Nellie McClung, "Speaking of Women," Maclean’s
This deep-rooted fear, that any change may bring personal
inconvenience, lies at the root of much of the opposition to
Men held to slavery for long years, condoning and
justifying it, because they were afraid that without slave
labor life would not be comfortable. Certain men have
opposed the advancement of women for the same reason; their
hearts have been beset with the old black fear that, if
women were allowed equal rights with men, some day some man
would go home and find the dinner not ready, and the
potatoes not even peeled!
But not many give expression to this fear, as a reason
for their opposition. They say they oppose the
enfranchisement of women because they are too frail, weak
and sweet to mingle in the hurly-burly of life; that women
have far more influence now than if they could vote, and
besides, God never intended them to vote, and it would break
up the home, and make life a howling wilderness; the world
would be full of neglected children (or none at all) and the
homely joys of the fireside would vanish from the earth.
I remember once hearing an eloquent speaker cry out in
alarm, "If women ever get the vote, who will teach us to say
Surely his experience of the franchised class had been an
unfortunate one when he could not believe that anyone could
both vote and pray!
That women are physically inferior to men is a strange
reason for placing them under a further handicap, and we are
surprised to find it advanced in all seriousness as an
argument against woman suffrage. The exercising of the
ballot does not require physical strength or endurance.
Surely the opponents of woman suffrage do not mean to
advocate that a strong fist should rule; just now we are a
bit sensitive about this, and such doctrine is not popular.
Might is not right; with our heart's blood we declare it is
No man has the right to citizenship on his weight,
height, or lifting power; he exercises this right because he
is a human being, with hands to work, brain to think, and a
life to live.
It is to save women from toil and fatigue and all
unpleasantness that the chivalrous ones would deny her the
right of exercising the privileges of citizenship; though
just how this could be brought about is not stated. Women
are already in the battle of life; thirty per cent of the
adult women of Canada and the United States are wage
earners, and the percentage grows every day. How does the
lack of the ballot help them? Is it any comfort to the woman
who feels the sting of social injustice to reflect that she,
at least, had no part in making such a law? Or do the poor
women who go through the deserted streets in the grey dawn
to their homes, alone and unprotected after their hard
night's work at the office-cleaning, ever proudly reflect
that at least they have never had to drag their skirts in
the mire of the polls, or be stared at by rude men as they
approach the ballot box?
The physical disability of women is an additional reason
for their having the franchise. The ballot is such a simple,
easy way of expressing a preference or wish so "genteel,"
ladylike and dignifies.