Woman and World War
May 2, 1916 — Annual suffrage demonstration, City Auditorium, Business Woman’s Club, Chattanooga TN
[A few of the high points of Mrs. Pankhurst’s address:]
England has carried individualism to the point of national ruin. . . .
This is the first suffrage meeting that I have addressed in two years. When the war first broke out, the women were the first to forget their own little war and united against a common foe. . . . .
At first, when war was declared, I though I would come to America and carry on my political work here, but as time passed on and the ordeal grew more and more terrible, I knew it was my own country, England, that needed me most. . . . .
At our meetings we began to urge the men to leave office and factory and rally to the call of colors, and as we saw them turn aside from their well-paid appointments to enter the trenches, that during the first winter campaign were always full of mud and water, and face all of these awful hardships, our faith in our men was redeemed. But when the need of more soldiers grew sore and there seemed to be so many of us women, we wished for the first time in our lives that we were men, that we, too, might throw ourselves into the struggle and fight for our flag and our national independence. . . . .
At the beginning of the war a brave band of Englishwomen, under the leadership of that able woman, Dr. Flora Murray, offered their services to England to found a hospital for wounded soldiers to be run entirely by women. England took a long time to consider this, because it was a new venture, and England does not take kindly to new things. While they debated this and hesitated, the women grew tired of waiting and offered their services to France. They were accepted at once. The hospital is run entirely by women. The doctors are women, the nurses are women, and the orderlies are women. Everybody concerned with the place is a woman except the man at the door and the patients, who are sick soldiers, British and French. You will have to have a guard room, a celebrated military man told Dr. Murray, because you will never be able to manage these men. Well, if we must have a guard room, I suppose we can have a guard room, was Dr. Murray’s answer. But it has neve been necessary to use the guard room, we are glad to say. When a patient gets a bit refractory, it is only necessary to call him to the office and talk to him, in a motherly sort of way. . . . .
The strangest thing of all, and one that is almost a miracle, when you consider the ultra-conservatism of the Britisher, is the fact that London now has a hospital run by women and every woman connected with it has a military title, from the superintendent, who is colonel, down to the orderlies in the rank of private. I am just in receipt of a letter from the mother of a young orderly, a girl of 19, in which she tells me that her daughter is simply bursting with “pride because she has just been promoted to the grade of lance corporal.” . . . .
These hospitals have been such a success that Mr. Asquith, that anti of antis, is just now raising a fund to pay for the education of more women as doctors. . . . .
Women are doing all sorts of things in London. They are driving taxis and big ammunition wagons; they are doing police duty and running elevators and making ammunition. . . . .
We had a hard fight to be allowed the privilege of making ammunition. When the crisis came in our struggle and the wall of men at the front was being mowed down because there was a great dearth of ammunition, and again the government hesitated. 50,000 women marched in a parade to the offices of David Lloyd-George and demanded that they be allowed to go into the factories and manufacture the ammunition for our men. We went, and where it took seven years before for a man to serve his apprenticeship before he could be considered an ammunition maker, the women are now qualifying for the same work and doing the same work in seven days. . . . .
But we militant suffragists now have a new work in England. Nature has made a law that when a child is born it has two parents — father and mother. But sometimes there is a divergence of this law and a child has only one parent — its mother. Now we have before us the problem of these little illegitimate children. At the outbreak of the war there was a great hue and cry about this, but this war is no different from any other war, or no worse in this respect. In fact, if anything, it is better, because Lord Kitchener gave instructions to his men in the camps, the lord bishop of London talked to them and they have their Y.M.C.A influences, so if anything the moral tone of this war is better than that of the wars that have preceded this one. We have 40,000 of these little one-parent children annually in England, statistics show. So we militant suffragists are adopting these little ones not on the basis of charity children, or orphans, but as our own children. We are going to give them the very best education there is to be had. If a child shows a talent for music, then it shall have the best musical education England can give it; if it shows taste for cooking, then it shall be a good cook. In my home in England I have several of these children that I have adopted, and I get a weekly report on how much they have gained in weigh and on each new accomplishment. The ambition of m life is to some day own a big country house, where I can put all my “war babies” and then spend every minute of time with them that I can spare from my political work. . . . .
After all, men are nothing more than children. We women have to mother them — and love them.
Source: The Chattanooga News, May 3, 1916, p. 7.