Our Election Enigma — Woman!

AGNES C. LAUT November 15 1921

Our Election Enigma — Woman!

AGNES C. LAUT November 15 1921

Our Election Enigma — Woman!


NOW that women are in Canadian public life, now that they have a voice in Canada’s destiny, which means their sons’ and daughters’ destiny, which means their sons’ and their daughters’ success or failure— how are they going to vote? A are they going to vote at all?

Are they going to turn out at the polls?

Are they goi 1 to realize that citizenship carries witn it, responsibilities and sacred duties as well as \ ghtsand privileges?

Are they going to act as the fifth wheel to a cart and advocate impracticable fool-theories, with the best intentions in the world?

Are they going to platform on moral reforms? They are strong on moral reforms. But if they are, you must acknowledge that man being the son of woman and the realization in the flesh of woman’s love aspirations, is just as strong on moral reforms as woman is—with this difference.

From an experience in representative government dating from Magna Charta and Runnymede, man knows that moral reforms expressed in the law are just as strong and no stronger than the spirit in the human soul that embodied those reforms in formal law. Christ expressed this when he spoke of the outside of the cup. To change the metaphor—prohibitions are important but inhibitions are more important. If this passion for righteousness in the soul flames clear and pure, the embodiment of that passion for righteousness in formal law will be carried out; and the creation of the passion for righteousness is peculiarly the woman’s job as creator and trainer of the children.

In brutally frank words, are the women voters going to chase after legislating moral reforms, or legislating conditions which will create moral reforms?

Are they going to realize, for instance, that a great deal of alimony—especially so when there are no children and the union has been only for a few months—and fa great many breach of promise cases, are simply legalized blackmail? As long as woman was a ward of the law and not a creator of the law, she could claim special privileges, the privilege of the minor; but as a creator of the law, her equality wipes out privilege with all its blatant hypocrisies and places on her shoulders—praise God!— not only equality but responsibility for the same rights to the man as to the woman, the same rights to the woman as to the man.

Sane Politics? Or Wild Antics?

T AM not stating these things as my own theories but as A the questions that are in people’s souls as the world enters this new era of woman citizenship, for which I may add I stand from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet and the tips of my fingers. Only I know full well— with the end of wardship and privilege comes equality of responsibility, equality of physical fitness, equality of work delivered for equality of pay; and I see a great many women, who are claiming equality of liberty in conduct before the law, who are not assuming equality of responsibility—the wild antics, for instance, of the young London generation, who demand a latch-key for after midnight return to their lodging houses, but who howl to High Heaven if their new found liberties, which they abuse, bring them disasters, from which the lack of wisdom has not yet taught them to protect themselves. In other words if boys dance wild jazz on the edge of moral precipices, a certain proportion of them will go over and always have gone over, and broken their necks. If girls do the same with less experience and less knowledge, they, too, will break their necks; and great will be the clatter of some very fine china broken.

I do not say that such breakage of fine china will be any greater than under the old régime, when a conspiracy of muffled silence concealed the casualty list. If you are sceptical of this, go into some old churchyard of forty >ears back, and look at the death list and ages of some

men’s wives. Then enquire from some of the oldest settlers, what that succession of wives of one man—Mormons chronologically rather than contemporaneously—died of. Not a pleasant subject! Hush! So I do not say that the breakage of fine china will be any greater under the new liberty than under the old—I won’t say bondage—but I do say régime of fences; but I do say with all the conviction my being is capable of, that what the new liberty needs is more ducalion in responsibility and less vociferation on rights; more innocence of knowledge, less innocence of ignorance.

With extraordinary examples of feminine psychology before them, is it any wonder the politicians are rubbing their heads?

How will women vote?

Will they vote independent of their husbands; or as they ate told?

Will they vote in, terms of their heads; or of their emo-

Will they line up with old parties; or be a big independent factor, on which no side can assuredly count?

