The Political Outlook
December 22, 1908 — The Queen’s Hall, London, England
I cannot help thinking to-night of the many hundreds of meetings that have been held in this country in defense of the principle of women’s enfranchisement. How many times have noble women poured forth their soul in an appeal for political justice? How many times has such an appeal been made, and made to ears that were deaf and unheeding? It is well for us all to remember that we are engaged in no new movement. There were those that came before us, pioneers of 40 to 50 years ago, who began the agitation for woman suffrage. They worked well, they worked devotedly, and yet, after all those years of work, women have not yet got the Parliamentary vote.
Well, I am afraid the reason of this is that the rules of our country are not to be moved by appeal or by persuasion. The ordinary person, I believe, is, but among those who get into high places, those who have power over others, something seems often to go wrong with their nature, and frankly, they don’t understand the kind of enlightened appeal upon which Suffragists used to place their sole reliance. You know, friends, there is an old saying, and a very true one, that is, “God helps those who help themselves.” Now, the suffragists of old times made a mistake, which experience — theirs and our own —has taught us to avoid. They relied too much upon the justice of their cause, and not enough upon their own strong right arm. They thought justice could go forward without help from those who wanted it. My friends, that can never be, and never has been. An idea only has life and power in so far as it is backed up by deeds. Now, that is the whole secret of success, the whole secret of getting reform. It is because we have realised that the policy of persuasion, and of argument, and of talk has failed that we have undertaken the new militant campaign, which I believe, and I think you believe, is so very nearly at a successful end. When men begin an agitation like ours, they are, of course, open to all kinds of criticism and attack, but I do not think that the very dangerous and difficult form of attack is brought to bear against them that is brought to bear against us. Men are never told that they are hysterical, and that they do not know what they are doing. They may be told they are violent, they may be told their action is reprehensible, but people are usually willing to admit that at least there is method in their madness, and that, as there is a limit to human endurance, if men are very much oppressed, they have a right to revolt against oppression. We in this woman’s movement, on the other hand, have been accused of not having things thought out, and of simply running along in a headstrong fashion without knowing where we are going or why we do go.
I want you to understand, however, that our militant campaign has been thought out with the utmost care. Whatever else we may be, we are neither heedless, rash, nor unthinking and we realise that the recognition of this fact is beginning to become more general, because when they stop abusing us for being foolish and unwise, they begin to charge us with doing all this in cold blood, and not being spontaneous enough.
No, my friends, we did not undertake this campaign in any light or heedless spirit. We knew what we had got to face; we knew we had to face danger, sheer physical danger. We knew well that in what we did we ran the risk of imprisonment. Now, that is a very serious thing. Imprisonment is what you reserve for those who are preying upon society, those who are enemies of the body politic; imprisonment is the worst thing you have to offer them, and yet we knew full well that we, who were trying, at any rate, to do our duty to other people, must realise that for us this fate was in store. We knew that we should have to meet the bitter attack of the party politician — and I think there is no form of attack which is more venomous, which is more unscrupulous — and as we were women, we had to face another thing, we had to face censure as being unwomanly, as being unladylike (you know, that is worse than being unwomanly), as being, well, unconventional, and ridiculous, and all the rest of it. Now, you know, to some women, that is the worst thing of all, and to all men that is the worst of all too.
Well, I have summed up the price that had to be paid by those who adventured the perilous course of militant methods, and it astounds me to find that there should be any left (and there are not very many) who presume to condemn the people who have principles, and are trying to vindicate those principles, even though it means that the penalties fall upon themselves. It is, indeed, extraordinary how much blindness there is even in these enlightened days; people never seem to be able to read the signs of the times, they never seem able to understand what is going on under their very eyes, and yet we live in a great Christian country. We live amongst people whose minds are always turning back towards One who paid in greater measure than we have done the price of purchasing the regeneration of others. It seems to me you, none of you, understand the story of which you hear over and over again in the churches. Why, you are brought up from your cradles to understand this thing, and when, on a smaller and humbler scale, the whole thing is acted out under your very eyes, you don’t seem to see at all what it means —at least, you don’t see for a good long time.
