Senators, We are Here to Stay
April 22, 1912 — Mass protest against anti-suffrage legislators, Wage Earners’ League and the College Equal Suffrage League, Cooper Union, New York City
[Replying to “We want to relive women of the burdens and responsibilities of life.”]
Has man relieved woman of her burdens and responsibilities? I wonder whether the senator was not aware of the fact that we have 9,000,000 working women in the United States! How are women treated as they begin to grow? Girls as well as boys go into the factory as soon as they are old enough. There are no exceptions made to the girls.
Let us consider these young girls going into the factories. In the beginning they are full of hope and courage. Almost all of them think that some day they will be able to get out of the factory and work up, but continuing work under long hours and miserable conditions they lose their courage, they lose their hopes. Their only way to leave the factory is marriage.
How do you like such a marriage? A girl is ready to give herself to any man who will make the offer! But I am sorry to say that there are thousands of our working girls who are soon disappointed, because right after they are married they have to go back into the factory because their husbands are not making enough money to keep a home.
Men tell us that they want to relieve the burdens of women. We have many widows in this great city alone. After a woman loses her husband do you hear of any man, or any group of men or even the state that is supposed to take care of the people, coming to the widow and to ask her, “What is it you have lost?”
Just go through any of the public buildings at midnight and you will see old and middle-aged women on their knees scrubbing away the dirt that men of business have brought in during the day. That gives you a picture of how well men carry the burdens of women.
What about the unmarried girls? We have now thousands in the ranks of the workers who have not married, or who have never had a chance to marry. Has any man every carried their burdens?
We are told that we have 31,000 women over the age of 65 years that are self supporting.
For the 30,000 prostitutes that we have in New York City alone, you men are responsible. You men as a body who make the laws, and men of money who support the makers of the law are responsible for this system of ours that forces 30,000 girls out into the streets.
When these girls are brought to Court, to a court of men, do you know how they are punished? They are fined and punished for the things that men have done. And the woman who has no other means of living has to go out and do the same thing over again the next night in order to pay the fine. That is how man bears the responsibilities of women every time.
In my trade, the shirtwaist industry, it is said that we have about 300,000 people working, only five per cent of them men. Can you think of this shirtwaist industry when 175,000 women will be taken away from it, and the shirtwaist industry is not the only one that involves girls.
How would the senator get rid of us, how would he help the women? He cannot help us. We have to toil and we want a chance to make better laws under which we are to live.
Senators, we are here to stay, 800,000 women in New York State alone. We have learned a good many things. We have learned to organize in the industrial field. Give us a chance, the workingwomen together with the working men, through an intelligent vote and we will make good in the political field.
Source: Life and Labor: A Monthly Magazine, July 1912, (Chicago: National Women’s Trade Unions League), 1912, pp. 216-217.