Why Women Should Vote, January 25, 1912

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As the first Woman Suffrage Association was planned in 1840 after the women had been refused seats at the Anti-Slavery Convention which met in London, so doubtless these new Suffrage societies which are approaching the situation with such valor and heroism are also rooted in a genuine protest that women are not allowed to participate in the legal and formal effort to right ancient wrongs as they arise to the national consciousness, first to disturb it and later to be redressed.

Much of the new demand for political enfranchisement arises from a passionate desire to reform <remedy> the unsatisfactory and degrading social conditions which are responsible for much wrong-doing and wretchedness. The fate of all the unfortunate, the suffering, the criminal are daily forced upon woman's attention in painful and intimate ways. But because of the tendency to nationalize all industrial and commercial questions, to make 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 well being of the community, contemporary women who are without the franchise are much more outside the real life of the world than any set of disenfranchised men could possibly have been in all history, unless it were the men slaves of ancient Greece, because never before has so large an area of life found civic expression; never since the days of Pericles have politics included so large a portion of human interests. <never has Hegel's depiction of the State been so accurate that "the State' is the realization of the moral ideals.">

The college woman, whether she has made a specialty of economics, of the humanities or of science, or whether she is leading a purely domestic life, in spite of her widened interests and disciplined mind if she is without the franchise will find [page 2] herself outside of the real game. She will find herself trying to <live the distinctive life of her own age while being kept outside of it.>

This may be easily illustrated. To take first the college woman who has made a specialty of economics and industrial questions -- and their name is legion -- they quickly discover that political disability has ever worked itself out in industrial weakness and social impotence; that while the wages of working men have increased from 50 to 100% during the last sixty years the wages of working women have remained stationary. In that awful "Sweating Exhibition" held several years ago in London it was shown that shirts were made for seven and a half pence per dozen and that women were working nineteen hours a day for one shilling. The latest government investigation in England discloses a number of working women so ill paid that England is perforce developing an entire class of homeless women too poor to pay for continuous shelter. The exclusion from all political rights of millions of working women is not only a source of industrial weakness and poverty to themselves but a danger to national industry. Working women cannot hope to hold their own in industrial matters where their interests clash with those of their enfranchised fellow workers or employers, in whose hands lie the solution of the problems which are at present convulsing the industrial world. They are bound to feel more and more the disadvantages of being shut out from the sphere where questions connected with their wages and hours of labor are being fought out.

<Insert Nearing figures on Wages for Women>

In the solution of these problems women themselves are not consulted, even in the laws designed to protect their own health [page 3] and comfort. Such are

Anti Sweat Shop Laws

Prohibition of Tenement House work

Inspection and Licensing

The Minimum Wage Board first established for woman's work.

Limitation of hours of labor.

Prohibition of night work

Protection of child bearing women.

Industrial insurance and all of that new legislation embodied in Employers Liability Acts.

Legal status of Trades Unions

Free Employment bureaus

Trade training

Liquor Legislation

Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration and that scientific management of industry which goes to show that so often efficiency is only applied mechanics.

To consider next the college woman who has devoted herself to science. The desire for the amelioration of the conditions of human life come, so to speak, in gusts and no one can doubt that the wind is now blowing with strength and impelling us onward. It is sweeping into this worldwide effort those who are supposed to represent the least of enthusiasm and the most of cold research, the men and women trained in pure science. No one is more needed at the present moment than the expert in the application of recent scientific discoveries to practical affairs. Much of this application is identified with legislation and while the researches of scientific women are taken with absolute confidence they are [page 4] given no vote when it comes to the civic application of their knowledge.

We can readily instance

Bacteriological knowledge in relation to the milk supply, to the examination of foods and to the public water supply.

Prevention of infant mortality.

Care of new born infants -- prevention of blindness

Regulation of midwifery

Registration of trained nurses

Control of contagious diseases <especially venereal diseases>

Vaccination and administration of anti-toxin

Care of tuberculosis

Medical supervision of school children

Housing, sanitation and ventilation

Disposal of waste

Prevention of industrial diseases.

