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WHAT HAVE WOMEN DONE WITH THE VOTE?
BY GEORGE CREEL
VEN more amazing than the prairie
fect on those who champion or oppose it. It is an issue that seems to have the disturbing values of hemp or poppy, shutting out actualities and inducing dreams.
As far as the United States is concerned, equal suffrage ceased to be a theory in 1869, when Wyoming gave women the vote. Since then nine more States and a Territory have enfranchised their females, each one a potential laboratory for the ascertainment of facts.
The ten States and one Territory that have already answered in the affirmative are calling for company. Montana, Nevada, and the two Dakotas will vote on the proposition in 1914, and the legislatures of New York, New Jersey, and Iowa have taken the first steps for submitting at constitutional amendment to the people in 1915. The law-making bodies of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are on record with favorable, but not final, action, and in every State the equal-suffrage movement eclipses all others in size, strength, and iron determination.
Since an answer is inevitable, patriotism demands the elimination of prejudice and theories and sole consideration of facts and figures. Equal-suffrage leaders, as a matter of course, will dispute this point of view, insisting that woman is entitled to the ballot because she is an adult human being, and that what she does with it is no more to be considered than man's use of his vote, whether wise or unwise.
This claim has never been allowed by the majority. It is for man to say whether woman shall have the vote, and as a consequence man views the ballot not as a right that he must give, but as a privilege that he is at liberty to confer or withhold.
HOW WOMEN HAVE AFFECTED
HAS equal suffrage made good? If so, he desires to aid in its extension. Has equal
What statutory enactments are admittedly due to the woman vote? In many respects this is the only fair approach. Laws speak for themselves, and that which is set down in black and white does not lend itself readily to distortion and misrepresentation. Do women avail themselves of the franchise privilege? Does the "bad" woman outvote her "good" sister? Have women become inveterate office-seekers? Has equal suffrage disrupted the home?
At the outset of the inquiry, Colorado and California suggest themselves as examples that may serve all purposes of computation and comparison. One has had suffrage for twenty years, the other for two. Colorado represents the old and its evolutions; California stands for the new, with its revolutions.
There is also this postulate to be accepted: absolute segregation of the woman
vote is impossible. Men far outnumber the women in the nine Western equal-suffrage States, and the adoption of any law means that a certain portion of the male vote has given it the necessary approval. Reference to "women's laws," therefore, must be taken to mean those measures originated by women, introduced by women legislators, or else indorsed and lobbied for unflaggingly by women's organizations.
The procedure in all the equal-suffrage States is very similar. A state federation of women's clubs, at its annual convention, will discuss what it wishes in the way of legislation, and what it does not wish. Bills already in the field are indorsed or condemned, new bills are framed to meet the demands, and then everything is placed in the hands of a legislative committee that is virtually an unpaid lobby. This committee, with an elastic membership of from ten to seventy-five, attends every session of the legislature. The progress of bills is watched, care is taken to see that none of them is lost or hidden, and in the event of trouble, these Paul Reveres send out a warning that rains down scores of telegrams from every quarter of the State on the heads of recalcitrant legislators. As a result of these methods, the following "women's laws," grouped in order that development may be studied, have been adopted by Colorado:
1893 to 1900: a state home for dependent children, three of the five members of the board of control to be women; making the mother joint guardian of the child with the father; raising age of protection for girls to eighteen years; a state industrial school for girls, three of the five members of the board of control to be women; a factory inspection law; creating the indeterminate sentence, out of which Tom Tynan's wonderful "honor-andtrust" idea has been evolved; truantschools; requiring one woman physician on the state asylum board; provision for the inspection of maternity homes and lying-in hospitals conducted by private per
1900 to 1910: juvenile court system; drastic compulsory-education law; a childlabor law taking little ones under fourteen out of factories, stores, and mines, and forbidding the employment of those under sixteen in unhealthful or dangerous trades;
making father and mother joint heirs of deceased child; providing penalties for failure to support aged or infirm parents; a traveling-library commission, consisting of five women, for the purpose of seeing that books reach the most remote mountain camp and prairie hut; making it a criminal offense to contribute to the delinquency of a child; a local-option law; and the establishment of a state free-employment bureau, with offices in all the principal cities and towns.
It is at this point that a break must be made in the recital of laws, for 1910 heard the first gun of Colorado's winning struggle for equal justice. Without entering into causes, suffice it to say that the people believed themselves outraged by a supreme court, enslaved by a "bipartizan machine," and pillaged by a plunderbund made up of public-service monopolies, railroads, smelters, and various trusts.
