Read CHAPTER X of A Short History of Women's Rights, free online book, by Eugene A. Hecker, on


In the four years intervening since this book was first written, the progress of equal rights for women has been so rapid that the summary on pages 175-235 is now largely obsolete; but it is useful for comparison. In the United States at present (August, 1914), Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Washington, California, Oregon, Kansas, Arizona, and Alaska have granted full suffrage to women. In the following States the voters will pass upon the question in the autumn of 1914: Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, Nebraska, and Ohio, the last three by initiative petition. In New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Iowa, New York, and Massachusetts a constitutional amendment for equal suffrage has passed one legislature and must pass another before being submitted to the people. The advance has been world-wide. Thus, in 1910 the Gaekwar of Baroda in India allowed the women of his dominions a vote in municipal elections, and Bosnia bestowed the parliamentary suffrage on women who owned a certain amount of real estate; Norway in 1913 and Iceland in 1914 were won to full suffrage. The following table presents a convenient historical summary of the progress in political rights:

On July 2, 1776, two days before the Declaration of Independence was signed, New Jersey, in her first State constitution, en-franchised the women by changing the words of her provincial charter from “Male freeholders worth L50” to “all inhabitants worth L50,” and for 31 years the women of that State voted.


Eighty years ago women could not vote anywhere, except to a very limited extent in Sweden and in a few other places in the Old World.

In the United States the struggle for the franchise has entered national politics, a sure sign of its widening scope. The demand for equal suffrage was embodied in the platform of the Progressive Party in August, 1912. This marks an advance over Col. Roosevelt’s earlier view, expressed in the Outlook of February 3, 1912, when he said: “I believe in woman’s suffrage wherever the women want it. Where they do not want it, the suffrage should not be forced upon them.” When the new administration assumed office in March, 1913, the friends of suffrage worked to secure a constitutional amendment which should make votes for women universal in the United States. The inauguration ceremonies were marred by an attack of hoodlums on the suffrage contingent of the parade. Mr. Hobson in the House denounced the outrage and mentioned the case of a young lady, the daughter of one of his friends, who was insulted by a ruffian who climbed upon the float where she was. Mr. Mann, the Republican minority leader, remarked in reply that her daughter ought to have been at home. Commenting on this dialogue, Collier’s Weekly of April 5, 1913, recalled the boast inscribed by Rameses III of Egypt on his monuments, twelve hundred years before Christ: “To unprotected women there is freedom to wander through the whole country wheresoever they list without apprehending danger.” If one works this out chronologically, said the editor, Mr. Mann belongs somewhere back in the Stone Age. In the Senate an active committee on woman suffrage was formed under the chairmanship of Mr. Thomas, of Colorado. The vote on the proposed new amendment was taken in the Senate on March 19, 1914, and it was rejected, 35 to 34, two-thirds being necessary before the measure could be submitted to the States for ratification. In the House Mr. Underwood, Democratic minority leader, took the stand that suffrage was purely a State issue. Mr. Heflin of Alabama was particularly vigorous in denunciation of votes for women. He said:

“I do not believe that there is a red-blooded man in the world who in his heart really believes in woman suffrage. I think that every man who favours it ought to be made to wear a dress. Talk about taxation without representation! Do you say that the young man who is of age does not represent his mother? Do you say that the young man who pledges at the altar to love, cherish, and protect his wife, does not represent her and his children when he votes? When the Christ of God came into this world to die for the sins of humanity, did he not die for all, males and females? What sort of foolish stuff are you trying to inject into this tariff debate?... There are trusts and monopolies of every kind, and these little feminine fellows are crawling around here talking about woman suffrage. I have seen them here in this Capitol. The suffragette and a little henpecked fellow crawling along beside her; that is her husband. She is a suffragette, and he is a mortal suffering yet.”

Mr. Falconer of Washington rose in reply. He remarked:

“I want to observe that the mental operation of the average woman in the State of Washington, as compared to the ossified brain operation of the gentleman from Alabama, would make him look like a mangy kitten in a tiger fight. The average woman in the State of Washington knows more about social economics and political economy in one minute than the gentleman from Alabama has demonstrated to the members of this House that he knows in five minutes.”

