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New Idea of Womanhood

October 5, 1888 — Annual meeting, Maine Woman Suffrage Association, Reception Hall, 51 ½ Exchange Street, Headquarters of WCTU, Portland ME


[She proposed to speak of the benefits of suffrage, and that the question should be considered under two aspects, general and particular.]

The benefits that society may derive from the franchisement of so large a part of the population would be discovered by studying the question. One of the great gains, if not the greatest gain of our century, is the new idea of womanhood.

[The society woman of today who paints her face, spends much time in beautifying her hands, and wears a dress with stays and bindings that impede the natural growth of the lungs and heart, and even prevents the free circulation of the blood, was spoke of as the “woman of death,” and in contra distinction to this woman the “free woman” with an honest smile and an abundance of strength was referred to.] . . .

Laws and ordinances of every kind effect women as much as men. We need a better world to work in. Moral life as well as physical life requires certain circumstances for its favorable growth. A child may be born in degradation, and such a child is sinned against even before it is born Nor are these evils limited to the lower class.

We want better work to do. The law of labor is universal. Much of the world’s work is good, but much of it is accompanied by what is known as dirty work. We need better ability to do the better work, and how shall we acquire this ability? Skill and will, education and liberty re needed for this. The great laws and objects of human life should be known to all. Individuality is a power, and the power of individuality exists as much in woman as in man. The individuality of woman is exerting itself as never before A pitiable plea against this suffrage is summed up in this, “You don’t want suffrage madam because you will not vote but your cook will. “

[Mrs. Howe here spoke of her annual visit to the Massachusetts legislature on behalf of woman suffrage and how men abuse the right of suffrage.]

Woman has no hand in making the laws which she is bound to obey. It is said that if woman had the right of the ballot she would be everywhere but at home, and home and children would be neglected. In Wyoming the women get dinner and do the housework in the forenoon, and after washing the dishes go to the polls and vote. American women will make themselves felt in a manner unprecedented.



Source: “Maine Woman Suffragists,” Portland Daily Press, October 6, 1888, p. 1.