My Two Countries
MY TWO COUNTRIES
GARDEN CITY NEW YORK
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1923, BY
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
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INTO FOREIGN LANGUAGES, INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES
THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS, GARDEN CITY, N. Y.
“I can conceive of nothing worse thana man-governed world—except a woman-governedworld.”
I KNOW that this welcome hasnothing to do with me. Eversince I first entered the Mother ofParliaments I realised that I hadceased to be a person and had becomea symbol. The safe thing about beinga symbol is this—you realise thatyou of yourself can do nothing, butwhat you symbolise gives you courageand strength, and should give youwisdom. I certainly have been givencourage and strength. I won’t saytoo much about wisdom.
My entrance into the House ofCommons was not, as some thought,in the nature of a revolution. It wassimply evolution. It is interestinghow it came about. My husbandwas the one who started me off on thisdownward career—from home to theHouse. If I have helped the cause ofwomen, he is the one to thank—notme. He is a strange and remarkableman. First, it was strange to urgehis wife to take up public life, especiallyas he is a most domesticatedcreature; but the truth is, he is a bornsocial reformer. He has avoided thepitfalls which so many well-to-do menfall into. He doesn’t think that youcan right wrongs with philanthropy.He realises that you must go to thebottom of the causes of wrongs andnot simply gild over the top. Foreleven years I had helped him with hiswork at Plymouth. Mine was thepersonal side. I found out the wrongsand he tried to right them. It was awonderful and happy combination,and I often wish that it was still goingon. However, I am not here to tellyou of his work, but it is interestingin so far as it shows you how it cameabout that I stood for Parliament atall. Unless he had been the kind ofman that he was, I don’t believe thatthe first woman Member of the oldestParliament in the world would havecome from Plymouth—and that wouldhave been a pity.
Plymouth is an ideal port to sailfrom or to. It has bidden “GodSpeed” to so many voyagers. I feltthat I was embarking on a voyage offaith, but when I arrived at my destinationsome of the HonourableMembers looked upon me more as apirate than a Pilgrim! A woman inthe House of Commons! It was almostenough to have broken up theHouse. I don’t blame them, but itwas as hard on the woman as it wason them. Pioneers may be picturesquefigures, but they are oftenrather lonely ones. I must say though,for the House of Commons, they boretheir shock with dauntless decency.No body of men could have beenkinder and fairer than they were.When you hear people over here tryingto run down England, please rememberthat England first gave thevote to women, and that the men ofEngland welcomed an American-bornwoman in the House with a fairnessand justice which this woman, atleast, will never forget.
Different Members received me indifferent ways. I shall never forget aScottish Labour man coming up to me,after I had been in the House a littletime, and telling me that I wasn’t abit the sort of woman he thought Iwas going to be; and on being pressedas to what kind of woman he thoughtI would be, said, “I’ll not tell youthat, but I know now that you are anordinary, homely kind of woman”;and he has proved it since by oftenasking my advice on domestic questions.Then the Irishman—an IrishMember once said to me, “I don’tknow what you are going to speakabout, but I am here to back you.”The last was a regular old Noah’s Arkman, a typical English Squire type.After two years and a half of neveragreeing on any point with me, he remarkedto someone that I “was a verystupid woman, but he must add, avery attractive one,” and he feared Iwas a thoroughly honest social reformer.I might add that, being thefirst woman, I had to take up manycauses which no one would call exactlypopular. I also had to go againstthe prejudice of generations, but Imust say their courtesy has neverfailed, though my Parliamentarymanners must have been somewhatof a trial.
Now I must leave the more personalside and get to what it is all about, andwhy we are here.
Some women have always been inpolitics, and not done badly either.It was when we had the Lancastriankings that it was said that kings weremade by Act of Parliament—theyruled by means of Parliament. ThenHenry VIII accepted the principle ofthe Lancastrians to rule by Parliament,but he used that principle inan entirely different way. He madeParliament the engine of his will, hepressed or frightened it into doinganything he wished. Under his guidanceParliament defied and crushedall other powers spiritual and temporal,and he did things which no kingor Parliament had ever attempted todo, things unheard of and terrible.Then Elizabeth came along. It istrue she scolded her Parliaments formeddling with matters with which,in her opinion, they had no concern,and more than once soundly rated theSpeaker of the Commons, but shenever carried her quarrels too far, andwas able to end her disputes by clevercompromise; in other words, she neverlet Parliament down, and that is whatI don’t believe any wise woman willdo, in spite of the fears of some of themen.