Well, I assure you that if there were not a great thing at stake, we should all of us prefer to follow a course of life which would not expose us to the difficulties of which I tell you. But think what is at stake! Human liberty! The most priceless thing there is, the only thing that is worth fighting for, the only thing that is worth paying for. We are fighting for that. We are fighting for the emancipation of women; the emancipation of men was begun a long time ago, and men are now working out their salvation, although they will never see it in full measure until the women, whose brothers and whose partners they are, see their emancipation too. We are working for the bread of women, we are working so that women may not go hungry, we are working for what is even more important — we are working for the dignity of women. How can they say other questions are more important? How can they say it? They cannot really think it. Why, it is the most important question; it is the most vital question of the present day! The freedom of men and the freedom of women, the liberty of human beings — what can transcend that? When worldly affairs are concerned, what is our Government for? Government is not a game, it is not something remote from human affairs; it is something that concerns us all. Therefore, the first duty of statesmen ought to be to attend to the claims of those who are still without the elementary rights of citizenship.
Now, I am going to speak to those women here who want the vote, but don’t agree with our methods. I ask them, why do you hold aloof, why do you not believe in the methods and why if you believe in them don’t you practise them? Because you know neither from you nor from Cabinet Ministers do we want sympathy. No, what we want is action. We would rather have you marching along with us side by side than we would have your cheers or your support or your praise. We do not look for that, we should miss it; we do not want you to come and say that we have done well; we want you to come and do with us! Why, then, do you not throw yourselves into this agitation, why are not you ready for prison? You should not see prison through other people’s eyes, you should go there yourselves if you think that we have done well to go there. You know the old methods of working for the vote are futile, and not only futile, but humiliating, unworthy of you. I say any woman here who is content to appeal for the vote instead of demanding and fighting for it is dishonoring herself! That she may have a right to do, but she has no right to dishonour her sex, and I say you drag our women’s banner in the very mud, that political roughs may trample upon it and defile it, when you are content with the old proved failures of methods of getting votes for women. Is the price too great? Cannot you make the necessary sacrifice? I can tell you that we who are prepared for it take a great joy in it. Why, sometimes when you say that we are brave and self-sacrificing, and all the rest of it, we feel that we ought to reject your compliments because we are so much happier than you. Because we don’t feel we are giving up anything, because we are not giving up anything. We are getting everything. Why, the women in this Union are the happiest people in the world! We have the love of our comrades, we have the respect of our enemies, we have the support of the people, we have something to live for, and we are going to do something worth doing. We are sorry for the people who go through their lives achieving nothing, leaving the world no richer than they have found it. Those people are poor, indeed; these people we pity. As for us, we have the glorious pride of being made the instrument of those great forces that are working towards progress and liberty.
But suppose it were not so; suppose there were nothing but sorrow and sacrifice and pain and renunciation in our movement, have not women always been ready to undergo these things? We are told it is the very law of our being. Well, we have been told so. We do know this, that women are prepared to sacrifice themselves. Sometimes they sacrifice themselves rightly, and sometimes wrongly. When I think of the futile sacrifice which is being made every day we live by countless women, I think how well it would be if all that devotion, all that readiness to give could be directed towards great ends. Now, we in this movement are sometimes told that we are selfish, that we are unwomanly, and that we are expecting women to be different from that people have hoped they would be. Some people say: “You want women to be as bad as men, as selfish as men,” but I don’t think devotion to others should be or is a sex characteristic. Still the fact remains that women are always ready to give themselves in order that others may benefit. We in this movement say a woman does gloriously who will make every possible sacrifice is what she is working towards is worth while. But we know well that is not because you are afraid, you women, that you do not join forces with us, for that is a thing one may be sure of where women are concerned. No, the old idea that women must cling to duty is, I think, at the root of difficulty. You say: “Yes, we ought to have the vote, and the only way of getting the vote is by adopting these militant methods, but is it right that we should do so, is it right that we should break law, defy convention, and give trouble to other people? No, we cannot think it is right, and it were better to go forever without votes than to do wrong.” But, my friends, I want to point out to you that those who wish the end wish the means. If you want the vote you must do what is necessary to get the vote. If there are no other means of getting that vote than those that are militant, then the militant means must be adopted. But it is not upon this line of argument that we depend. No, we depend upon our belief that so far from being a necessary evil, revolt is a great and glorious thing in itself when injustice has to be broken down. Therefore, we do not apologise for our methods. We say emphatically that they are right in themselves. The women who are in the wrong to-day are the women who are submitting to injustice.
