We Don’t Want Charity,
We Want Justice
February 6, 1907 — Equality League of Self-Supporting Women, Joint Judiciary Committee of the Assembly and Senate, New York Legislature, Senate Chamber, Albany NY
[Testifying on a resolution proposing to strike the word “male” from the New York State Constitution]
Trade unionism is not very popular with some of you; but, gentlemen, it is the only protector we working women have. Why, that law to protect women from night work which some of our friends worked so hard to pass has just been declared unconstitutional. We have no votes to change the constitution We must depend on our union to protect us. We are ruled out in the State, and why shouldn’t our trade union get all our feelings of patriotism?
Miss Schneiderman, who wanted to come here to-day, but could not leave the city, sent you a message by me. Rose Schneiderman is a cap-maker. She is a Russian, but has been a long time in America. She told me to tell you how we women who were born in America or have lived here a long time and have learned to understand the laws in this country feel when we see some man from Europe who knows nothing of free government and is too old to learn just put right over our heads.
And, gentlemen, this shows in our working life. That man learns his lesson quickly, and thinks himself superior to every woman. He won’t take his place in any organization according to his ability, but wants to push in and lead, when he is not up to it.
Some one asked me the other night at the League of Self-Supporting women if my union aimed to make women’s wages equal to men’s. Why, I told them, the whole effort was to keep men’s up to ours.
In some of the clothing trades almost all the workers a little time ago were women, and women who ahead been born in America, or who had lived here a long time. They were self-respecting women, and skilled in their trade. Then came foreign men. They knew nothing about the country or the conditions here, but the State told them they knew everything better than any woman. Well, in such unions we women have a tough job bringing the men up to our standard. The State has much to answer for in filling those men full of conceit.
Gentlemen, that training school of mine, the trade union has taught me that men and women must stand as equals. The big, strong man doesn’t want any advantage over us, and the small man ought not to have any advantage in citizenship, for it only makes him overbearing.
Two million of the big, strong men, the men in the National Federation of Labor, have declared that they want us working women to be their equals in the State. And I bring you this resolution from the Central Federated Union in New York asking you to help us get the vote:
“Whereas, Women workers are handicapped as wage-earners through being deprived in the State of New York of full citizenship; be it therefore
Resolved, That the Joint Judiciary Committee of the Senate and Assembly be urged to report favorably the concurrent resolution which proposes such an amendment to the Constitution as shall give women the same protection as which men now enjoy as voters.”
One of the ladies in opposition has just asked you to save her from the cares of citizenship and leave her free to carry on her charity and philanthropy. Charity for whom? Why, for such as me! But, gentlemen, we don’t want charity, we want justice.
Source: Two Speeches by Industrial Women, ed. Harriot Stanton Blatch (New York: The League of Self-Supporting Women) 1907, p. 3-5.