Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Cause of Suffrage in Hudson

Suffrage shared attention with the Great War in the news during the summer of 1917. (Women would win the right to vote in New York in November of that year.) On July 10, suffragist Margaret Foley delivered an open-air speech in Hudson, at the corner of Warren and Fourth streets. We can only imagine it was delivered from the courtyard in front of 364-366 Warren Street.

An Irish Catholic from Boston, described as "tall and confident, with a powerful classically trained voice," Foley started delivering open-air speeches in support of woman suffrage in 1909. The speech she delivered here in Hudson was printed the next day in the Hudson Evening Register. Because much of it resonates for us a hundred years later, although its central argument seems curious, Gossips publishes the speech again here.

American men are the best men in the world and if it were possible for any men to represent women through kindness and good-will toward them American men would do it. But a man is too different from a woman to be able to represent her. Whatever his good will, he cannot fully put himself in a woman's place and look at things exactly from her point of view. To say this is no more a reflection upon his mental or moral ability, than it would be a reflection upon his musical ability to say that he could not sing both soprano and bass. Unless men and women should ever become just alike, which would be regrettable and I fear monotonous, women must either go unrepresented or represent themselves.
It is not the men alone who have built up this great republic. All woman pay taxes directly or indirectly. Eight million women are engaged in the industry of our nation. Laws are made regulating and controlling their lives and yet their point of view is not considered.
Needed by Laboring Women.
Does the laboring man need the ballot? There can hardly be two answers to this question. But what reason can be given for the ballot in the hands of the laboring man which does not have equal force for the ballot in the hands of the laboring woman? The under-paid woman is a menace to the ranks of labor as a whole. Wherever a woman can be found who will undertake a piece of work for less than living wage, not she alone suffers, but the whole industrial army with her. But why should a woman be willing to undertake a piece of work for scanty wages? Because the market is flooded with women and girls who ought to be living in the comfort of their homes; who ought to be doing housework, mending, caring for the children and cooking their family's food, but who are nevertheless forced out to compete with some other man or some other woman. Where untrained labor can be made to serve an end, untrained labor will be employed.
One by one woman's duties have been taken away from her and placed in the charge of city or State officials, appointed by the Mayor or Governor, who are elected by the votes of men. Every department of a woman's household is regulated or controlled by officials more or less involved in politics. To procure pure milk for babies, pure drinking water, meat from non-tuberculous cattle, non-poisonous canned goods, the housekeeper must depend upon the efficiency and incorruptibility of the various commissioners. She also depends upon the fire, police and street cleaning departments to protect her home.
Changed Conditions.
The old fashioned housewifely tasks are no longer pursued in the home, even the clothing is purchased ready made. Country doctors testify to the outbreak of scarlet fever in remote neighborhoods each autumn after the children have begun to wear the coats and cloaks which have been sent from infected city sweat shops. The sanitary regulation of sweat shops by city officials is all that can be depended upon to prevent such needless destruction. And are not women concerned in the enforcement of such regulations if they would preserve their homes?
Whereas, formerly, women's interests centered in their homes, they must now embrace the public schools, the public hospitals, the public parks and playgrounds. The care of the young, the feeble, the delinquent, the sick, the aged, has always been woman's function, but now the philanthropic activities have gradually changed from private to public auspices women find themselves excluded from their management and with her political status, unable to cooperate.
 Home Always Holds First Place.
The greatest reserve fund of energy in any American city of to-day is the leisure or semi-leisure of certain classes of women. They who fear that woman's fuller development, her enlarged activities, her changed viewpoint will weaken her desire to serve those whom she loves in the home, know little of woman's real nature. Whether she seeks self-culture, strives to become a part of the forces of organized society, combats with the evils of labor conditions, or struggles for personal freedom of action, she does it not for herself chiefly, but to ennoble and endear the home. The home is and always will be, as ever, the place of woman's opportunity and joy; all that she has she gladly lays upon the altar of home; but to the modern woman has come a new vision of herself in relation to the home. The only noble way in which a woman can stay at home and yet express through the home her highest ideals is by sharing, as duty permits, in all the forces which determine home conditions.
Not loss of love and honor for men, not desire for supremacy, marks the great onward march of women; but rather the purpose to live her own life, to be herself, to develop all her faculties, and to cooperate with man in noble enterprise in which she is deeply concerned. To rule alone she would deem as unwise for her as it now seems unwise for him. The trend is not toward separation, but toward a closer union in sympathies and interests, more of a mutual life together.
Woman suffrage reduced to its last analysis always means the protection of the home, the conservation of society's most vital forces.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating. One has to wonder: is this what she was really thinking?