Dora B. Montefiore, New Age March 1903

Women’s Interests

A Bishop’s Charge to British Women.

Source: New Age, p.171, 12 March 1903;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

The shipping of British women out to South Africa goes on merrily, at the rate, according to the Morning Post of March 3rd, of fifty a fortnight; but we are still left in a state of mystification as to the exact purposes for which such very “large orders” are required. Mr. Chamberlain and Lord Milner, in the intervals of dealing with such questions as the restocking of farms, land settlement and repatriation, found time to exchange quite a number of cablegrams on this all-important subject. The only two fields of employment we find mentioned in these cablegrams are laundry work, and “suitable posts in Government offices”: but we are not to gather from this that the imported British women are to be reduced on arrival in our new South African colonies to taking in each other’s washing, or to starvation on a non-living wage as Government employees. The Bishop of Burnley has removed our anxiety on these scores, for in a recent speech to the Co-operative women of Burnley the good Bishop opens up vistas of far nobler things, of far higher ideals in store for the patriotic British women who will trust themselves to transportation by Chamberlain, Milner, and Co! “They found,” the Bishop remarked in his speech, “that where there were no British women, men would marry those who were there, and therefore our men would marry Dutch girls, they would marry even Indian girls, vastly to the disadvantage of our colonies, and our country. It was necessary there should be a tremendous increase in the marriage of English men with English women. He asked them to realise the call, and the danger that there was, and the means whereby the danger could be obviated.”

The Government Matrimonial Agency.

Could anything be simpler? Why should Joseph and Alfred have tried to veil the workings of their matrimonial agency under the shallow pretence of the laundry and of Government clerkships? The good guileless Bishop knew better than to go with such a cry to the women of Burnley. Not for nothing had he studied, in his spiritual capacity, the subtle workings of the female heart, and he realised that he had only to draw, in sufficiently lurid colours, the dangers besetting the British young man from the charms and allurements of the wily Dutch maiden, whilst he hinted at the “call” to the British woman (it must be a divine call, as the Bishop mentioned it) to send the competing British women out in her fifties, aye, and if need be in her hundreds, to carry off the prizes from under the noses of those Dutch hussies, “who ought to be ashamed of themselves.” The only wonder is that the Bishop continues in the service of an all-wise and all-mighty Providence who can allow such things as the marriage of a Dutch girl to a Son of the Empire. The least such a Providence could do would be to bring in a Bill to put a stop to such marriages, just as Mr. Merriman has brought a Bill before the House of Assembly at the Cape, one enactment of which is a severe sentence of imprisonment on white women convicted of co-habiting with Kaffirs. Here it seems is a chance for another Bishop. Will he not address an audience of men Co-operators, and implore them to realise the call there is for them to hurry out to the Cape and marry those deluded white sisters? Perhaps however, the Bishop of Burnley will explain which he thinks the worse evil of the two: the marriage of a British man to a Dutch girl, or the prostitution of hundreds of British women, which will be the certain result of women being sent out in such large numbers to colonies virtually under military rule, and where the ordinary military lack of ideal for womanhood prevails? I would recommend for the perusal of the good Bishop a little pamphlet, entitled Daughters of the Empire, which was published a few years ago by some earnest and devoted women, working among that section of our sisters who are set aside for purposes of Empire for the use of our soldiers in India.

A Remarkable Pamphlet.

A very closely reasoned and concisely expressed pamphlet on the question of the Parliamentary vote for women, by Christabel Pankburst (a young girl of 22, daughter of the late Dr. Pankhurst), has been published by Abel Heywood, Manchester. I would recommend this pamphlet more especially to such women migrants who may be going out to our new colonies with high hopes of improving their economic conditions. “Sex inequality,” writes Miss Pankhurst, “affects women in the closest possible way; they feel its bad effects in every department of life. Class subjection is not now nearly so complete and crushing as sex subjection, nor so far from being removed. As a class, working-men, possessing political rights, have influence and standing in the nation; they are potentially, at least, its rulers. The individual working-man is the equal of his associates, in his private life he is no one’s inferior. Women, on the other hand, are, as a class, without the power and prestige which the vote gives. As individuals they live with their social superiors, not with their equals.” Further on Miss Pankhurst treats ably the question of the working-woman’s wage, and the effect which the lowness of such wage has on the whole labour market. “The present industrial weakness of women is a great danger to men workers. The existence of a large body of cheap labour must affect the higher-paid workers. The poverty of women causes men to be poor, and this is happening to an increasing extent Either men’s wages must go down, or women’s wages must go up.” She then goes on to show how foolish and reactionary it is to attempt to keep women isolated and secluded in their homes in the hopes of preventing them from taking a part in the industrial work of the world. Enfranchisement, not enforced domesticity is her watchword. “Until women regard themselves, and are regarded, as the equals of men, they will continue to be at a disadvantage in the industrial world, and their presence there will continue to have a bad effect on the position of men. To prevent them from taking part in industry is no remedy. Women must live. Moreover, it is necessary, it is to their happiness and development to be economically independent, Those who work against this are working against progress.” Do women realise that lands without human beings to inhabit them and work on them are of no value? As the Empire is coming to them cap in hand, and begging them to go out to its new possessions to take their full share in the bearing and the raising of the English race in those lands, it is now the woman’s chance to strike a bargain, and to say to the statesmen who are urging them to go: “Give us political enfranchisement in our new home, and we will bear our full and fair share of the burdens of the Empire.”