Dora B. Montefiore, New Age October 1904
Source: New Age, p. 666, 20 October 1904;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
There is little doubt that the period through which we are now passing will be chronicled in the future as that of the Renascence of womanhood, intellectually and socially – if not politically. Women are running men hard in every branch of life; and as this, unfortunately, is a competitive age, the pressure at times becomes acute, not to say exasperated. When we shall have passed into the stage of collective endeavour, men and women will work and study side by side as human beings having the same interests, instead of competitive interests. Recent statistics from the Swiss universities show that in 1902-3 there were 4,790 women students on the books, as compared with 4,786 men students. In the faculty of medicine the largest increase is recorded, and the total number of women students entered at all the Swiss universities combined, has increased from 572 in the summer of 1900 to 1,024 in the summer of 1903. In the American paper, Progress, of October, 1904, we read: “Men who were amongst the strongest advocates of women’s education, are now aghast before the ever increasing numbers of women in Western co-educational universities. In many of these colleges women outnumber men two to one in liberal studies such as Greek, Latin, philosophy, literature, history. When you hear it sometimes said that co-education is not a success, what is really meant is that its success has been too great; and when, as in Chicago University, women are beginning to be taught in separate classes, it is in reality an effort to segregate men from academic competition of women. One has only to look at the student body collected in a lecture room of a Western university to see that, to the glory of the West, it is the rank and file, and not the few with money and position, who go to college.” At Vassar College, U.S.A., nearly 30 per cent. of the students have taken up teaching as a profession; only 3 per cent. take to medicine as a career, ten write on scientific subjects, five are in the law, and there is one chemist, and one water analyst. The wife of Marshal Oyama is a Vassar girl, and the only Japanese girl who has as yet graduated from a college. In this connection of women and the law it is interesting to note that Mrs. Whites a negress, passed a creditable examination lately before the Louisville (Kentucky) Circuit Court, and received the certificate permitting her to practise law.
The industrial workers in the North are certainly not justifying the common, reproach that women cannot and will not organise. At Eccles (Manchester) they have lately formed a Women’s Labour Representation Association. Miss B. Pemberton gave an address on the necessity for the organisation of women workers for the purpose of promoting their political and social welfare. Rules were then adopted, and officers elected. Besides this, a Manchester and Salford Women’s Trade and Labour Council has been formed by the Manchester Women’s Trades Unions; amongst the trades federated are electric and linotype workers, women in the bookbinding trade, shirtmakers, clay pipe finishers, weavers, tailoresses, winders, gassers, doublers, and reelers.
The most promising sign of the times perhaps for women is the recent consolidation at Berlin of the International Woman’s Suffrage Conference, which reaffirmed its position, and laid its plans for future work. Many million women are, through this international bond, pledged to work for their political emancipation, affirming as they do “that the ballot is the only legal and permanent means of defending the rights to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ pronounced inalienable by the American declaration of Independence, and accepted as inalienable by all civilised nations. In any representative form of government, therefore, women should be vested with all the political rights and privileges of electors.”
The Morning Leader of October 10th has an article from its Sydney correspondent on “Women’s Work in Sydney,” containing the usual screed about the “dwindling birth rate” and the “40,000 unemployed,” both of which according to him owe their origin to the competition of women. His contention is that the only reason women are employed out there is because they are cheaper; and refers to the employers’ reason “that they do not get drunk, and are in general more reliable than the men” as simply “picturesque.” Thirteen and threepence a week is, he says, the average wage for a woman in industry, which seems difficult to reconcile with the fact that in domestic service the wage for a girl or woman is never less than that, plus her board and lodging, and often goes as high as £1 a week. Judging from the next statement of the Sydney correspondent of the Morning Leader, that “owing to the heavy protective tariff the bare necessaries of life are dearer in Australia than in England,” I should be inclined to take his statistics about the women’s average industrial wage with mental reservations. The “necessaries” of life in Australia are (as I know from practical experience there as a housekeeper) rather cheaper on the whole than in England, though directly you go outside the “necessaries,” the price of minor and major luxuries is higher. Meat, fish, bread, vegetables, are all cheap; tea, coffee, and sugar are much the same in price as they are here; and these are the articles whose prices most affect the working woman. It is curious to note that the same “picturesque” reason for employing women in the place of men is given by employers in the brass works of Detroit, U.S.A. An American woman’s paper says: “Several of the women have been at their work every day for the past eight months. It is for this regularity and reliability that they are preferred to the young men who formerly did the work. The women’s superiority is recognised by their higher wages.” It must not be forgotten that any statistics furnished in the Leader article were compiled prior to the Industrial Arbitration Act, and prior to the political emancipation of women in the Colonies. It seems probable from what we know of Labour politics in Australia that both men and women workers will understand right well how to protect their industrial interests; not as sex against sex, but in the highest interests of the community. The final wail of the Leader’s correspondent is a quaint blend of the ludicrous and the inaccurate; but he evidently intends it, if logic fails, as a last irresistible and emotional appeal to misguided womanhood.” The consequence is that comparatively few female employees find husbands and homes – and what is to become of those who do not?” The solution of this most pregnant problem may safely be left to a race whose men and women possess equal rights to, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
DORA B. MONTEFIORE.