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A Voice in That Government

South Australia


St. Peter said, truly I understand that God shows no partiality. It would seem then that the current state of inequality rests on the partiality of man, or to be more specific, men. Many have quoted the good book and the argument against woman’s suffrage, and indeed some have quoted t against my very self, when taking offence at my speech and behaviors.

But it is a fool’s errand to argue the Bible with the daughter of an Orangeman, and a cathedral organists widow.

I would indeed prefer to argue the logic and good sense of suffrage and leave our creator’s design out of the matter.

It is clear that his will, whilst unassailable, is also unknowable to mortal man. We are left to make the best of it, and we shall all answer to God in our own time.

And what should we say when we are called to account for our time on earth? I shall say that I fought for the betterment of mankind, that I sought to create a society where men and women’s voices might be heard with equal weight, and that those who are ruled by a government have a voice in that government.

Equality of representation is a cause which colors our history. English constitutional history appeals as one long battle for this very right for self government.

If the fight for self government is universally agreed to be a noble cause for man, then why not for women too?

The vote is the point at which public opinion takes hold on public action. If women is not intended for thought, action, heroism, why is she entrusted with the trainig of the race, with the education and bringing up of our children.

I have heard the line, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,” used against universal suffrage, as though to say that women have no need of the vote whilst they raise the sons of the nation.

If women’s ideals are fit to be imparted on our young men, are they not fit to be imparted directly to our government?

Is this not a more efficient approach? And as a widow who has lost her sons too soon, left with only daughters, how should I influence my nation? If men mowed the state and women mowed the men, then give women the vote, the outward visible sign of her responsibility, and tell hher her country expects every woman to do her duty.

Abraham Lincoln said, “I go for sharing privileges of the government among all who assist in bearing its burdens, by no means excluding women.”

And John Stewart Mill argued, “to have a voice in choosing those by whom one is governed is a mean of self protection due to everyone, under whatever conditions, and whatever limits men are admitted to the suffrage, there is not a shadow of justification for not admitting women under the same.

There are not many who would belittle the fine minds of these men, and yet when the suffragists offer the same argument, we are mocked, belittled, hated, and shouted down as harridans, anarchists, and the worst insult of all, unladylike and unwomanly.

A woman’s place is in the home, and a woman should be subject to her husband his will. But does not subjugation breed moral evils and mental habits peculiar to itself? Cringing, fawning, obsequiousness, dissimulation, cowardice, lying, these are qualities unbecoming of all people and should not be fostered.

Instead, let women develop and use the talents God has given them. Let them use their sentiment, their patience and care, to nurture our government, as we would our home.

Most thoughtful women, while holding home as woman’s sweetest sphere, are yet happy in believing that however and wherever women can be of best and wisest usefulness to her fellow men and women, there by God’s providence is her allotted sphere.

If women had a voice in the management of our parliamentary housekeeping, do you think that the stewards of our public exchequer would venture to tell us taxpayers, as at the beginning of our last session, that the state had not been audited for years?

“Too many voters” is a cry heralded against universal suffrage, which barely merits a counter argument.

But I shall give one all the same, which is to the effect that let the voting pool be narrowed by some other means than sex. Those who do not pay tax should perhaps be excluded from voting. But whilst women contribute to the national coffers and are subject to the laws and policies of our government, a claim of too many cooks spoiling the broth is no good argument against woman suffrage.

Some may claim that woman is too delicate a creature to take on the responsibility and duty of the vote.

To this I say, if voting is such a burden on our menfolk, should not we share this burden? A burden shared is a burden halved.

The woman’s cause is man’s, they rise or sink together, dwarfed or godlike, bond or free. To take up our share of the work in maintaining our nation seems the only fair solution.

Fairness, another theme that has woven its way through the political achievements of the British people, the concept of fair play has influenced all gentlemanly undertakings and makes up no small part of the ideology of our fledgling nation.

But whilst fair place is a jewels so highly prized and contended among our men, they leave our women out.

Women are subjected to taxation of which they have no say in the spending. They are subject to laws in which they have no say in the making. Nineteenth century civilization has accorded to women the same political status as to the idiot and the criminal.

Such is the basis of our reverence for the person of women and our estimate of her work. And they have been afforded this status and excluded from the concept of fair play for no better reason than the accident of their birth. It seems men are only too happy to protest against the privileges conferred by an accident of birth when it pertains to riches or power. And yet they will insist upon rights conferred upon them by mere malehood.

South Australia has provided a home to those who would push beyond the mire of Europe. The people of this settlement have travelled months and left behind their kin and folk to create something better than what they left behind. Why seek a new beginning if you are not willing to make changes to what has gone before?

While our society is proudly British, it does not seek to replicate Britain. And while many will use the resistance to suffrage in the motherland as a reason to resist suffrage here, I will point out that it is the duty of the young to challenge the ways of the old. Those ways that are beneficial to a society will remain, whilst those that hold it back will be cast by the wayside.

We should seek to rectify the failings of England with the opportunities provided in Australia.

I will speak the words of our greatly respected premier, Charles Kingston. “One principal cause of the failure of so many magnificent schemes, social, political, religious, which have followed each other, age after age, has been this: that in almost every case, they have ignored the rights and powers of one half the human race, women.

I believe that politics will not go right, that society will not go right, that religion will not go right, that nothing human will ever go right except insofar as woman goes right, and to make  woman to go right, she must be put in her place, and she must have her rights.

I would hope that we should all want to see our colony succeed as a nation in her own right. And we should not scuttle our venture by clinging to tired ways.

It is the duty of every person to leave God’s earth better than they found it. And so let husbands, brothers, fathers be kept in mind that it is the duty of every free man to leave his daughters as free as his sons.

I believe that mind has no sex. And my soul, should I have one, is made up of the same essence as yours. I am as worthy as any man to contribute and shape my country as I would a home or a community. I would challenge those who would argue the contrary to look around and see what giant strides the woman’s mind has made in the last few years since her higher education dawned. Surely the possession of any gift is God-owned charter of right to use it.

It seems my gift is to stir up trouble. To challenge the anachronisms in our society and the inequalities in our nation. And I shall use my voice, my will, and my very being to enact the gift God gave me. And should I die before universal suffrage is realised in South Australia, well then I shall be buried with women’s enfranchisement engraved upon my heart.