Dora B. Montefiore, New Age January 1904
Source: New Age, p. 58-59, 28 January 1904;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
The German Women’s Paper, the Central-Blatt, of which Frau Marie Stritt, the President of the Bund, is editor, gives an account of a most interesting women’s meeting held lately in Berlin on the subject of the women textile workers, who, with the men, have been so many weeks on strike in Crimmitschau. Fraulein Alice Salomons, a well-known worker in the woman’s cause, had just returned from a visit to the scene of the strike, and spoke feelingly on the evils to health and to social and domestic conditions caused by the eleven hours day, which (with the two hours often taken up by going and returning from work) kept the workers thirteen hours away from their homes. We learn also from her reports that men’s wages, being rarely higher than 13s. to 16s. a week, all married and single women are forced to work these long hours in the factory. It would be interesting to know the women’s rate of wages, which, however, she does not mention. The organised German women’s movement has long been demanding a ten hours day for workers, and their demand is supported by all social political parties. A certain Herr Tietje, however, representing the factory owners, attempted to prove to the audence that the conditions demanded by the work-people would destroy the textile industries. A most animated discussion followed his remarks, and he was vigorously opposed by Mr. Jutz, an editor and Miss Bohn, who spoke for the Socialists. The meeting finally carried the following resolution:- “That this meeting expresses its hearty sympathy with the demands, of the Crimmitschau textile workers for the reduction of the hours of the working day. It considers this demand doubly justified, because women, both married and single, form a large percentage of the workers. This meeting further protests against the attitude of the judicial officials, whose actions tend to increase the hostility, and regrets the continued refusal of the factory owners to consider proposals for a settlement of the dispute; and this meeting requests the Reichstag and the Bundesrath to fix a legal maximum of ten hours for women working in factories.”
The only thing to be regretted about this otherwise comprehensive resolution is that the demand for a legal ten hours working day was not extended to men. The arrangements of a factory always make it difficult to employ workers having a different scale of hours, and it is better therefore, when legislation is demanded, to claim it for all adult workers. It is fairer to the women, who, if they be fewer in numbers than the men, are not then placed at a disadvantage, and it emphasises the human as opposed to purely feminine interests, and raises the woman’s movement to a higher plane of thought and action. It would be a splendid proof of solidarity amongst women if the English women textile workers and other workers in England, who already benefit by the ten hours day, would start a sixpenny subscription on behalf of their sister women workers in Germany, who with their families are suffering terrible hardships in their struggle against capital. I feel sure that the columns of the NEW AGE would be open to such a subscription, and that the moral effect on the givers and receivers would be the spread of the best feelings of internationalism and of solidarity, as opposed to fiscal jingoism and nationalistic ignorance and prejudice.
The International Women’s Congress will be held this year in Berlin, and will last from June 2 to June 18. Invitations are already issued to speakers all over the world to report on the conditions and institutions affecting women in their various countries. No papers are to be read by proxies, but they may be given in either English, French, or German, and discussions may be carried in the three languages. The programme of the work has been divided into four sections; Education, Women’s Professions and Industries, Social Aims and Institutions, and Civil and Political Rights. Those who followed the meetings of the International Congress held five years ago in London will realise how much good is done by these international gatherings of women, who, besides learning much from each other as regards actually existing conditions and institutions in other countries, gain courage and experience in methods of pushing their demands for political and social emancipation, and realise to its fullest extent the oneness of aim of advanced women throughout the civilised world in their efforts to free themselves and their sisters from economic and political slavery.
A resolution to the effect that “This house rejoices at the decision of the Lord High Chancellor of England protecting the Inns of Court from invasion by the gentler sex, and recording its belief that ladies ought not to be allowed to practice at the Common Law Bar, or to hold judicial office,” was defeated last Wednesday at the meeting of the Union Society of London in Old Hall, Lincoln’s Inn. Mr. Edward Atkin, of the Middle Temple, opened the debate, and Miss Christabel Pankhurst, one of the three Women who are asking to be received by the Inns of Court, made a logical and interesting reply. The level of the debate, as far as intellectual capacity was concerned, was not, on the whole, a high one. Miss Pankhurst having mentioned that among the various countries admitting women to practice in both branches of the legal profession were some of our Colonies, Mr. Roberts, speaking for the resolution, contradicted the assertion as far as our Colonies were concerned, and called on Miss Pankhurst to prove it. Fortunately, Mrs. Shepherd, one of the prominent political women of New Zealand, was present in the body of the hall, and was able to support Miss Pankhurst’s statement with facts and figures, and Mr. Roberts promptly withdrew his remark. The general feeling among the legal debaters seemed to be that the advent of women in the profession could only be postponed but not prevented, and a curious unanimity was noticeable amongst them as to the impropriety of a woman assuming the black cap, and condemning a prisoner to death. Has the possibility never entered the English legal mind, one feels tempted to ask, of England some day evolving to the humanitarian height attained by some other Countries, and abolishing capital punishment?
DORA B. MONTEFIORE.