Women are people!/Section 4

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1943435Women are people! — Unauthorized InterviewsAlice Duer Miller


An Unauthorised Interview

Between the Suffragists and the Statue of Liberty

The Suffragists

Lady robed in light,
At our harbour standing,
Equal law and right
Promising, demanding,
Can you tell us, do you know,
Why you treat your daughters so?

Do not think us pert,
Insolent or teasing,
But you seem a flirt,
Only bent on pleasing
That one-half of human kind
Who made Sister Justice blind.

The Statue

Be not deceived, my daughters, I'm not she———
The wingèd Goddess, who sets nations free.

I am that Liberty, which when men win
They think that others' seeking is a sin;
I am that Liberty which men attain
And clip her wings lest she should fly again:
I am that Liberty which all your brothers
Think good for them and very bad for others.
Therefore they made me out of bronze, and hollow,
Immovable, for fear that I might follow
Some fresh rebellion, some new victim's plea;
And so they set me on a rock at sea,
Welded my torch securely in my hand
Lest I should pass it on, without command.
I am a milestone, not an inspiration;
And if my spirit lingers in this nation,
If it still flickers faintly o'er these waters,
It is your spirit, my rebellious daughters.

Queens and Goddesses

Scene: Congress, during a woman suffrage debate.  The
Congressmen are, as usual, moving about, talking, reading,
dozing, and one, an anti-suffragist, is speaking.

I shall vote "No" on this measure, but I wish to say I take
My stand for Woman's protection, for her own sake.
No one honours Woman, no one respects her more,
Than I do; as queen and goddess I love and adore———
(Suddenly in an open space in front of the Speaker's desk
appear Pallas Athene and Cleopatra.)

Strange little man without weapons, what can you mean?

I, in my time, was a goddess———

And I was a queen.

Men knelt with gifts at my altar, gifts of ivory and gold,
Bowls of bronze and of silver chased by the tools of old.
No council of chiefs was held, no treaty or war begun
But they prayed to me for wisdom———

And all that I wished was done.

My name was spoken with reverence, for the mortal's breath
That jests on the name of a goddess calls soon for death.
But here one spoke of his goddess, likening her to a hen.
Think you Immortals suffer such words from the lips of men?

And one was talking of queens for many an hour,
Till I longed to clap my hands with their old, old power
And cry "Come hither, my guards, take this old man away,
For his ignorant talk of queens wearies your queen to-day."

Pallas (more kindly):
If you have each a goddess, as all of you boast,
Hurry and bring her here, here, where you need her most.
She must be strong and wise; while ye, O mortals, are weak.
Pray that she come and save you, from the foolish words you speak.
If you have each a goddess———

Congressman (recovering from his astonishment):
Yes, but home is her shrine.

Ah, I have seen those shrines, lovely, many, as mine,

But women are toiling in them, toiling like slaves.
Are they your goddesses?

Congressman (confused):

Surely the old man raves!
I know the fate of captives and slaves of the East:
They must work till they die, or are sold like a beast.
This man owns them by thousands. They toil amid wheels that grind.
They are his slaves.

Congressman (faintly):
No, queens.

Cleopatra (angrily):
The man is mad or blind.

Nay, nay, Daughter of Egypt, he is neither blind nor mad,

But talking as men still talk when their cause is bad.
To cover an ugly truth he uses a pretty phrase
As even the Gods have done in the good old days.
He knows that the woman who toils for some one else to be rich
Is no more a queen than the man who digs a ditch.
He knows that the wife at home, whom he does, as he says, revere,
Is not a goddess, or else he would seek her counsel here.
He knows her merely a woman, and he wants no woman to share
His power—

Why does he not say so?

Because he does not dare.

Dares not? Is he a coward?

Nay, he fears where he ought.
For as some men think of women they are wise to hide their thought.
(She turns to Congressman.)
Mortal, I am a goddess. Do not tremble and shrink.
I read your heart about women—all that you wish and think.
Base it is, and unworthy, but I strike you not dead at my feet.
This is my sentence upon you—a punishment meet—
When you tell your thought of Woman, you shall tell the truth.
How you despise her wholly—all but her beauty and youth.
Henceforth when you speak of Woman, you shall tell all your heart.

Congressman (terrified):
I must be silent forever! (A pause.)

Pallas to Cleopatra:
Come, Queen, we may now depart.

Impressions of a Canvasser

Scene: A Certain State Capitol.


Half a dozen Legislators Opposed.

Please, sir, to tell us, if you will,
How you will vote upon our bill?

1st Legislator:
Ladies, observe my easy grace,
My manners and my pleasant face;
I hope you see I bow, I smile,
I call you "ladies"—all the while
My heart is black with seething hate
That I, who am so very great,
Should have to waste a single minute
On your affairs—there's nothing in it.

Suffragists (to another legislator):
And you, sir, if we recollect,
Are much opposed. Is that correct?

2nd Legislator:
Opposed! O ladies, no, indeed!

I vote against you, I concede;
I may continue so to do,
But I am not opposed to you.
To call me so is most unjust
I make myself quite plain, I trust.

Suffragists (to another legislator):
And may we hear from you, sir, how
You'll vote?

3rd Legislator:
I have no option now;
I listen to my district's voice;
It voted no; I have no choice.

O sir, I think there's some mistake,
Your district carried.

4th Legislator (hastily interrupting):
Let me make
His statement clear; he means that we
All come here absolutely free.
Not at our districts' beck and nod,
We vote to please ourselves and God;
And we are not in all events
The slaves of our constituents.

Suffragists (slightly puzzled, to another legislator):
And you, sir, shall you vote for it?

5th Legislator:
No, though I think you will admit
I have a very open mind;
If in my district I should find
The women want it (which they don't),
I'd vote for it. Till then I won't.

And have you asked so very many?

5th Legislator (astonished):
Why, no, I don't think I've asked any.

Suffragists (to another legislator):
And what, sir, is your attitude?

6th Legislator:
I hope you will not think me rude,
If, ladies, as a friend I say
You do not work the proper way.
It's time you disappeared, and let
The public utterly forget
That there are women wish to vote.
Then at some future time, remote,
In twenty years, or twenty-five,
If you should chance to be alive,
You'd see a change—at least you ought—
A striking change in public thought.
This from a friend.

But are you so?

6th Legislator:
A friend? Oh, well, I voted "no,"
But surely you can comprehend
That I advise you as a friend.

(Suffragists alone.)

1st Suffragist:
The men in favour talk much less.

2nd Suffragist:
They haven't much to say but "yes";
The men opposed explain a lot
How they're opposed and yet they're not
It takes some time to make that clear.

1st Suffragist:
How very bad the air is here!

2nd Suffragist:
Do you refer to ventilation,
Or to the general situation?

(The reply is inaudible.)