The college woman who studies literature, history, philosophy, whatever treats of the development of human life, of that vast and checkered undertaking of its own moralization to which the human race is committed, quickly feels the need of a franchise. It is inevitable that humanitarian women should wish to vote concerning all the regulation of public charities which have to do with

The care of dependent children and the Juvenile Courts

Pensions to mothers in distress

Care of the aged poor

Care of the homeless -- municipal lodging houses and poor houses

Care of the mentally defective [page 5]

Conditions of jails and penitentiaries

Conditions of police stations

Gradual elimination of the social evil

Extended care of young girls -- the age of consent

The establishment of juvenile courts

The suppression of gambling

Protection of the immigrant

Decent advertising -- regulation of billboards

Municipal art

Public baths and wash houses.

To consider next the college woman is absorbed in domesticity. It is said that certain women are still indifferent to political freedom, quite as Oriental women are indifferent to personal freedom because they have never seen the implications and consequences which the lack of the franchise entails. A chart has recently been prepared by the Woman's City Club of Chicago entitled "Madam, who keeps your House?" showing the connection which the most domestic woman has with civic affairs. This chart shows a series of sketches of home life connected by a string with the various departments in the [city] hall that controls them.


1. A couple being married

Marriage license Bureau

2. A couple hunting a home

Building Dept.

3. Buying goods

Factory inspection

4. Mother bringing out <buying> a loaf of bread

Health Dept. Foods & Markets

5. Housekeeper taking in milk

Milk inspector. City Health

6. Lighting gas stove

Comm. of Public Works

7. Putting garbage in pail

Sanitary inspector of streets and alleys

8. Getting drinks <[Drawing] water for faucet>

Comm. of public works

9. Baby in nurse's arms

Registered in Health dept

10. Children sent to school

Board of education, heath dept., medical school inspection

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11. Smoke [pouring] out of window.

Smoke inspection

12. Men cleaning streets

Streets and alleys

13. Signs for contagious diseases

Health dept.

14. Crepe on the door

Burial permit

Even the most indifferent woman who keeps house cannot fail to see this connection and the disaster which must result when she is forced persistently to turn the regulation of such affairs over to others. It is said the moral trustworthiness of women in their sense of domestic relation is accepted in our everyday life as part of the natural order of things on which we can rely as implicitly as on the continuity of the forces of nature: but the community is wronged when so much of this integrity is absorbed in a domestic selfishness that a sense of obligation toward the community is never developed. And perhaps the women who leads the domestic life, more than any other, is in need of the franchise. One could easily name the regulations of the State which define her status in the community.


Laws regulating marriage and divorce.

Laws defining the legitimacy of children

Laws defining married women's property rights

Exemption and homestead laws which protect her when her husband is bankrupt.

Laws concerning non-support which so intimately affect the lives of poorer women, and which alone enable them to rear their children

Laws concerning the co-guardianship which gives a woman an equal right in the care of her children and which until recently have been so manifestly unjust to mothers.

Laws concerning widows' awards. If we consider next the acts of the state regulating her functions as mother of her children and head of her household there are [page 7] 

Laws concerning the preparation of food by which alone her children may be protected from poisoning.

Those concerning the manufacture of clothing.

Provision for the education of her children made by the public schools, states universities, etc.

Provision for the recreation of her children which have lately come to include not only playgrounds but small parks with field houses and gymnasiums.

Child labor laws which protect her children from premature labor.

The newly established laws for vocational guidance and employment supervision which many cities are instituting gradually in connection with their public school systems. Even the factory child averages between six and 4/10 years of education before it enters industry, and it might well seem the duty of the state to keep a supervision over them lest the education which they have gotten at such expense be utterly quenched in work ill fitted for the young.

These laws I have mentioned defining her status and facilitating the functions of the domestic woman are the most obvious ones. I have not gone into the great question of the tariff and all that it means in raising the price of household commodities for if woman is less the producer than formerly she still determines the kind and quality of production because she is the consumer and purchaser. English women eager to get into the game before the tariff policy is established in England.

Because the college woman is the triumphant heir to the long struggle to secure wider educational opportunities and economic freedom for women she, above all others, is able to testify that the ever changing state inevitably brings about great modifications, not only industrial and social, but domestic and personal as well. The college woman will know that under the impulsion of new political ideas, the legal forms of society are gradually changing and fresh [page 8] civic institutions are constantly developed to meet these new wants, and that a government controlled and administered almost exclusively by men, in dealing with these new and peculiar problems which affect all aspects of life, must of necessity fail to deal with them adequately, that all the remedial powers, all the understanding and training, which society possesses must be brought to bear upon them if our nation would hold its own in this complex modern world in which we live.