That Means Us!
November 4, 1917 — Madison Square Garden, New York City
Friends, Brothers and Sisters: Why did Morris Hillquit say that woman suffrage was the most important issue of this campaign? I can tell you why. It was because Morris Hillquit has been in the trenches of the working class and thousands of working women are crying out for the political power to protect their industrial protests. I can tell you we women who have been fighting in the battle of the class war for years and years, we can tell you what we think about this country of ours, a so-called democracy when we women must go out on the picket lines to protect girls who are struggling just for a living wage; when we must suffer from the policeman’s club, from the guns of the militia; when we must suffer even as we have suffered in your Broadway streets, must be taken to your Tombs court and our finger prints left there. We have something to say about the direct connection between the ballot ad our work. And so today we want to remind you that thousands of working women of the City of New York are looking at you men, we are wondering what you really mean. Are you only talking about this question of democracy or are you willing to act and give us a chance to stand side by side with you in your work for democracy!
I know why, I know why Morris Hillquit said this was the most vital issue of this campaign. It was because he knows, as we know, that the very fundamental things are at stake, the issues of life and death, whether you will have a business city or whether you will have a city founded on a desire for happy human life, whether you care more for life than for greed and profit. You have said to us, sometimes in the old days, that women were not yet educated, that they didn’t know enough o vote. Let me tell you something: we may not be better than men, but there is not a man here who does not believe that his mother is at least better than some of the grafting politicians of the large cities.
And because we women go down into the valley of the shadow of death to bring all life into the world, we ask you to help us to protect that life, — life, physical, mental, moral and spiritual. What have you done to the moral life of our girlhood in this City? You know, you men of the City of New York, that there is an organized traffic in the bodies and souls of unprotected women in the City of New York. You know, even if you do not go to the Night Courts, and see what we mothers have seen, that we care just as much for our boys as we do for our girls, and we know that you have not protected the moral life of our boys in this City.
And so we working women, we mothers, ask you to remember that wen mother goes away from home things always get in a bad way, and to-day we tell you that mother has been away from our civic home too long. You give us a chance to vote with you, to vote together, to own together the things that we must have in order to live and then you will see mother coming home in the Government.
This direct connection between the vote and the work has been learned by the women. They have an intuition that leads them to the direct conclusion, even the most downtrodden working woman, and just to leave you with one illustration I must tell you about that great girl out there in the Michigan coper strike, that wonderful Annie Clemens, wo one day as I saw her on the picket line, marching up and down with the miners, this Annie Clemens, I saw her laugh when a sheriff struck one of the strikers, and I said to her, “Annie, aren’t you ashamed of yourself to laugh at that poor striker?” “Oh,” she said, “you don’t know that man as well as I do.” She said, “I belong to the Socialist party for four years, and I told that man not to vote against his class and vote for the Master Sheriff, but he went to the ballot box and put in his vote directly against his class. Now he is getting just what he voted for. Give him another one, Sheriff!”
And so I leave you this word: I think it is almost unnecessary to tell this audience that we women expect you to go to the ballot box on November 6th and vote for a government of the people, for the people, and by the people. That means us!
Source: Ella Reeve Bloor Papers, Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College, Northampton MA.