Now, the rightness of revolt, the rightness of our militant methods does not depend upon success. You may resist injustice and fail, or seem to fail, and still you have done right. When you are confronted by oppression, when you are confronted by the forces of evil, then you must go and do battle against them. Unless you believe that might is right you must agree with what I say. Now, we none of us really think that might is right. There is not one here who has not read of the brave deeds of people who were few in number and weak in strength, who went forward against countless numbers greatly their superior in force. I think even when we were at school and read Macaulay’s Lays our hearts used to thrill at the idea of “fighting against fearful odds”; we all of us feel proud of those members of the human race who have stood perhaps alone against overwhelming strength and overwhelming numbers. So often the gallant stands that men and women have made against superior force have seemed to be in vain. We read of their being crushed under foot and every trace of them being trampled away, but, somehow, I think there is, in the heart of every one of us a conviction that somehow and somewhere that heroism is recorded, that heroism is counted, and that we to-day are the richer for it, and that the forces of good have been strengthened by the action of these heroes who have seemed to fail, but in reality have triumphed. And I want you to believe that even if we had no hope of success, even if we thought that our militant campaign were destined to failure, we should go on with it. We should go on with it while life was ours, we aregoing on with it; so long as we live we are never going to renounce this struggle. But we are going to win, for victory is not always with the big battalions. We are going to win because we have got right on our side. No, you must not forget that “thrice is he armed that hath his quarrel just, and he but naked though locked up in steel whose conscience with injustice is corrupted.” Well, my friends, there is great truth in those words, and I think you will admit that our quarrel is just. Why, even the enemy has to admit that. We could never win if we were not in the right, but because we are in the right we are going to win.
Now, if I had been talking about a men’s agitation, a men’s revolt, there is not one in this hall who would not have said, “Yes, you are right, you are right. But,” you will say, “it is different with women.” You say, “women are weak, they can’t fight.” But have not we just made up our minds that weakness — apparent weakness — is often the real strength? Though we are women, we can win. Do not say that a curse has been laid upon us because we are women, that the fact of being women deprives us of the power of getting votes, and of the right to fight for justice, even if we do not win.
No, my friends, we women have as good a right as the men, and our sex is no excuse for submission, for sloth, and for yielding to injustice. The woman who shelters herself behind her sex, and says, “I need not come out to fight because I am a woman, and I ought not to,” that woman either has not a woman’s spirit, or has not the right woman’s spirit. That is not the kind of woman that we want to see in our country and that is not the kind of woman who will bring into the world the men that we want to see.
But when driven to the last argumentative pitch, some of our women friends will say, “Yes, it is all very well, but, you know, there is the Liberal Government. They are so strong, and we women, you know — well, how can we” — and they think, helplessly, “it cannot be done.” Now, when I was in prison I was reading “The Seven Lamps of Architecture,” and it begins with a very interesting passage dealing with this question. Ruskin thinks that failure in art, and even more in politics, comes from the fact that those who want to do something, instead of looking to their end, and steering directly towards it, enter too much into the consideration of what is possible. Now, says Ruskin, how can any of you know what is possible? Who can tell their own strength, who knows the strength of the enemy, who knows all the attending circumstances, who can possibly tell what can be managed and what cannot? We know what we ought to strive for, and I believe that nothing is impossible to the human will and the human spirit, because, you see, after all, we, every one of us, believe that it partakes of the divine, and in so far as it does that, it can bend outside circumstances. Well, we in this Union have already learnt the truth of that. We know perfectly well that the only limit to our power is our own determination. If we are determined, if we banish all thought of sloth, if we go straight forward, looking neither to the left nor to the right, we can perform miracles. Human beings have done it. Why, when you think of air-ships, wireless telegraphy, and things of that kind, when you think of how Nature has been bent to human purposes and human needs, how are we to suppose that women banded together with a knowledge of what they want, and a knowledge of how to get it, would fail to make the Liberal Government give in! Therefore, I say to women: take courage, never mind what Mr. Asquith is an obstinate man or not; just do your duty, just you go straight forward, and if the Government don’t give in at the first attempt, then try, try again! That is what we have been doing for some years now, and we are going to have what we think will be a final try next Session.