On February 2, 1914, a delegation of women called upon President Wilson to ascertain his views. The President refused to commit himself. He was not at liberty, he said, to urge upon Congress policies which had not the endorsement of his party’s platform; and as the representative of his party he was under obligations not to promulgate or intimate his individual convictions. On February 3, 1914, the Democrats of the House in caucus, pursuant to a resolution of Mr. Heflin, refused to create a woman suffrage committee. So the constitutional amendment was quite lost. In the following July Mr. Bryan suddenly issued a strong appeal for equal suffrage in the Commoner. Among his arguments were these:

“As man and woman are co-tenants of the earth and must work out their destiny together, the presumption is on the side of equality of treatment in all that pertains to their joint life and its opportunities. The burden of proof is on those who claim for one an advantage over the other in determining the conditions under which both shall live. This claim has not been established in the matter of suffrage. On the contrary, the objections raised to woman suffrage appear to me to be invalid, while the arguments advanced in support of the proposition are, in my judgment, convincing.”

“Without minimising other arguments advanced in support of the extending of suffrage to woman, I place the emphasis upon the mother’s right to a voice in molding the environment which shall surround her children an environment which operates powerfully in determining whether her offspring will crown her latter years with joy or ’bring down her gray hairs in sorrow to the grave.’

“For a time I was imprest by the suggestion that the question should be left to the women to decide a majority to determine whether the franchise should be extended to woman; but I find myself less and less disposed to indorse this test.... Why should any mother be denied the use of the franchise to safeguard the welfare of her child merely because another mother may not view her duty in the same light?”

The change in the status of women has been significant not only in the political field, but also in every other direction. A brief survey of the legislation of various States in the past year, 1913, reveals the manifold measures already adopted for the further protection of women and indicates the trend of laws in the near future. Acts were passed in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, New Mexico, and Ohio to punish the seduction of girls and women for commercialised vice, the laws being known as “White Slave Acts”; laws for the abatement of disorderly houses were passed in California, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington; Oregon decreed that male applicants for a marriage license must produce a physician’s certificate showing freedom from certain diseases; and it authorised the sterilisation of habitual criminals and degenerates. The necessity of inculcating chastity in the newer generation, whether through the teaching of sex hygiene in the schools or in some other form, was widely discussed throughout the country. Mothers’ pensions were granted by fourteen States; minimum wage boards were established by three; and three passed laws for the punishment of family desertion, in such wise that the family of the offender should receive a certain daily sum from the State while he worked off his sentence. Tennessee removed the disability of married women arising from coverture. Ten States further limited the hours of labour for women in certain industries, the tendency being to fix the limit at fifty-four or fifty-eight hours a week with a maximum of nine or ten in any one day. The hours of labour of children and the age at which they are allowed to work were largely restricted. A National Children’s Bureau, under the charge of Miss Julia Lathrope, has been created at Washington; and Mrs. J. Borden Harriman was appointed to the Industrial Relations Commission. The minuteness and thoroughness of modern legislation for the protection of women may be realised by noting that in 1913 alone New York passed laws that no girl under sixteen shall in any city of the first, second, or third class sell newspapers or magazines or shine shoes in any street or public place; that separate wash rooms and dressing rooms must be provided in factories where more than ten women are employed; that whenever an employer requires a physical examination, the employee, if a female, can demand a physician of her own sex; that the manufacture or repair for a factory of any article of food, dolls’ clothing, and children’s apparel in a tenement house be prohibited except by special permit of the Labor Commission; that the State Industrial Board be authorised to make special rules and regulations for dangerous employments; and that the employment of women in canning establishments be strictly limited according to prescribed hours.

The unmistakable trend of legislation in the United States is towards complete equality of the sexes in all moral, social, industrial, professional, and political activities.

In England the House of Commons rejected parliamentary suffrage for women. Incensed at the repeated chicanery of politicians who alternately made and evaded their promises, a group of suffragettes known as the “militants” resorted to open violence. When arrested for damaging property, they went on a “hunger strike,” refusing all nourishment. This greatly embarrassed the government, which in 1913 devised the so-called “Cat and Mouse Act,” whereby those who are in desperate straits through their refusal to eat are released temporarily and conditionally, but can be rearrested summarily for failure to comply with the terms of their parole. The weakness in the attitude of the militant suffragettes is their senseless destruction of all kinds of property and the constant danger to which they subject innocent people by their outrages. If they would confine themselves to making life unpleasant for those who have so often broken their pledges, they could stand on surer ground. The English are commonly regarded as an orderly people, especially by themselves. Nevertheless, it is true that hardly any great reform has been achieved in England without violence. The men of England did not secure the abolition of the “rotten-borough” system and extensive manhood suffrage until, in 1831, they smashed the windows of the Duke of Wellington’s house, burned the castle of the Duke of Newcastle, and destroyed the Bishop’s palace at Bristol. In 1839 at Newport twenty chartists were shot in an attempt to seize the town; they were attempting to secure reforms like the abolition of property qualifications for members of Parliament. The English obtained the permanent tenure of their “immemorial rights” only by beheading one king and banishing another. In our own country, the Boston Tea Party was a typical “militant outrage,” generally regarded as a fine piece of patriotism. If the tradition of England is such that violence must be a preliminary to all final persuasion, perhaps censure of the militants can find some mitigation in that fact. Some things move very slowly in England. In 1909 a commission was appointed to consider reform in divorce. Under the English law a husband can secure a divorce for infidelity, but a woman must, in addition to adultery, prove aggravated cruelty. This is humorously called “British fair play.” In November, 1912, the majority of the commission recommended that this inequality be removed and that the sexes be placed on an equal footing; and that in addition to infidelity, now the only cause for divorce allowed, complete separation be also granted for desertion for three years, incurable insanity, and incurable habitual drunkenness. The majority, nine commissioners, found that the present stringent restrictions and costliness of divorce are productive of immorality and illicit relations, particularly among the poorer classes. The majority report was opposed by the three minority members, the Archbishop of York, Sir William Anson, and Sir Lewis Dibdin, representing the Established Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church. Thus far, Parliament has not yet acted and the old law is still in force.

