Speaking of Women:
Women on Homesteads
Now even in the matter of homesteads women are not allowed free land
unless they are widows with the care of minor children; although any
man who is of the age of eighteen may have one hundred and sixty acres
on payment of ten dollars, and the performance of certain duties. The
alleged reason for this discrimination is that women cannot perform
the required duties and so, to save them from the temptation of
trying, the Government in its fatherly wisdom denies them the chance.
But women are doing homestead duties wherever homestead duties are
being done. Women suffer the hardships—cold, hunger,
loneliness—against which there is no law; and, when the homestead is
"proved," all the scrub cleared, and the land broken, the husband may
sell the whole thing without his wife's knowledge, and he can take the
money and depart, without a word. Against this there is no law wither!
No person objects to the homesteader's wife having to get out wood, or
break up scrub land, or drive oxen, so long as she is not doing these
things for herself and has no legal claim on the result of her labor.
Working for someone else is very sweet and womanly, and most
commendable. What a neat blending there is of kindness and cruelty in
the complacent utterances of the armchair philosophers who tell us
that women have not the physical strength to do the hard tasks of life
and therefore should not be allowed to vote! Kindness and cruelty have
never blended well, though clever people have tried to bring it about.
Little Harry had a birthday party one day, and as part of the
entertainment he proudly exhibited a fine family of young puppies, who
occupied a corner of the barn. One of his little guests seemed to be
greatly attracted by the smallest puppy. He carried about in his arms
and appeared to lavish great affection on it! At last, he took it into
the house, and interviewed Harry's mother. "Oh, Mrs. Brown," he said,
"this little puppy is smaller than any of the others—and Harry says it
will never grow to be a fire big dog—and maybe it is sick—and it is a
dear sweet pet—and please may we drown it!"
I saw a letter last week which was written to the Sunshine Editor of
one of our papers, from a woman on the homestead. She asked if a pair
of boots could be sent to her, for she had to get out all the wood
from the bush. Her husband had gone to work in the mines in B.C. She
expressed her gratitude for the help she had received from Sunshine
before, and voiced the hope that when "she got things going" she would
be able to show her gratitude by helping someone else. There was no
word of complaint. And this brave woman is typical of many. Whether
able or not able, women are out in the world, meeting its conditions,
bearing its conditions, fighting their own battles, and always under a
Now the question is, what are we going to do about it?
One way, pursued by many, is to turn blind eyes to conditions as they
are, and "haver" away about how frail and sweet women are; and that
what they need is greater dependence. This babble of marriage and home
for every woman sounds soothing, but does not seem to lead anywhere.
Before the war, there were a million and a half more women than men in
the Old Country alone—what will the proportion be when the war, with
its fearful destruction of men, is over? One would think, to read the
vaporings which pass as articles on the suffrage question, that good
husbands will be supplied upon request, if you would only write your
name and address plainly and enclose a stamped envelope.
It is certainly true that the old avenues of labor have been closed to
women. The introduction of machinery has done this, for now the work
is done in factories, which formerly was done by hand labor. Women
have not deserted their work, but the work has been taken from them.
Sometimes it is said that women are trying to usurp men's place in the
world; and if they were, it would be merely an act of retaliation, for
men have already usurped women' sphere. We have men cooks, milliners,
hairdressers, dressmakers, laundrymen—yes, men have invaded women's
sphere. It is inevitable and cannot be changed by words of protest.
People do well to accept the inevitable.