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On Working Girls

1903 — Annual meeting, Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association


I was asked to speak here to-day, perhaps, because I have been living for years among working people, and have been brought into close touch with the younger and more defenseless working women. I am sick of hearing of the establishment of model boarding-houses to give them a little better quarters at night, and improved lunch-rooms for their noon-day meal, and refuges and asylums for those who yield to the temptations and hardships of their live. Much better results would be got by giving to all women the right to make the lives of working girls more comfortable all along the line, and by giving these young women the right to a voice in their own affairs, which the more thoughtful of them are learning earnestly to desire . . . .

To the wives and daughters of working men, it is a great loss of self-respect, and of respect from the men of their families, that they are at a disadvantage politically. It is a bitter moment for many a working woman when her son casts his first vote. Then he respects her opinion even less than before. The working man’s wife needs the vote for her protection even more than does the competing girl. She has no voice as to a strike or a boycott, and she is much less considered after she marries and leaves the Union than she was before.

These women as a rule will not originate, but they will fight well under leaders. There is a great source of strength, which could be utilized for the suffrage movement and other reforms, in the sober and temperate wives of drinking men; and there is an amount of suffrage sentiment among them which only those know who have been brought much in contact with the wives of working men. 



Source: Woman’s Journal, November 7, 1903.