Dora B. Montefiore, New Age July 1904
Source: New Age, p. 475-476, 28 July 1904;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.
When the history of the Women’s Movement comes to be written, I believe it will be recorded that the year 1904 was an important one in the annals of their cause. There is little doubt that the recent Berlin Congress brought together forces and influences whose centrifugal power it is difficult to estimate; has encouraged the weak, has strengthened the brave; and has given to women working all over the world in the cause of their sister women a feeling of solidarity and of sisterhood such as they never possessed before! The Congress is being followed in England by informal meetings of leaders amongst women, who are taking the opportunity of Miss Anthony and her colleagues and political women from our Australian and New Zealand colonies being on a visit to our shores to join with them in council, and decide on a future plan of campaign which shall help to make the suffrage question in all advanced countries a question of practical politics. What we need in England is what nearly every other country possesses already – a sound, practical, useful, and interesting woman’s paper, to appear every week, to be financed with women’s capital, and planned by women’s brains. At present we are dependent on men’s capital and men’s editorial brains for the voicing of our aspirations, and the ordinary male editor views woman from the standpoint of what men desires her to be rather than from that of what she aspires to be. Hence a constant filtering process goes on in connection with the recording of women’s activities through the medium of the English commercial Press, and as a result, amongst other things, the Berlin Congress was inadequately reported and so superficially treated over here that the majority of people have no idea of the supreme humanitarian and progressive importance of the recent gathering.
I have just received a report of the recently-formed Women Writers’ Club in Melbourne, the financial side of which seems extremely satisfactory, showing, as it does, a balance in the bank of over £42. The report is accompanied by a copy of an article by the secretary of the club, Miss Alice Henry, dealing with the difficulty experienced writers in Australia meet in placing their MS. in English publications. “All the ordinary obstacles,” writes Miss Henry, “that meet the young English writer – little disagreements about payment, the loss of manuscripts, and, more serious and more common than all, the loss of photos – are multiplied tenfold by distance.” Then, as to the oft-repeated advice not to be discouraged by the return of a MS., even if that return becomes more constant than flattering, she writes: “A manuscript cannot possibly make its journey to England and back under an average of thirteen weeks; that is, it would make four journeys in a year. It would take six and a half years to try twenty-six editors, and ten years to reach the limit of forty. How many magazine articles would retain their freshness all that time, how many would be lost in transit, and what a Fortunatus’ purse would be needed for postage.” There remains, as she further on remarks, the literary agent, “as to whose ability and disinterestedness opinions vary.” There remains also, I would add (and I hope within six weeks from now Miss Henry will know, and make known the fact to others), the newly-started Lyceum Club, 128, Piccadilly, -which has for one of its objects the facilitating of women’s literary and journalistic work all over the world. It is par excellence an international club for women with brains; the subscription, £2 2s., is nominal, considering the benefits offered, and the way it will link up women’s artistic, literary, and academic endeavour all over the world. All further details can be obtained from its public-spirited secretary and founder, Miss Smedley, at the address I have already given.
I have been writing my articles during the last three weeks sitting out on the beach at Shoreham, in front of the wooden hut which has been mine and my son’s home during that time. The hut is not, perhaps, quite so simple as that which Thoreau describes in the American forest where he made his home, but it is a very good imitation, and the “fixings” therein are limited to the strictly necessary. The sea at this part of the South Coast has thrown up a long strip of pebbly beach, on which 300 wooden bungalows (most of them constructed partly of railway carriages) are built. The nearest approach to the sun and air cure that it is possible to obtain in England is to rent one of these bungalows for a month, such as the July we are just enjoying, and to live out on the beach in the sunshine tempered by a constant breeze, and within a few yards of the ever changing sea. Jaded and over-strung nerves are soothed with the beauty of sky, wave, and soft swelling curves of the South Downs; one takes no thought for dress, but goes barefooted except for a pair of white canvas shoes when walking on the shingle; one’s meals are reduced to primal simplicity; and, last and best recommendation, one has unlimited leisure for reading, dreaming, and talking with the friends and comrades who drop in from time to time for a day or two to share and enjoy the simple life. A Russian woman comrade who has just left us could never cease wondering at the new phase of English character and life presented to her, when English people throw off the burdensome restraints of the town, and live as near to nature as it is possible to do in civilisation. The gain in happiness and in freedom from care is untold; and when we read her Swinburne’s exquisite lines “On the South Coast,” describing in majestically simple English the scene lying before her eyes, her intellect, heart, and aesthetic sympathies went out to England and to the great singer, who tells how
“Higher and higher to the north aspire the green smooth-swelling unending downs;
East and west on the brave earth’s breast glow girdle-jewels of gleaming towns;
Southward shining, the laurels declining, subside in peace that the sea’s light crowns.”
DORA B. MONTEFIORE.