Now why are we in politics? Whatis it all about? Something much biggerthan ourselves. Schopenhauerwas wrong in nearly everything hewrote about women—and he wrote alot—but he was right in one thing.He said, in speaking of women, “Therace is to her more than the individual,”and I believe that it is true. Ifeel somehow we do care about therace as a whole; our very naturesmakes us take a forward vision.There is no reason why women shouldlook back. Mercifully, we have nopolitical past; we have all the mistakesof one-sex legislation, with itsappalling failures, to guide us. Weshould know what to avoid. It is nouse blaming the men—we made themwhat they are—and now it is up to usto try and make ourselves—the makersof men—a little more responsible.We realise that no one sex can governalone. I believe that one of the reasonswhy civilisation has failed solamentably is that it has had one-sidedgovernment. Don’t let us makethe mistake of ever allowing that tohappen again. I can conceive ofnothing worse than a man-governedworld—except a woman-governedworld—but I can see the combinationof the two going forward, and makingcivilisation, more worthy of the nameof civilisation based on Christianity,not on force—a civilisation based onjustice and mercy. I feel men have agreater sense of justice, and we ofmercy. They must borrow our mercyand we must use their justice.
We are new brooms. Let us see thatwe sweep the right rooms. Personally,I feel that every woman shouldtake an active part in local government.I don’t mean by that, thatevery woman should go in for a politicalcareer—that, of course, would beabsurd; but you can take an activepart in local government without goingin for a political career. You canbe certain when casting your vote thatyou are casting it for what seemsnearest right—for what seems morelikely to help the majority and not tobolster up an organised minority.There is a lot to be done in local politics,and it is a fine apprenticeship forcentral government; it is very practical,but I think that, although practical,it is too near to be attractive.The things that are far away are moreapt to catch our imagination than theones which are just under our noses,and then, they are often less disagreeable.
Political development is like allother development. We must beginwith ourselves, our own consciousness,and clean out our own hearts beforewe take on the job of putting othersstraight. So with politics. If wewomen put our hands to local politics,we must begin with the foundations.After all, central governments onlyecho local ones; the politician inWashington, if he is a wise man, willalways have one eye on his constituency.Let us make that constituencyso clean, so straight, so high in its purpose,that the man from home will notdare to take a small, limited viewabout any question, be it a nationalor an international one. You mustremember that what women are upagainst is not what they see, but theunseen forces. We are up againstgenerations and generations of prejudice.Ever since Eve ate the apple—butI would like to remind you, andall men, why she ate the apple. Itwas not simply because it was goodfor food or pleasant to the eyes: itwas from a tree whose fruit wouldmake one wise—“She took of thefruit thereof and did eat, and gaveunto her husband with her and he dideat.” We have no record of Adammurmuring against the fruit—of hisdoing anything but eat it with docility.In passing, also, I would like tosay that the first time Adam had achance he laid the blame on woman—however,we will leave Adam.
Ever since woman’s consciousnesshas looked beyond the material, man’sconsciousness has feared her vaguely;he has gone to her for inspiration, hehas relied on her for all that is bestand most ideal in his life, yet by sheermaterial force he has limited her.The Western man has, without knowingit, Westernised the harem mind ofthe East. I don’t believe he knowsit yet, so we must break it to himgently. We must go on being hisguide, his mother, and his better half.But we must prove to him that we area necessary half, not only in private,but in political life. The best waythat we can do that is to show himthat our ambitions are not personal.Let men see that we desire a better,safer, and cleaner world for our childrenand their children, and that webelieve that it is only by doing our bit,by facing unclean things with cleanliness,by facing wrongs with right, bygoing fearlessly into all things thatmay be disagreeable, that we will,somehow, make this a little betterworld. I don’t know that we aregoing to do this—I don’t say thatwomen will change the world, but Ido say that they can if they want to.Coming, as I do, from the Old Worldwhich has seen a devastating war, Icannot face the future without thishope—that the women of all countrieswill do their duty and raise a generationof men and women who will lookupon war and all that leads to it withas much horror as we now look upona cold-blooded murder. If we wantthis new world, we can get it only bystriving for it; and the real strugglewill be within ourselves, to put out ofour hearts and of our thoughts, allthat makes for war, hate, envy, greed,pride, force, and material ambition.
“I seem a symbol—a sort of connectinglink between the English-speaking people!”
I AM not really afraid to speak hereto-night. I was a little afraid lastnight—I didn’t know quite whetherNew York audiences would be as kindas Plymouth audiences. I see thatthey are much the same. They forgiveany shortcomings in the way ofscholarly attainments or oratoricalorations when they see that you arespeaking from your heart. I usuallydo speak from my heart. It has beena safer guide to me than my head, andhere to-night it’s easy; for surely nopeople on earth have understood awoman’s heart better than the English-speakingnations.
Last night I told the Women Votersthat I was not a person, but a symbol;to-night I still seem a symbol—a sortof connecting link between the English-speakingpeople, a frail link,perhaps, but a link that is strongerthan it looks. It is a strange thingthat England’s first woman Memberof Parliament should have comefrom England’s first colony. I doubtif the first English woman to land inVirginia was less expected on theseshores, than the first Virginian womanto land in the House of Commons wasexpected on that floor. However, inspite of having neither beads nor fire-water,the