Dora B. Montefiore, New Age November 1904

Women’s Interests

The National Convention

Source: New Age, p. 747, 24 November 1904;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

Next Friday and Saturday, the 25th and 26th, are likely to be important days in the history of the Woman Suffrage Movement. Last year, about the same dates, a National Convention was held in the Holborn Town Hall for the purposes of bringing into closer touch and more combined action the men and women supporters of Woman Suffrage. As a result, a strong new impetus was given to the whole movement, and a fund was raised for the purpose of paying for fresh organisation and opening up new fields of labour. The Convention this year will be held on Friday in the Crown Room, King’s Hall, Holborn Restaurant. The morning sitting will last from 10.45 to 1p.m. and the afternoon sitting. from 2.30 to 4.30, while the work of the day will be to receive the annual report and balance-sheet, and to consider the campaign for the coming year. On Saturday, when many people are free who cannot attend on Friday, there will be a public meeting at 3 p.m. in the small Queen’s Hall, with Mrs. Fawcett in the chair; when Mr. Crooks, M.P., Miss Christabel Pankhurst, Mr. Isaac Mitchell, Mr. J. Yoxall, M.P., and others will speak. An interesting feature in the Friday’s meeting will be that Mrs. Wolstenholme Elmy, who has been working indefatigably for more than forty years in the cause of Woman Suffrage, and who during that time has met and corresponded with the leaders in the movement all over the world, will open the discussion on “The Plan of Campaign,” by which we hope to secure in Parliament a victory for our cause. Once more I urge all those interested in that cause to endeavour to ascertain whether the member for the constituency in which they reside is a supporter of Woman Suffrage; and, in the event of the member being a supporter, to request him to ballot in the first ballot of next Session for a place for the Women’s Enfranchisement Bill presented last Session by Mr.. Crooks.

Shelters and Lodging-Houses.

There has been a curious discussion going on in the Times between Mr. Loch, of the Charity Organisation Society, and Sir Richard Farrant, chairman of the Rowton House Company, on the question whether Rowton Houses and the Salvation Army Shelters are, as Mr. Loch affirms, philanthropic institutions encouraging and increasing the number of idle and destitute vagrants. Sir Richard Farrant, contends that the Rowton Houses are as much a commercial undertaking as is the Carlton Hotel, though the latter caters for the rich man and the former for the poor man. Mr. Loch replies to the effect that having once declared the Rowton Houses to be philanthropic institutions, encouraging in idleness a host of undesirables, he means to stick to his assertion; and, in order, as he thinks, to prove the correctness of his statement about the philanthropic character of Rowton Houses, he quotes from their annual report the paragraph explaining to the shareholders the arrangement that no profit is made on the food supplied in Rowton Houses, because the profit made on the rooms and other departments is sufficient to pay the 4 per cent. interest to which the shareholders are entitled. It is curious to notice to what extent a doctrinaire can allow his mind to become warped, and his judgment distorted when he persists in looking at any given subject from only one point of view. It is surely an acknowledged fact that many other catering concerns so arrange their business that the profit is made in one department (such, for instance, as on wines and spirits), whilst another department is worked, either at cost price or at a loss. But this does not, surely, bring them under the heading of philanthropic institutions, or lay them open to the visits of Poor Law Inspectors, as Mr. Loch would like to have done at Rowton Houses. Again, Mr. Loch argues that there never were “crowds” of homeless people requiring shelter before Rowton Houses and Salvation Army Shelters catered for them, but that the facilities in large towns for sheltering the homeless tended to “create the crowds.” He might equally well argue that because twenty or thirty years ago there was no cheap restaurant accommodation for men, and especially for women, in London, there did not exist “crowds” of people who had to subsist during a long day of shopping or office work on the sawdusty bun of the pastry cook or the unsatisfying sandwich of the railway refreshment room. Those unsatisfied “crowds” of former days are now liberally catered for by Lyons and Co. and similar enterprising financial undertakings. But they no more “created” the crowds of lunching and tea-drinking middle-class people than did Rowton Houses create the crowds of shelterless and hungry working-class men. There is one other class we women should make a special effort to cater for on the same lines as do Rowton Houses, and that is the “crowd” of shelterless and hungry women. Do we women realise that they are in a far worse plight than is the shelterless and hungry man? Sir Richard Farrant describes how “a man paying 7d. for one night’s lodging can have the comfort and advantages of a really good hotel for forty hours, well warmed and lighted dining-room, reading-room, smoking-room, lavatories, footbaths, cooking conveniences, and everything being provided.” This is what can be obtained through collective co-operation; surely, if there were real sympathy and solidarity amongst women, some of the wealthier ones could, and should, start similar commercially paying institutions for their shelterless sisters.