Dora Montefiore October 1899
Source: pamphlet 4 pages, October 1899,;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
As the contents suggest this was written at the start of the Boer war which started (11 November 1899) nominally over the grievances of the “Uitlanders,” literally Outlanders or foreigners – largely British citizens – in the Boer Republics who suffered from taxes and other grievances without being able to vote on the matter. The blacks of course were in a far worse position and could not become citizens as whites could after a seven or five residence period. Note by transcriber Ted Crawford.
Leaflet No. XIV. Reprinted in part from The Ethical World.
Events march so rapidly nowadays, and Mr. Morley’s first speech on the Transvaal crisis has been followed on his part by so many other utterances, that to quote it may seem almost out of date; but he spoke some home truths on that occasion to the English nation about the English attitude towards the extension of the political franchise in England, which are of too great value to be allowed to slip altogether into oblivion.
“We are told,” says Mr. Morley, “that the Boers of the Transvaal are a set of pig-headed oligarchs. I think we know something about the pig-headedness. I withdraw the pigheaded, because it is not polite to apply it to Englishmen or Scotchmen, but leave oligarchs. When I think, when I read in history, how long it took to get the Reform Bill of 1832 which emancipated Scotland; how many years of agitation it took John Bright to get the country to agree to the franchise for the artizans in the towns; when I think how long it took for the franchise of the villagers of the country, I think that we know something about ‘pig-headedness.’” ‘Tis a pity Mr. Morley did not go a little further and add: “When I think that it is thirty-five years since the agitation for granting political franchise to women was commenced; when I see that the onus of proof why these women should not be granted the franchise lies with those who are withholding it from them – seeing that these women are daily proving themselves capable and devoted citizens, are exercising the local franchise and serving on public boards; seeing that they pay taxes, and therefore contribute to the maintenance of the State, to the carrying on of wars, whether they consider such wars righteous or unrighteous; seeing that they are amenable to the laws of the land to the same extent as are men, and that, in spite of all these qualifications for the exercise of the franchise, such exercise is still withheld from them, I think we know something about ‘pigheadedness.’ This would only have been a logical sequence to his indictment of England for quarrelling with the Boers for not doing in their country, and to foreigners and Uitlanders, what England still refuses to do for a large number of her own people.
We women are, in fact, Uitlanders as far as our political rights arc concerned; but, unfortunately, we are not as logical as is the ‘Uitlander’ in the Transvaal, and do not see, or are too indolent to apply the lesson, that deprivation of political powers cripples commercial, social, and industrial relations – that is, that laws may he made, and are made, opposed to the interests of the unenfranchised. Whatever may be in detail the grievances under which the Uitlanders in the Transvaal suffer, they can be matched by the grievances under which the women Uitlanders in England suffer at this moment. To state a few of them: Millions of women are earning their own livelihood in England at this present moment, and often at the same time supporting others dependent upon them; yet, amongst working women, their labour is heavily handicapped by legislation, which classes than with young persons and children, and which restricts their hours of labour without at the same time restricting the hours of men employed in the same industries. The responsibilities of an adult are therefore forced on them on the one hand, while on the other they are made to feel that in the eyes of the law they are minors and Uitlanders as far as political and legislative privileges are concerned; in other words, that they may fulfil all the conditions and obligations of citizens, but where its privileges or political weapons of defence are concerned they are Uitlanders – not, be it remembered, for five or seven years, but for life.
Again, in the case of women who have received a University education fitting them for one of the learned professions, or for one of the most highly-paid branches of the teaching profession, another grievance is apparent; they are not allowed to take the degree to which their attainments and their work have entitled them, and, as a consequence, they cannot command the salaries which those can who are entitled to advertise their degree after their name. It may be urged that legislation cannot cure this grievance; but can it reasonably be doubted that, if women had the franchise, a power would be put into their hands that would help them to force this door as well as many other doors which are at present unfairly closed to them? In a book on women’s work (one of the “Social Questions of To-day” series) we read:-
“A combination of law and ancient custom keeps women out of the legal profession, and it is only in certain of the approaches, such as conveyancing, and accountant’s, work, that they are free to seek a livelihood. Women can make wills and simple agreements without qualification. Anything else (i.e. deeds) must be nominally done by a solicitor, and women can only be employed by them as clerks. Women cannot go into court. If they do chamber practice (i.e. settling difficult deeds for solicitors, or giving counsel’s opinion), they can only do it through barristers as ‘devils,’ receiving half fees.”
Here, therefore, the same grievance crops up; artificial restriction, which condemn the Uitlander woman to all the inferior work, and consequently to all the inferior pay. Again, in professions which seem to be marked out specially for women, and in which large numbers of women of all classes are employed, the conditions of labour are very inferior to what they should be, because no legal registration and status can be obtained; these are nursing and midwifery. What are required in both these professions are equal facilities with men in hospital training, together with a State examination and certificate, which would give the holder of such certificate a status in her profession, and thereby raise her position both financially and socially.
It is possible that, if women had the franchise, time would be found by our legislators for such needful legislation. Better technical training for artistic and other handicrafts is also sorely needed on the girls’ side in technical education. The girl is a neglected quantity in this respect, because as a woman she will have no political status; and, as a result, her work is doubly handicapped – first, from imperfect training, and, secondly, from the fact of her being a woman, and, as such, a political Uitlander. In this connection I quote again from the work on one of the social questions of the day – a work studiously moderate in tone and free from exaggerations: “Even though a woman’s work be as good and rapid as a man’s, we have seen that her scale of payment is frequently far inferior to his. She may be working on the same machine, speeding at the same pace, turning out the same commodity, and yet a heavy penalty laid on her simply because she is a woman.” Are not these sufferings, are not these grievances, and are not they borne by those who are within our gates, and who are being legislated for as are the Uitlanders, instead of legislating for themselves?
Further on in his speech, Mr Morley said: “It seemed best, said the High Commissioner – all these fellow-countrymen of ours being in the position of great disadvantage, and suffering what in this country we should regard as grievances; the question is how to put these right – it seemed best to strike at the root of the evil, best for them and best for the South African Republic and Her Majesty’s Government, to put these fellow citizens of ours in a position to help themselves, by giving them a share of political power through the franchise. Give them, as Sir A. Milner said, such a share as would enable them gradually to redress their grievances themselves, and to strengthen, not to weaken, the country of their adoption in the process.” Could the case of English women Uitlanders be better put? It has been proved over and over again that women are suffering, and are at a disadvantage, because they have no share in the political government of their country. The wisest and shrewdest men of the day agree that the best way to help the unenfranchised who are suffering from grievances is to give them such a share of political power as shall enable them gradually to redress their grievances themselves.
How then shall women bring pressure to bear on the men of their own country in order to obtain for themselves equal rights with these men? If nothing but war will meet the situation, then war must be declared by women at all Parliamentary elections, by making woman’s suffrage a Test Question. If a candidate will not pledge himself to support the political enfranchisement of women, then women, who really believe in the supreme righteousness of their cause, must refuse to help that candidate when he presents himself for nomination or election. Our weapons are not Maxim guns, shedding blood and carrying fire and sword in order to wrest political rights for men Uitlanders; our single weapon is the power for making suffrage for women a Test Question as regards women’s help at election times, and thus proving that woman’s influence in political and social questions is a moral factor that must be reckoned with, and shall in the end prove as powerful as an appeal to arms.
DORA B. MONTEFIORE.