Page:On the Political Status of Women (Annie Besant).pdf/14

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

in making the laws which we are bound to obey. We share the duty of supporting the State, and we claim the right of helping to guide it. Taxation and representation run side by side, and if you will not allow us to be represented, you have no right to tax us. I may suggest here, in reference to the contest about married women having votes, that this point is altogether foreign to the discussion. The right to a vote and the qualification for a vote, are two distinct things, and come under different laws. The one is settled by Act of Parliament, the other by the revising barrister. A blunder was lately made by putting into a Bill a special disqualification of married women. Such a clause is absurdly out of place. We are contending to remove from a whole sex a legal disability; the details come later, and must be arranged when the principle is secured. A man has the right to vote because he is a man; but he must possess certain qualifications before he can exercise his right. Let womanhood, as such, cease to be a disqualification; that is the main point. Let the discussion on qualifications follow. Further, if it be urged that women are represented by their husbands, what are we to say about those who have none? In 1861, thirteen years ago, there were three and a-half millions of women in England working for their livelihood—two and a-half millions of these were unmarried, and were, therefore, unrepresented. Is there no pathos in these figures? Two and a-half millions struggling honestly to live, but mute to tell of their wants or their wrongs. Mute, I say, for not one in a thousand has the power of the pen. And this is not the worst. Oh, friends! below these, pressed down there by the terrible struggle for existence, there is a lower depth yet, tenanted by thousands of whom it is not here my province to speak—thousands, from whom a bitter wail goes up, to which men's ears are deaf. Surely, women need representation—surely, there are grievances and wrongs of women which can only be done away by those whom women send to Parliament as their representatives. It is natural that men should not desire that many of these laws should be altered. In the first place, it is impossible they should understand how hardly they press on women; only those who wear it, says the proverb, "know where the shoe pinches." And, in the second place, the holders of a monopoly generally object to have their monopoly inter-