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Labor Action, 2 December 1946


Ethel Goldwater

The Role of Women in Modern Society

Challenges LA Writer on Question


From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 48, 2 December 1946, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


I agree with Susan Green that “for the bulk of womankind, complete fulfillment through motherhood and creative work is unthinkable without a basic change in society.” It is possible (and necessary) to improve present conditions, nevertheless. But your party apparently shares this more moderate attitude, for that is implied in the fact that you too have some here and now demands, the $5,000 minimum income and the building fund. How basically would they alter the situation? (This question was asked of me by Miss Green in criticism of my suggestions in my Politics article of May 1946.) Under capitalism, a uniformly higher wage generally means higher prices. So that even if this demand were won, its benefits are questionable.

What then is the value of these demands? They are characteristic of your party in that they can’t be won, and even if they were won, they wouldn’t help much:

Human Relationships Are a Major Concern

I believe it is primarily your deep-seated pessimism which renders weak and confusing much of your propaganda. No important change can be made, you argue, until a “favorable milieu” is established. At the same time, you recognize that some change must take place now as a means to establish the favorable milieu. In formulating and promulgating your program, then, you are of two minds; you hope to win, yet you don’t believe you can win. There would be pleasure in success, but there is also some pleasure in your failure, since then you also “win,” by being right. How can one fight wholeheartedly under the burden of such a conflict? It also affects the very nature of the demands, for these are fashioned primarily for tactical ends, and have little connection With real wishes or possibilities. (For instance, the demand for a $5,000 income. It is so dull, so colorless! Since you are only wishing, why not some interesting detail? As a matter of fact, it is not even enough! Some women now have this sum; but they may be no closer to a good life than the factory worker.) Few women will be won to Socialism by such negativism and deviousness in matter how “political” it may seem to be.

In my article, I tried to describe some of women’s real wishes and possibilities. Miss Green’s basic formulation, that “the woman question revolves around certain economic problems” is a half-truth; economic security is only one of women’s needs. The “complexities of human relationships, of family life, of character development” – before which she expresses such admirable humility – will remain to bewilder us, even when “certain economic problems” are solved. It is these human relationships which are of most concern to women; and mechanical stereotyped phraseology cannot clarify these matters for them. Your party’s unimaginative approach to these problems limits your influence on women and isolates you from the benefits of their interest and sympathy.

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