We Working Women
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]
I came to this country some twenty years ago. I had been trained for the tailoring trade. And I had had some training in politics, too. My home was in Birmingham, and my father and mother often took me to hear John Bright> I can remember as a child standing in a crowd on the platform, packed in tight, and listening to our great orator. And when I was older I joined the other women and canvassed for our candidate. I worked for Joseph Chamberlain once in that way. He was a radical then.
My mother was a great politician. Some people think that doesn’t do for wives and mothers; they say it makes us neglect the home. Well my home was always neat and orderly. And my mother is living to-day, a hale and hearty old lady of over eighty with nine sons and three daughters. Politics and home life seem to me to be a pretty good combination.
Perhaps, to think of things outside themselves makes both men and women stronger and more self-reliant. Any way, I notice it is more difficult to organize women in my trade in New York than in England. In my union, that is the needleworkers, the women are almost all foreigners. They come from places in Europe where even the men don’t know much about suffrage or liberty of any kind. Such women are rather mee, willing to submit to anything the boss asks. And these women are not good housekeepers and mothers. My experience teaches me that it is the upright and downright woman that makes the best home and the best worker. The meek woman is ready to knuckle down to anything, for she has no self-respect.
We working women are often told that we should stay at home and then everything would be all right. But we can’t stay at hoe. We have to get out and work. I lost my husband. He was a diamond setter, a fine workman, and he earned good money, but he fell ill and was ailing a long time. I had to go back to my trade to keep the family together. Gentlemen, we need every hip to fight the battle of life, and to be left out by the State just sets up a prejudice e against us. Bosses think and women come to think themselves that they don’t count for so much as men. I think that the ladies who just asked you not to give them suffrage lack self-respect. I was sorry to hear them speak of women as they did in front of men. They seem to look for all the vices and not the virtues of their sisters.
A little political power doesn’t seem to lessen respect for us. I knew women at my home in England who voted and were highly respected. I had an aunt who used to vote. She owned her home and voted for the School Board and all the local officials. (You know, the women in England are entitled to all the votes except the parliamentary.) Election day was a great event. A fine carriage always came for my aunt, and she drove away to the polls. As a child I can remember hanging on the grate and looking up at her as she drove off. She seemed like a queen, and I dreamed I would be a voter some day and a queen too. But the dream didn’t come true, for I came to America. The women don’t meddle with politics here, they stay at home, and I don’t see any great respect paid to them. I have never seen a fine carriage drive up to their doors to take them anywhere.
I didn’t find that voting did my aunt and the other women any harm. And I am sure that if we had the vote here we could better help our brothers as well as our sisters.
Source: Two Speeches by Industrial Women, ed. Harriot Stanton Blatch (New York: The League of Self-Supporting Women) 1907, pp. 6-9.