We have every reason to be hopeful, because we have had so much success already. Look at our Union! Just see how it is growing in numbers; see the enthusiasm of the women, see the officers of our Union, see what keen politicians they are —not a few people following blindly a few who understand, but everyone understanding for herself, and ranging herself under the banner of the commanding officers of the Union. We are like an orchestra — each one playing her own part, and producing — we think at any rate — a very harmonious result. You see, this is all the result of the militant methods. Look, also, at our finances! They are in an exceedingly satisfactory condition, and we hope they are going to be in an even more satisfactory condition as time goes on, because the Liberal leaders, as you know, are very materially-minded; they do not care for argument, or anything of that kind —all that they want to know is, What are the resources of these women? Can we tire them out, or can they tire us out? Is this a bubble that will burst when its season has run, or will they go on for ever? Then, I say, look at the attitude of the public — see how it has changed! We are supposed to have alienated the people. But neither we nor the Liberal Government can see any evidence of that.
Well, I have been telling you why we adopt our methods; I have been trying to explain to you the frame of mind in which we are, and the reasons why we have taken to these methods, and what these methods are. If you read the leading articles in some of our newspapers, you would think our methods were Russian methods, or even worse. You really would suppose that we were the most dangerous set of people and the most violent set of people, that have ever been seen. The fact is, however, that we are singularly mild — indeed, we are just as mild as we can be, consistently with doing our duty. We do not want to go an inch further than the Liberal Government drive us, because we do not want to waste our forces; we do not want to overstep the mark by a hair’s breadth, and we have never done so. We go to by-elections, and work against the Government. Surely that is not very unconstitutional or very violent! I see the Welsh members are threatening to do that. I see the Welsh party say they will go against the Government if they don’t get what they want. If they can do it, why can’t we? Our protests at public meetings have been very effective, but they involve no danger to life or limb — unless our own. Mr. Lloyd George — well, you see, it all shows how foolish Mr. Lloyd George and these other people who want to be popular are to go against Votes of Women. As I say, these protests don’t involve any danger to the physical safety of our Cabinet Ministers, yet they produce a marked impression. Ministers are simply terrified. They hide from us behind locked doors. They go in secret nowadays! They dare not run the risk of meeting women even in a railway train. Have you read the Daily News today, and seen the account of Mr Lloyd George’s attempt, not only to keep women out of his meeting, but to escape them? Well, if it were the Czar of Russia going amongst his subjects, it might be natural. Why this fear? Why not trust the people? They are dreadfully afraid of these women in these days — and then you say that women cannot pursue militant methods with success! The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and I know this — they are more afraid of one Suffragette than they are of 5,000 men!
Then we go on deputations to the House of Commons. What is there wrong in that? Men are constantly having deputations, and I have never heard of a men’s deputation going to prison yet — but we have to go to prison! I wonder how it is that you do not see that, instead of our being violent, violence is used against us! We have not caused Mr. Asquith to languish for a single day in gaol — it is he who has vicariously attacked and imprisoned us. We are very sorry to have to give all this trouble; we would rather militant methods should cease, and they would cease if we were to have the vote. Now, how simple it all is! Can’t you understand that the government have brought all these troubles down upon their own heads? We are not responsible for it — they are responsible. Do not waste your sympathy upon them, my friends. It is all their own fault. If they would give us the vote, they would have no more trouble from us.
