Dora B. Montefiore, New Age November 1903

Women’s Interests

Rose of Ushant.

Source: New Age, p. 731, 12 November 1903;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

The new daily contemporary, the Daily Mirror, is supposed to appeal specially to the interests and needs of women of all classes, and there is much in the paper that is well compiled and novel in its arrangement. It made its first appearance on November 2nd, the day when municipal elections were on all over England; yet not any mention was made of the special stake that women had in those elections, in the returning of men who would worthily represent and work for efficient primary and secondary education. Women need every encouragement in the exercise of their comparatively new civic duties; but as such duties have been entrusted to them by Government, any daily paper which aims at representing all sides of life should include municipal elections in which women are voters among their “actualités.” By the bye, the idea of a leaderette in French from time to time is an excellent one, only the French should be above reproach. An article by Marie Belloc, published in the issue of November 6th, swarms with mistakes; one or two may be put down to printers’ errors that have escaped the eye of the sub-editor, but how are we to account for the rest? In the following three lines there are no less than four mistakes: – “Bientôt après part toute une série de jolie livres qui peuvent être lues avec avantage par les jeunes filles, cirons entre eux, etc.”

Rose of Ushant.

Which is the more worthy of honour, he or she who destroys life, or who saves it? He who from the cabinet of a statesman signs the ultimatum which means sudden or lingering but ever bloody death to thousands, or she who taking in all simplicity her own life in her hands risks it to save from the buffeting billows fourteen drowning human beings? We hear much nowadays of “sanctions for morality,” as if the effort of acting nobly, or even decently, in life were too great, unless we are in a position to quote chapter and verse for our reasons of so acting. We have grown so introspective and complex that action is stultified, and the commonest claims of humanity too often denied! But in simple elemental natures like that of Rose Here, the fisherwoman of Ushant, the noble action leaps forth as spontaneously in response to human need as the gracious flower whose name she bears opens its petalled bosom to a world too often starving for beauty. In her own simple language Rose Here tells how last Monday morning, at about eight o'clock, she was looking out from the Runion cliff when she heard from the sea shouts for help.

“The cry was like that of people in despair, and I saw that it came from a number of men who were clinging to a small boat, which was being violently buffeted about among the reefs and currents below, and which seemed every moment in danger of being dashed to pieces. I rushed down to the low-lying rocks, threw off my outer garments, and swam out to them. There were on the boat M. Coursol, the master of the shipwrecked barge, and thirteen of the crew. They had no idea where they were, and had been tossing about for five hours.

“Having got into the boat, I piloted them through the reefs, which I know by heart, into the little bay of Pen-ar-roch, lying about two hours’ journey from Runion, and here the shipwrecked men got ashore without danger.”

No wonder the rescued men are full of enthusiasm for the heroism of the Brittany woman, without whose skill and courage, they declare, they would certainly have perished! Yet Rose Here belongs to the sex which we are constantly being reminded by philosophic writers and by politicians shows such a marked inferiority of brain and of moral sense, when compared with men, that they are unfit to be entrusted with administrative and legislative responsibilities!

The Women Workers Representation Committee.

I have been asked by two or three readers to give in this column the full text of the Lancashire and Cheshire Women Textiles and Other Workers’ Manifesto, on the subject of Parliamentary representation; and I have much pleasure in complying with the request:-

Fellow Workers, – During the last few years the need of real political power for the defence of the workers has been felt by every section the labour world. Among the men the growing sense of the importance of this question has resulted in the formation of the Labour Representation Committee, with the object of gaining direct Parliamentary representation for the already enfranchised working men. Meanwhile the position of the unenfranchised working women, who by their voteless condition are shut out from all political influence, is becoming daily more precarious. They cannot hope to hold their own in industrial matters where their interests may clash with those of their enfranchised fellow-workers or employers.

The one all-absorbing, and vital political question for labouring women is to force an entrance into the ranks, of responsible citizens, in whose hands lie the solution of the problems which are at present convulsing the industrial world.

In view of the complicated state of modern politics and the mass of conflicting interests, the conclusion has been forced on those of the textile workers who have been working unceasingly in the past years to secure the vote for women, that what is urgently needed is that they should send their own nominee to the house of Commons, pledged to work in season and out of season to secure the enfranchisement of the women workers of the country.

A committee has been formed of women in the trade from various Lancashire and Cheshire towns, whose duties are (1) to select a suitable and zealous candidate and (2) to collect and be responsible for the spending of £500, which is the amount absolutely necessary for one candidate’s election expenses. A balance-sheet will be submitted to each town subscribing.

Anyone who wishes to better the position of their fellow-workers and of the thousands of women outside of the ranks of the skilled cotton operatives, who are being overworked and underpaid, should remember that political enfranchisement must precede industrial emancipation, and that the political disabilities of women have done incalculable harm by cheapening their labour and lowering their position in the industrial world.

What Lancashire and Cheshire women think to-day, England will do to-morrow.

Yours fraternally,

October, 1903.

I hope any interested in this spirited initiative will promptly send subscriptions to the Treasurer, Miss Eva Gore Booth, 5, John Dalton Street, Manchester.

Dora B. Montefiore.