results; fourth, that men's suffrage would diminish the respect for men; [page 3] fifth, that most men do not want to vote; sixth, that the best men would not vote?

I do not believe that women broadened by life and its manifold experiences would actually present these six objections to men as real reasons for withholding the franchise form them, unless indeed they had long formed the habit of regarding men not as comrades and fellow citizens, but as a class by themselves, in essential matters really inferior, although always held sentimentally very much above them.

Certainly no such talk would be indulged in between men and women who had together embodied in political institutions and old affairs of life which had normally and historically belonged to both of them. If woman's sense of obligation had enlarged and modified in response to the demands of the state, if she had adjusted herself to the changing demands as she did to the historical mutations of her own household, she might naturally and without challenge have inaugurated laws for the protection of thousands of young girls between the ages of fourteen and twenty-two who are working in the factories and shops of all our contemporary cities.

It is the first time in the long history of women that so many of them have been without the protection and care of their elders. Even the lady of the castle whom we so much admire and insist upon imitating, felt responsible for the morals of the maidens who spun and wove for her. After all, we only feel responsible for those things which are brought to us as matters of responsibility.

If conscientious women throughout the years had convinced it a duty to be informed in regard to grave industrial affairs and at last to express their solicitude by depositing a piece of paper in a ballot box, one cannot imagine that they would hesitate simply because the action ran counter to certain traditions and dogmas. It would be as if a woman declined to save a child from drowning because the water might injure a conventional gown.