Why The Housekeeper Needs the Vote

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Why The Housekeeper Needs The Vote

By Anne O'Hagan

I am a housekeeper—even the antis will allow that that is a perfectly proper thing for me to be. I live—to be quite intimate—during the winter in an old-fashioned apartment house. I am quite sure that the tenement house law of the city of New York is not infrequently violated by the owner of that apartment house in the matter of lighting the halls. As guests almost break their distinguished necks in rounding the corner of the stairs to the hall on which my apartment is situated; as I myself, familiar though I a with the turns of the stairs, make missteps and go plunging through the hems of my best skirts; can anyone imagine that I am so stupid as not to wish I had a voice in the framing of tenement-house laws and in the choice of tenement-house commissioners.

I am aware, dear anti-suffragist, that the tenement-house commissioner of New York is appointed by the mayor, and is not directly elected by the ballots of the voters; but I am also aware that I have no part in electing that mayor, and have no political claim upon his consideration when I wish to complain of the action, or the lack of action, of his appointee.

I am a housekeeper. I am vitally interested in the matter of pure food. It rejoices my soul when I read a sullen, hard-won label, remarking: "The contents of this bottle are artificially colored." It would rejoice my soul a thousandfold more could I know that every bottle containing an artificial coloring matter, or a chemical preservative, was as plainly labeled. It would rejoice my soul exceedingly could I have a voice in appointing the men who inspect the foodstuffs, the weights and measures, the cold-storage plants, and all the institutions in which I, as a housekeeper, am vitally and—even if I were an anti-suffragist—legitimately interested.

I am a housekeeper, eager to have my family's surroundings as healthful and pleasant as may be. What part have I had in framing the tenement house laws of the City of New York, the building laws of the city? What part have I had in determining the building code? Homemaking is not an art which has its beginning and end in the selection of wall-papers and the thrifty and nutritious cooking of inexpensive meats. You cannot have a safe, secluded home under building laws which allow paper-thin partitions between you and your neighbors. You cannot have safe, comfortable homes in firetraps. You cannot have healthy homes unless you have an adequate allowance of light and air space.

Of course, you may tell me that men are as vitally interested in the building code and the choice of building inspectors as are women. They are, that is true—but they do not seem to realize it. Generations of regarding the franchise as a right exercised for large, vague, far-away reasons—tariffs, and the maintenance of a gold standard, and the building of armories, and the national triumph of the Republican or the Democratic party—have clouded them to the close, personal, homely reasons for its exercise.

But women, whose duties are, for the most part, within the four walls of their I dwellings, bring another point of view to bear upon the situation. They are less interested in whether the election of X will strengthen "the party" in 1916 than they are in the question of whether his election will insure clean streets until 1916. And I don't think that even the besotted adherent of either of the parties will claim that that is a less important consideration than the other.—Reprinted from Smith's Magazine.

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This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.

The author died in 1933, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.