Snippets 115. In the previous snippet we looked at a quote from Jonathan and His Continent by Max O’Rell. Although he is one of my favourite ‘forgotten’ authors, a travel writer whose books are funny and readable, despite now all being well over 100 years old, sometimes his comments can seem abhorrent to a modern reader. Times have changed since 1889, and the subject of women’s rights is a prime example.
In a country where woman is a spoilt child, petted, and made so much of, who can do and dare almost anything, it is strange to find women who are not content with their lot, but demand the complete emancipation of their sex.
American women asking for complete emancipation! It makes one smile.
I was talking one evening with Mrs. Devereux Blake, the chief of the movement. (She is a lady middle-aged, well-preserved, of a fluent, agreeable conversation, who has declared war to the knife against the tyrant Man.)
“You must excuse me,” I said to her, “if I ask questions; I am anxious to learn. I have submitted so many times to the interviewing process in your country, that I feel as if I had a right to interview the Americans a little in my turn. The American woman appears to me ungrateful not to be satisfied with her lot. She seems to rule the roast in the United States.”
“No,” replied Mrs. Blake, “she does not; but she ought.”
“But she certainly does,” I insisted.
“De facto, yes; but de jure, no.”
“What do you want more?”
“The right to make laws.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“The right of voting for candidates for Congress, and even the right to a seat in the House of Representatives.”
“This appears to me a little too exacting, and almost unfair,” I observed timidly.” You probably already make your husbands vote as you please: if, added to this, you are going to throw your own votes into the electoral urn, it means the extinction of man, neither more nor less; and, as Leon Gozlan said, ‘it is perhaps as well that there should be two sexes, for some time longer at all events.’ My dear lady, you are spoilt children, and spoilt children are never satisfied.”
I felt a little out of place in this energetic lady’s drawing-room, almost like a wolf in the fold.
By the time O’Rell wrote this, women did in fact have the right to vote in a few areas of the USA, and this was a trend that would continue, with women gaining the vote in Colorado in 1893, four years after the publication of the book, and then Idaho in 1896. But it would be another couple of decades before women were able to vote throughout the whole of the USA. Writer and suffragist Lillie Devereux Blake did much to further the cause of women’s rights in areas such as immigration, pensions and schooling, but sadly died in 1913, seven years before her dream of votes for women throughout the USA came to pass.
You can read an article about another of Max O’Rell’s books here: Journals 5 – A Frenchman in America. The link will take you to the first part of the article. Others can be found by scrolling from one article to the next using the arrows, or can be easily accessed from the contents page (link under the banner above).