Now, what is the present position? I want to deal with that as a conclusion to my speech to-night. The third section of the present government has now come to an end. I do not think they can be feeling very happy tonight. This Session has experienced a great decline in their Prestige and in their influence. They are weakened and discredited. While I was in prison, I had, towards the end of my sentence, the opportunity of reading the newspaper, and I read of the inglorious figure the present Government caught in connection with the education question. What an insight all that education business gave you of the true character of the Government! I do not care which side you take in the matter, And it is not the business of anyone at this meeting to express an opinion on the rights and wrongs of the education question —we are for Votes for Women — but you can see that in that measure the Government had not to care at all for their own professed principles, no care at all for the pledges they have given to their supporters, all they wanted to do was to please everybody and to have an easy time themselves.
They got to loggerheads during this year with the House of Lords, they are always getting to loggerheads with the House of Lords, and they are always announcing that this time the great campaign is going to begin. What would you say to us if we were like that? You would not respect us. You would think we were absurd, inconstant, bragging people, all talk and no action. No, we take care to be very different, but the Government have shown an attitude of contemptible weakness towards the House of Lords, which, whilst it is a matter of regret on some grounds, is a great encouragement to us. We shall make them give in, but, my friends, what a farce it is to have the present Government talking about the House of Lords and their desire to overcome its unconstitutional action!
Mr. Lloyd George said last night that the Liberal party were going to fight, among other things, for free institutions. We only wish we could take him at his word, and that we could make him prove his words to be true. Are they for free institutions, or are they against them? They have been proved to be against them. Why, on this very question in which they profess to be so deeply interested, they have shown themselves unwilling to move either hand or foot; and when it is a question of making the House of Commons itself a free institution, representative not only of half the people, but of the whole of the people, the women as well as the men — why, they are more reactionary, they are more obstinate in their opposition to justice than any other Government, or whatever complexion, could possibly be.
In addition to all this they have refused to carry our Bill, and that I think in days to come will seem to be the one outstanding feature of this Session. When the Education Bill, that hotch-potch of conflicting principles, is long forgotten, it will be remembered that a Bill for Woman Suffrage passed its second reading by a large majority, and that rather than let that Bill come to law women were imprisoned as common criminals in one of our goals.
Yet, my friends, they have had time to pass another Bill — the Public Meetings Bill. In a panic they have carried through a private member’s measure, a measure of coercion‚ that’s what it is, pure and simple — and because they were so anxious to put an end to action on our part, (which they could have ended in a better manner by giving us the vote,) they have reduced the right of public meeting in this country to a farce. Before I say more of that, I want to tell you that if at the General Election this Bill had been in force, a great many of Mr. Asquith’s supporters would been in gaol on polling-day. We are entitled to protest at public meetings, because we are voteless, if for no other reason, but let me remind you of the fact — I speak of Manchester, where I was at the General Election — no Conservative candidate could get a hearing. Meetings were smashed, furniture was destroyed, scenes of extraordinary violence were witnessed at election meetings, and all this was done by the men whose votes have placed Mr. Asquith where he is, and have given him the power to carry this measure in order to deal with us. Now I say, better that a thousand meetings should be destroyed than that we should have this kind of interference by the police with assemblies of citizens met together to discuss public affairs. As a public speaker, I say I want none of their Bill. If I can’t get a hearing by the force of my own will, by my own knowledge of how to deal with an audience, by the strength of the cause I wish to promote, then I will wait and hold a meeting some other time. Yes, we are prepared to hold our own meeting, and I do not see why the men politicians cannot do what we can. Do you think this Bill is going to make any difference to us? It may make it very difficult for Liberals to do as they did in Ipswich the other day, get roughs at a shilling a head to come to our meetings and make a disturbance, they will have to be ready to put down at least £5 in future, but this Bill will not deter women from demanding the vote. We are not so poor in spirit, nor so deficient in courage that a month in prison is going to prevent us from claiming justice.
