Dora B. Montefiore 1912
Source: Daily Herald, November 6, 1912, p. 2;
Transcription: Ted Crawford.
HTML Markup: Brian Reid.
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
At a debate at the Lyceum Club, Miss Birrell recently moved a resolution to the effect “that militant tactics had put back the granting of the suffrage for a generation.”
I opposed the resolution by quoting from Olive Schreiner’s “Women and labour.”
I then pointed out how the present revolt how the present revolt of women and their demand for full political, economic and social emancipation was only one part of the great upheaval of the workers and was only one note in the great chord of aspiration which was rising to the lips of the downtrodden all over the world.
I then touched on the fact that during my two years’ absence from England, I could not help noting how the spirit of revolt against things as they are had moved the world on, as it were, with a sudden jolt; and that far from the suffrage cause having gone back, woman’s demands were now voiced seriously in every newspaper.
No, the cause of the political enfranchisement of women cannot be said to have gone back, even in spite of wise and of unwise militancy. For, in England, at any rate, nothing worth having can be won, it seems, except by militancy. But I then pointed out, that what had set back the efforts of those who were working for the enfranchisement of women, as opposed to the enfranchisement of property, was the disingenuous way in which the demand for the political enfranchisement of women was made.
I told the ladies present that although they had been ostensibly asking for years for the enfranchisement of women on the same terms no men, they were always prepared to take with rejoicing the enfranchisement of a few women of property and then to cry out aloud and congratulate themselves that women had gained political enfranchisement.
It was this persistently disingenuous demand that was making the difficulty now. Manhood Suffrage was before the country but because the Suffrage Societies had refused to educate the country to the idea of Womanhood Suffrage, and nothing less than Womanhood Suffrage, and had had further insisted on the presentation of the “Conciliation Bill” (a Bill which conciliated no-one) they had given the Government, the chance it wanted of saying they had discussed the question of enfranchising women on a property qualification and could not on that qualification include women in their franchise measure.
Needless to say that my remarks about the willingness of women, even now, to take less than “the same terms as men” and say “Thank you,” were received in chilly silence, because most of those present had made up their minds to the betrayal of the principle for which they have been ostensibly working, but which, as practical politicians they were ready to fling to the winds whenever Mr. Philip Snowden suggests some tempting fancy franchise.
What I want to point out to working woman now is that there never was a time when we needed more in England a Womanhood Suffrage League to take the place of the old Adult Suffrage, Society. If the Liberals stay in, Manhood Suffrage is practically won; Womanhood Suffrage remains then to be won.
Will the women of the Democracy form a Womanhood Suffrage League and let the Government know that it is not only Middle-class women who can be militant but that as surely as there is any attempt to offer less than “on the same terms as men” so surely will there be persistent militancy against any Government which refuses to enfranchise the womanhood of the nation?
There must be thousands of revolting women readers of the HERALD, who although they know the limitations of the power of the political vote, yet will refuse to see an injustice done to their poorer sisters when the more privileged are perhaps about to have bestowed on them yet another privilege.
Let them come together in the Womanhood Suffrage League and prove that there is real solidarity in the women’s demand for all-round enfranchisement.
DORA B. MONTEFIORE