Page:On the Political Status of Women (Annie Besant).pdf/20

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

trumpet-blast of Freedom, but once more it can be raised. We mean to set woman free; free to follow the guiding hand of Nature; free to fulfil every fair capability of her being; free to develop every noble intellectual power, and every passionate longing of her heart; free to expand in every direction; free to grow, to strengthen, and to rise. Little care we whether or not our work square with the rules of an old Eastern civilisation; let those who are anxious about it see to that. Our work need not in itself trench on religion; but if Religion and the Bible grapple with us, and try to stop and destroy us, then Religion and the Bible must either stand aside, or else they must go down.

One by one I have faced the only arguments against the extension of the franchise to women with which I am acquainted. You yourselves must judge how far these arguments are valid, and on which side right and justice rest. I would add that I feel sure that, when the matter is fairly placed before them, most men will sympathise with, and assist our cause. Some noble and brave men have come forward to join our ranks already, and speak boldly for woman's cause, and work faithfully for its triumph. The mass of men only need to study our claims in order to accept them. They have been reared to regard themselves as our natural superiors; small blame to them that they take the upper seats. Kind and gentle as many of them are, working hard for wife and children, thinking much of women and loving them well, it cannot be expected that they should readily understand that their relations to the weaker sex are founded on an injustice. But if they want to see how false is their idea of peace, and how misled they are when they think women's position satisfactory, let them go out and see what the laws are where the power they give is wielded by brutality and tyranny. Let them try to imagine what women suffer who are too weak and timid to resist the strength under whose remorseless exercise they writhe in vain; let them try to appreciate the sharper agony of those whose bolder hearts and stronger natures defy their tyrants, and break, at whatever cost, their chains. Laws must be tested by their working; these laws which make the woman the helpless servant of man are not enforced in happy homes. But they exist, and elsewhere they are used.