But, friends, when you look at the record of this Government, you who are Liberals, what do you feel? Are you proud of them, or do you feel deeply ashamed of them? I am sorry for you that you have such leaders. I tell you, they are not leaders, they are false to your principles, and it seems to me they are like some pirate gang who have boarded the good old ship of Liberalism and are steering her on the rocks.
Now, what of next Session? Whilst I was in prison I read Mr. Asquith’s “epoch-making speech,” his “great utterance” upon the future policy of his party, upon his action for next Session. He certainly made one thing very evident, that those who shout the loudest will get the first attention. He does not study in a statesmanlike way the condition of the people, and consider which are the most pressing questions to be dealt with. No, he is looking all round, he is saying, “Who is going to worry me the most, because who worries me the most must get what he, or she, wants,” and he turns — he looks at Sir Alfred Thomas, he looks at Dr. Clifford, and he looks at this, that, and the other leader, and I do not suppose — I am sure — he does not forget to keep an eye on what the Suffragettes are going. Then he weighs it all up, and those who are the most obnoxious and active will get a place in the King’s Speech.
Then he told us of another thing. A very remarkable Budget is to be introduced. Yes, ladies, they are going to take our money and play their own political games with it. If there had been women there, he would hardly have the courage to say it —but even as it was I wonder that he could get up and say that women taxpayers were to have their pockets picked — because that is what it means when they do not give them the vote. Women are going to have their pockets picked so that Mr. Lloyd-George may see that he can do to revive the sinking fortunes of the Liberal Government. And yet it is said that predominating political issue is the question of the House of Lords. Well, they may say so, but they do not seem to think so. We know what we think the predominating issue — Votes for Women.
We handle this question of the vote in a very different fashion from that in which the Government handle the question of the House of Lords. It is all very well to say they are going to do something — but when? — what? Well, I think before they get to the House of Lords they will have plenty of time to give votes to women. They have made us an offer with scorn at the Albert Hall. That was one of the brightest days of our sentence in Holloway. It was absolutely necessary that you should do that. It was right, it was statesmanlike, it was wise. Mr. Lloyd George told us that he was going to convert the country, but we have spared him the trouble of doing that; we have done it ourselves. It is not for him to convert the country, it is for him to dosomething, and for his colleagues to dosomething, and the chief reason why you did well in going to that meeting and making your protest was this: You made it unmistakable that we would have nothing to do with that offer; you rejected it in the most dramatic and effective way possible. For what was the offer? The same thing that we had from Mr. Asquith months ago. I suppose they thought that of the two political cooks, Mr. Lloyd George is more skillful at dishing up. We rejected the spread that Mr. Asquith laid before us; we said it wasn’t fit to eat, so Mr. Lloyd George said, “Oh, I will pour a nice sauce over it; they will take it then.” But no, we did not, and we shall not.
We are told that a Reform Bill is to be introduced — it was only to be for men at first, but a private member can move an amendment, and if it is carried, then the Liberal Government will send the whole thing up to the House of Lords. Now, that does not satisfy us, because we do not know when the Reform Bill is going to be introduced, for one thing. Before they go out of office, they say. But, my friends, once bitten, twice shy. The last Government was going to introduce a Redistribution Bill, and carry it before they went out of office. Now, it was our intention to try to get an instruction moved which would have led to the provision for woman suffrage in that Bill, and we were working very hard for that. The times we have moved resolutions — and got them carried — in favour of such an amendment to the Redistribution Bill! Then, as you know, the ground was cut from under our feet, because Mr. Balfour resigned office. I think the same thing is certain to happen in the present case. This Government is on its death-bed. What would you say of some hardened old sinner, who, when he was asked to repent at the eleventh hour, were to say, “Well, two or three years hence I will think about it”? You would say that was wrong, and it is wrong for a discredited Government to tell women who are crying for enfranchisement, who mean to have the vote at the next General Election, that they must wait until the last Session of Parliament, that they must wait for the Reform Bill. The Reform Bill may never be introduced. It will certainly not be carried, because it is not meant to be carried. It is a war-cry for the Liberal Party at the next General Election, and woman suffrage may or may not be part of the Government war-cry, but we shall never be a war-cry, if we can help it, for any party.
