Dora B. Montefiore, New Age January 1904

Women’s Interests

The new year

Source: New Age, p. 11, 7 January 1904;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

At the dawn of another new year it behoves us women to look backwards towards the past and forward towards the future, taking stock of what has already been accomplished and of the work that lies before us on the path to our full and complete emancipation. The world is shaken with wars and rumours of wars, which threaten to light up a conflagration in which our movement, ever on the side of altruism, peace, and moral progress, will be tried as in a thrice-heated furnace, the dross being melted away from it, and the pure shining gold of spiritual and moral endeavour remaining. At such a season and at such a time it is good to feel the outstretched hand of fellowship extended in New Year’s Greeting by co-workers in every part of the world. Such greetings nerve one to the fresh assault, and hearten one under the stress of disappointment and reaction. Amongst the most stirring and helpful of these greetings that came to me was from one of the oldest and most gifted of the workers in the cause of humanity, and more especially in the cause of her sister-women. Its beauty and its inspiration I feel I would like to share with other workers; and, so pass it on reverently as my New Year’s Wish to all readers who are helping and working in the cause of humanity. “That into your existence, dear friends, the beauty of the morning, the sunshine and the summer, the flowers, the azure sky, and the splendour of the stars may be interwoven, each revealing to you its inner subtle meaning, each strengthening your soul-life – that to you may be assured health of body, mind, heart, and soul; that you may use all these gifts to free from useless labour the sons and the daughters of toil; to make joy real, here and now, to those you love; to build up the ideal man and woman – to prepare this earth for the crowning race yet to be. That 1904 may give you these blessings, and assure their noble use, is the earnest wish” of her who hands on this wish from one of the noblest and most devoted of our women workers.

The sinews of war.

This much for the ideal; and now for the material and practical side. There seems no doubt that the recent glaring injustices to women have helped to close up their ranks, and to promote solidarity. For these blessings much thanks to our friend, the enemy! The Women’s Social and Political Union, of which I have already written in this column, is one of the outcomes of this growing solidarity. I have joined the Union, which is a working-woman’s movement, and should like to feel that all my readers have done the same. Like all new and struggling movements, it needs members, and it needs funds. This last point is one on which I should like to throw out a suggestion when writing to women about the financing of our movement. We need above all things to be women of the world, and to be able to take a lesson from men in the practical management of their affairs. Over and over again we are told that the nation that wins in the sanguinary game of war is the nation that has the longest purse. We women are engaged in a bloodless struggle, but we have none the less to look to it that our purse be not empty. There is one way of raising funds for propaganda and for organisation which has not yet been systematically and thoroughly worked, and that method is co-operative trading amongst women.

Funds to come from trading profits instead of from scanty pocket money.

If only women once realised the power that lay in their hands for earning money through co-operative trading, we should have women’s co-operatives springing up in connection with every woman’s organisation. Women are the principal spenders. Most of the working man’s wages, most of the middle class man’s earnings, and much of the wealthy man’s wealth passes through the hands of women, and if they could be induced to spend it in women’s co-operatives, from the profits arising from such business undertakings, managed entirely by women for the benefit of women, we should be able to run newspapers, pay Parliamentary and municipal candidates, and employ an army of paid women in social and political propaganda. That this idea is no chimera, but thoroughly practical and realisable, may be seen by studying the Belgian Socialist Movement. They have used the profits from their Socialist co-operative trading to build meeting halls for the people, finance newspapers, and carry on an extensive and far-reaching movement of propaganda. Such co-operative trading amongst women would be a valuable training ground for those who desire to earn their living through commercial enterprise; it would give power and solidarity to the woman movement, and would help to convince men in a most practical manner that women were really prepared and fitted for their emancipation from the disabilities of the past.