On the Continent, with the exception of a few places like Finland, the movement for equal suffrage, while earnestly pressed by a few, is not yet concentrated. Women have won their rights to higher education and are admitted to the universities. They can usually enter business and most of the professions. Inequities of civil rights are gradually being swept away. For example, in Germany a married woman has complete control of her property, but only if she specifically provided for it in the marriage contract; many German women are ignorant that they possess such a right. The Germans may be divided into two classes: the caste which rules, largely Prussian, militaristic, and bureaucratic; and that which, although desirous of more republican institutions and potentially capable of liberal views, is constrained to obey the first or ruling class. This upper class is not friendly to the modern women’s-rights movement. Perhaps it has read too much Schopenhauer. This amiable philosopher, whose own mother could not endure living with him, has this to say of women:

“A woman who is perfectly truthful and does not dissemble, is perhaps an impossibility. In a court of justice women are more often found guilty of perjury than men.... Women are directly adapted to act as the nurses and educators of our early childhood, for the simple reason that they themselves are childish, foolish, and shortsighted.... Women are and remain, taken altogether, the most thorough and incurable Philistines; and because of the extremely absurd arrangement which allows them to share the position and title of their husbands they are a constant stimulus to his ignoble ambitions.... Where are there any real monogamists? We all live, at any rate for a time, and the majority of us always, in polygamy.... It is men who make the money, and not women; therefore women are neither justified in having unconditional possession of it nor capable of administering it.... That woman is by nature intended to obey, is shown by the fact that every woman who is placed in the unnatural position of absolute independence at once attaches herself to some kind of man, by whom she is controlled and governed; that is because she requires a master. If she is young, the man is a lover; if she is old, a priest.”

Essentially the opinion of Schopenhauer is that of the Prussian ruling class to-day. It is indisputable that in Germany, as elsewhere on the Continent, chastity in men outside of marriage is not expected, nor is the wife allowed to inquire into her husband’s past. The bureaucratic German expects his wife to attend to his domestic comforts; he does not consult her in politics. The natural result when the masculine element has not counterchecks is bullying and coarseness. To find the coarseness, the reader can consult the stories in papers like the Berliner Tageblatt and much of the current drama; to observe the bullying, he will have to see it for himself, if he doubts it. This is not an indictment of the whole German people; it is an indictment of the militaristic-bureaucratic ruling class, which, persuaded of its divine inspiration and intolerant of criticism, has plunged the country into a devastating war. It is not unlikely that the end of the conflict will mark also the overthrow of the Hohenzollern dynasty. The spirit of the Germans of 1848, who labored unsuccessfully to make their country a republic, may awake again and realise its dreams. In concluding this chapter, I wish to enlarge somewhat upon the philosophy of suffrage as exhibited in the preceding chapter. The “woman’s sphere” argument is still being worked overtime by anti-suffrage societies, whose members rather inconsistently leave their “sphere,” the home, to harangue in public and buttonhole legislators to vote against the franchise for women. “A woman’s place,” says the sage Hennessy, “is in th’ home, darning her husband’s childher. I mean ” “I know what ye mean,” says Mr. Dooley. “’Tis a favrite argument iv mine whin I can’t think iv annything to say.” A century ago, the home was the woman’s sphere. To-day the man has deliberately dragged her out of it to work for him in factory and store because he can secure her labor more cheaply than that of men and is, besides, safer in abusing her when she has no direct voice in legislation. Are the manufacturers willing to send their 1,300,000 female employees back to their “sphere”? If they are not, but desire their labor, they ought in fairness to allow them the privileges of workmen that is, of citizens, participating actively in the political, social, and economic development of the country.