We want to vote at the next General Election. If they wanted to go to the country on this question they ought to have done it in 1906, but now they cannot do it. It is too late for that, they must carry our Bill now. This Reform Bill, if it ever comes to life, will be too complicated to get through the House of Lords, and it does not get through, I am afraid that, in order to facilitate its passage through the narrow legislative door, the women will be left behind as they have been before.We stand for a separate, a distinct measure for Woman Suffrage, just a Bill to say that if women show the same qualifications as men voters, they shall be voters too.
We know what we want. It is not as though we were uncertain as to that; we know what we want, they have only now got to give it to us. Then, they say, as a last excuse, “We know the House of Lords won’t pass it.” But they must not be too sure of that. The House of Lords often disappoints this Government! They were not crocodile tears that Mr. Asquith shed at the Reform Club, they were real tears that stood in his eyes when he said he did not know why they had passed the Trades Disputes Bill. The Government has never got over it from that day to this, they did so hope the House of Lords would save them from that, and they hope, too, that the House of Lords will reject a Woman Suffrage Bill. If we compel them to pass it through the House of Commons, they hope the Lords will come to their rescue. But I, for one, do not believe the Lords will do anything of the kind. Probably the Lords will carry our Bill. I speak with all possible seriousness when I say that. But if they don’t, very well then, we must try to change their minds. I am sure we shall manage better in dealing with the House of Lords than the Government can do. It seems to me that the Government think we are such good fighters that they want us to get mixed up with their Reform Bill, so that we may do the fighting and they may take the credit. But no, no, no! We won’t have such feeble allies as this Government. In any possible future conflict which may arise between us and the Upper House we can fight better without them. They would hinder us, they would prevent us from winning. We will not have anything to do with them as allies as against the House of Lords.
Now, friends, I do want you all to take this question very, very seriously. One has a good deal of time for meditation in prison. We used to read the papers, and then think of what we had read, and I noticed this one thing — it is very extraordinary just to see how the world is moving on, how the conditions are changing. I noticed that in the two months in which we were in prison airships came out of the region of theoretical and problematical things into being something quite practical — they are to be as useful to us as motor-cars, or even more so. Now, a thing like that — and there are sure to be other things in the air — a thing like that means that the world is going to be far different in future from what it is to-day, and it means, above all, that are our own national conditions are going to be changed. It means that we in this country will have to rise to new occasions, and will have to base our place among the nations on a different foundation. We shall have to readjust ourselves. Other countries are wealthy, other countries have greater territory than ours, and other countries have even greater natural resources; if we are to hold our own in future we men and women of Great Britain, we have got to be well equipped. Ours must be an Empire of mind and intelligence and spirit, or we shall be left behind — other countries will hold the place that we hold to-day.
Now, I think we are all enough of patriots to want our country to stand high. We are the heirs of a great past; what are we going to hand on to posterity, what are we going to hand on to the Great Britain of the days to come? Well, I do not think things our well with our nation at the present time; I do not think the physical condition, or the mental or the spiritual condition of the mass of our people is what it ought to be, and therefore it is as patriots that we are here to-night; we want to take our share in saving our country. Will you deny us that — shall we be denied that? I do not think so; I think all men of generous and pure mind and heart will be with us in this fight. This is not a party question, it is a question for the nation. This is not a question of the moment, it is a question for all time. I call on the men who are here to-night to join forces with us, help us to overcome the Government which at the present moment is the greatest obstacle in the path of human progress. If men’s eyes are still shut to these truths, yet nevertheless women are awake, and the women have the power; they have the absolute power to gain the reform which they want; they have the power and the capacity to seize this indispensable weapon of reform, which in their own interests, and in the interests of the country that is dear to them, they ought to have, and which they speedily will have.
Source: Pankhurst, Emmeline, “The Political Outlook,” in Speeches and Trials of the Militant Suffragettes: The Women’s Social and Political Union: 1903-1918. Ed. Cheryl R. Jorgensen-Earp (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press), 1999, pp. 87-99.