Hard fighting wrenched the initiative and referendum from a venal legislature, and a vote in Denver for municipal ownership of the water-plant marked the first defeat that the allied public-utility corporations had ever received.
In 1911 a commission-government campaign was launched at various points in Colorado, and put into operation in Grand Junction, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, and various other municipalities. In Denver a corrupt council consigned a petition containing 20,000 signatures to the wastebasket. A citizens' movement was formed, a full mayoralty ticket placed in the field, and on May 21, 1912, the non-partizan candidates were overwhelmingly elected by 10,000 more votes than the combined totals of the Democratic and Republican parties.
In November, using the initiative for the first time, the people wrote these statutes and constitutional amendments: an eight-hour law for working-women; a mothers' compensation act; the recall of officials, with particular emphasis on the judiciary; state-wide civil service; an eighthour law for miners; home rule for cities; the recall of decisions, providing that only the supreme court of the State shall have the power to declare laws unconstitutional, and that these decisions may be disapproved and set aside by a majority vote of the people; and the headless ballot.
In February, 1913, the long-delayed
commission-government election was held, the change adopted, and on June 1 five commissioners, elected without party designations and by a preferential system of voting, took charge of Denver's affairs.
There can be no question that women were literally the life of the revolution, bringing an even greater degree of radicalism to bear upon the various propositions than the men. Judge Lindsey, speaking for the citizens, John H. Gabriel, president of the Direct Legislation League, and the writer, as chairman of the commissiongovernment campaign, have never failed to say that the women, volunteering their services for the circulation of petitions, throwing open their homes when halls could not be hired, and as willing to trudge and drudge as to lead and sit in council, constituted the moving force of the forward movement.
THE EMPHASIS ON ECONOMIC CONDITIONS
IN considering the laws enacted subsequent to 1910, mark the new economic and industrial emphasis: creation of a minimum-wage commission, with power to act; establishment of fifty dollars as a minimum monthly wage for teachers, and doubling the length of the minimum school year; amendments putting teeth in the childlabor law, the factory-inspection law, and the compulsory-education law; a workmen's compensation act; a law putting loan sharks out of business; a strong non-support law, and a companion statute making non-support an extraditable offense; a state home for the feeble-minded; validating the wills of married women; perfecting the "honor-and-trust" system at the penitentiary in many particulars; making the "third degree" a felony, etc.
It is also important to note that a first act of the citizens' administration was the abolition of the infamous "red-light district," long protected by the bipartizan alliance.
Consideration of the case of California with respect to equal suffrage inevitably begins with the Weller recall and the campaign against commercialized vice. Foes of equal suffrage blame the women voters in toto, and accuse them of hysteria, emotionalism, and crack-brained theories. The women accept full responsibility, but plead ample justification, and both sides agree on this statement of fact as to the recall:
One Albert Hendricks had raped a young girl in peculiarly revolting circumstances. Judge Shortall, before whom he was arraigned, demanded bond in the sum of $3000; but when he left town two days later, Judge Weller reduced the bail to $1000. Hendricks promptly fled, leaving a wife and two children behind him without means of support, and the incident would have been closed but for the women of the neighborhood in which the girl lived.
At the outset of the investigation it was discovered that Hendricks had been in Weller's court before on a similar charge, and had gone unpunished. Further delving developed that in scores of cases of criminal assault the bonds ranged from $50 to $300, and that continuance and dismissal were the favorite Wellerian modes of treatment.
One particular scandal was that of a fourteen-year-old girl about to become a mother. Ten times Weller continued the case against her assailant, and the tenth time, which fell on the day the child gave birth to her baby, Weller dismissed the case because the "complainant failed to appear."
The fight on commercialized vice has been waged chiefly in San Francisco, for Los Angeles abolished its infamous "crib district" in 1909 as the result of a scandal that exposed a city administration's intimate connection with the under-world.
San Francisco's answer to the RuefFrench restaurant infamies, however, was the creation of a municipal clinic for the purpose of segregating prostitutes and subjecting them to physical examination. It was against this condition specifically, but against the whole system generally, that the women revolted.
When the men declared that prostitution was a "necessary evil," the women asked them if they were willing to let a member of their own families recruit the industry. When the men said that a "wide-open town" was a good thing for business, and that tourists would avoid a "closed town," the women answered: "If drunkenness and debauchery are necessary to make business good, then the sooner we get rid of that sort of business the better. If tourists come to San Francisco only for whisky and lust, we don't want that class of travel near the homes in which we are rearing our children.”