As women enter more largely into every profession and business, certain results will inevitably follow. We shall see first of all what pursuits are particularly adapted to them and which ones are not. It has already become apparent that as telephone and typewriter operators women, as a class, are better fitted than men. They have, in general, greater patience for details and quickness of perception in these fields. Similarly, in architecture some have already achieved conspicuous success. One who has observed the insufficient closet space in modern apartments and kitchenettes with the icebox in front of the stove, is inclined to wish that male architects would consult their mothers or wives more freely. In law and medicine results are not yet clear. We shall presently possess more extensive data in all fields for surer conclusions.

A second result may be, that many women, instead of leaving the home, will be forced back into it. This movement will be accelerated if the granting of equal pay for equal work and a universal application of the minimum wage take place. There are a great number of positions, especially those where personality is not a vital factor, where employers will prefer women when they can pay them less; but if they must give equal pay, they will choose men. Hence the tendency of the movements mentioned is to throw certain classes of women back into the home. The home of the future, however, will have lost much of the drudgery and monotony once associated with it. The ingenious labor-saving devices, like the breadmixer, the fireless cooker, the vacuum cleaner, and the electric iron, the propagation of scientific knowledge in the rearing of children, and wider outlets for outside interests, will tend to make domestic life an exact science, a profession as important and attractive as any other.

The home is not necessarily every woman’s sphere and neither is motherhood. Neither is it every woman’s congenital duty to make herself attractive to men. The “woman’s pages” of newspapers, filled with gratuitous advice on these subjects, never tell men that their duty is fatherhood or that they should make themselves attractive or that their sphere is also the home. Until these one-sided points of view are adjusted to a more reasonable basis, we shall not reach an understanding. They are as unjust as the farmer who ploughs with a steam plow and lets his wife cart water from a distant well instead of providing convenient plumbing.

Women who are fitted for motherhood and have a talent for it can enter it with advantage. There is a talent for motherhood exactly as there is for other things. Other women have genius which can be of greatest service to the community in other ways. They should have opportunity to find their sphere. If this is “Feminism,” it is also simple justice. One reason that we are at sea in some of the problems of the women’s-rights movement, is that the history of women has been mainly written by men. The question of motherhood, the sexual life of women, and the position of women as it has been or is likely to be affected by their sexual characteristics, must be more exactly ascertained before definite conclusions can be reached. At present there is too much that we don’t know. We need more scientific investigations of the type of Mr. Havelock Ellis’s admirable Studies in the Psychology of Sex and less of pseudo-scientific lucubrations like Otto Weininger’s Sex and Character. When human society has rid itself of the bogies and nightmares, superstitions and prejudices, which have borne upon it with crushing force, it will be in a better position to construct an ideal system of government. Meanwhile experiments are and must be made. Woman suffrage is not necessarily a reform; it is a necessary step in evolution.

One venerable bogey I wish to dispose of before I close. It is that the Roman Empire was ruined and collapsed because the increasing liberty given to women and the equality granted the sexes under the Empire produced immorality that destroyed the State. The trouble with Rome was that it failed to grasp the fundamentals of economic law. Slavery, the concentration of land in a few hands, and the theory that all taxation has for its end the enriching of a select few, were the fallacies which, in the last analysis, caused the collapse of the Roman Empire. The luxury, immorality, and race-suicide which are popularly conceived to have been the immediate causes of Rome’s decline and fall, were in reality the logical results, the inevitable attendant phenomena of a political system based on a false hypothesis. For when wealth was concentrated in a few hands, when there was no all-embracing popular education, all incentives to thrift, to private initiative, and hence to the development of the sturdy moral qualities which thrift and initiative cause and are the product of, were stifled. A nation can reach its maximum power only when, through the harmonious cooperation of all its parts, the initiative and talents of every individual have free scope, untrammeled by special privilege, to reach that sphere for which nature has designed him or her.

NOTE: The official organ of the National American Woman Suffrage Association is The Woman’s Journal, published weekly. The headquarters are at 505 Fifth Avenue, New York City.

England has two organisations which differ in methods. The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies has adopted the constitutional or peaceful policy; it publishes The Common Cause, a weekly, at 2 Robert Street, Adelphi, W.C., London. The “militant” branch of suffragettes forms the National Women’s Social and Political Union, and its weekly paper is Votes for Women, Lincoln’s Inn House, Kingsway, W.C.

The International Woman Suffrage Alliance issues the Jus Suffragii monthly at 62 Kruiskade, Rotterdam.

A good source from which to obtain the present status of women in Europe is the Englishwoman’s Year Book and Directory for 1914, published by Adam and Charles Black.