Dora B. Montefiore Justice 1907

Liberal Limitations

Source: Justice, p. 8, November 2, 1907;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

The daily papers of Saturday, October 26, give an account of a meeting in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, in support of Mr. Dickinson’s Bill for Woman Suffrage. It is difficult to imagine Liberal women joining with a Unionist like Mrs. Fawcett to support a measure, one of whose clauses grants a married woman a vote on the same property qualification as that which qualifies her husband – in other words, which increases plural voting. Mrs. Fawcett is quite consistent, because she has worked all along for a measure to enfranchise women householders; and plural voting in her eyes is not sinful. But Liberal women who stand by this clause can scarcely expect it to find favour in the eyes of a Liberal Government, who began their alarums and excursions by bringing in a miserable little failure called a Plural Voting Bill; which intended to do away with the anomaly, the Liberal women, who were present the other day at Manchester, hope to intensify. As a further proof of how useless are these half-measures with special clauses and accumulated qualifying complications, I should like to explain to Socialist married women why they cannot, under the new Qualifying Act for Women Councillors, stand for either Borough or County Councils. This Act, which was passed with a flourish at the end of last session, and which was supposed to be something that would keep the noisy women suffragists quiet for a time, replaced women as elected persons on the Borough and County Councils, and indirectly, therefore, on the Education Committees. One clause in this measure was “that neither sex nor marriage was to be a bar.” When, however, married women were requested to stand at the forthcoming municipal elections it was found they were not eligible, because, under the original Local Government Act, which gave some women the municipal vote, married women, unless, as is very rarely the case, they are householders in their own right, were excluded as voters. Now, a person who cannot vote cannot be elected; and this recent measure, which was to repair the great injustice to women caused by the Unionists when they excluded women from the newly-formed Councils, has only displayed a fresh Liberal stupidity, a fresh franchise complication, a fresh instance of the enormous fund of possibilities inherent in both orthodox parties of how not to do a thing. Married women, especially intelligent married women of the working classes, are among those best fitted to serve on education committees, as their own children are being educated in the County Council schools, yet, by an Act passed by a Liberal Government in the twentieth century, married women are still excluded from Borough and County Councils. Who dishonours marriage most, we Socialist women would ask: the Socialists, who would give equal rights to all with a wholehearted support of the clause, “sex or marriage no bar”; or the Liberals and Unionists, who continue to degrade married women by forbidding them to serve the community as its elected representatives in administration


CORRECTION.- Miss Margaretta Hicks asks me to explain that in my account, in last week’s issue of “Justice,” of the Guildhall meeting about Unemployed Women, her statements re the impossibility, under existing wage conditions, of the workers being able to buy the goods produced applied to the output from all workshops and factories, and not to the three workrooms started under the auspices of the Central Distress Committee. The clothes made in these workrooms do not come into the general market.- D.B.M.