The preponderance of women are in the home contented, happy wives, mothers, sisters. Will they bother to vote at all? Especially, will the older generatión, who were not militant suffragists, vote? If they don’t, and the screaming sisterhood of discontent do, won’t we have a disturbing, disruptive factor, which men cannot afford to ignore?

Will the silk stockings and kid gloves vote? ' And if they don’t, and the agitators do—especially the foreign agitators-haven’t we introduced a terribly dangerous element into our electorate? How far-reaching will be the effect of this element?

Influence of Personality

A GAIN, women are terribly prone to act according to personalities both in business and in elections, instead of according to facts. Witness the proverbial woman investor, who buys into worthless investments, just because some one she knew told her, instead of investigating facts for herself and acting on those facts. “The sucker lists” of all fake promotion companies have a preponderance of names of women, preachers, teachers. Are women going to vote in terms of personal likes and dislikes, or in terms of national issues?

I am not referring to men standing for election, whose private lives and relationships in business are shady. Man is a unity in his character. His personality is good, or it is bad, or it is a medley of both; but we all know the man shady in his personal relationship will be shady in his public relationship. The man dishonest in his personal business will be dishonest in his public business if he can be. The man incompetent in his private business will be just as incompetent in his public business. What I am trying to get at is this—with the men of equally good private relationship, are the women going to vote according to their likes and dislikes, or according to the national issues at hazard?

And in voicing these questions, I am not voicing my own questions, but the questions in the minds of the politicians.

And I purpose to answer those questions in terms of facts on record and not of opinions.

Canada’s male electorate will run anywhere from 1,500,000 to 2,000,000, according to estimate of adults, age twenty-one and over. Canada’s woman vote will be a similar total if they turn out. v

The question how that woman vote will saving and what proportion will come out is a mighty vital one to Canada to-day.

It is vital enough to determine our national destiny.

Now for facts in the chaos of predictions and opinions.

It was said even should the naturalized foreign women turn out, the kid-glove, silk-stocking, contented home women would not.

In Winnipeg, they had a strike, which became somewhat famous, or infamous, as you like to call it. The kidgloves and silk-stockings turned out and elected Mrs. McTavish Rogers, a representative of one of the oldest Canadian families in the North-West, dating back to the Hudson’s Bay and North-West fur traders.

, Will women turn out proportionately to men?

Crowd to Polls in West

TN MANITOBA and Alberta, the women crowded to the *■ polls; and the proportion of those with the right to vote—both men and women—was much larger than in any previous election. As high as 95 per cent of the possible women voters recorded their ballot in many constituencies.

These are facts that don’t admit of discussion.

Very well, then, admit the kid-gloves and silk-stockings vote, how about the foreign-bom, particularly of those nationalities, which regard women as the chattel and property of the man, not as valuable as a cow or mare because as wives they can be replaced more cheaply. Apropos of which, I recall one old fellow’s remark. His wife was dying at a premature age. “Yon, Yon,” she said consolingly to him, “y’ bant grieve for me so mooch!”

"Never fear, Christina,” he answered tenderly, “I baint grieve for thee—there be many more where thee comes from.”

How about these foreign-born women, who hardly regard themselves as more than cheap pawns in the game of life?

Facts again! In the Alberta elections, of those who had to secure certificates and papers of citizenship to vote, in one foreign electoral district, eighteen of them motored all night long to reach the necessary offices to get their papers in time, to vote. It was acknowledged after the Alberta contest was over, one of the deciding factors had been the farm woman’s vote.

After all when hard stress comes, it is on the woman in the home the big burden falls; for she has to make ends meet whether they will or not. She is in exactly the position of the manufacturer. She has to make income and overhead balance. The man brings in the raw material, wheat, beef, pork, milk. These she has to convert into flour, meat, butter, cheese, food, clothes, books for the children at school, and when the income doesn’t equal outlay, she wants to know why in terms of the breakfast table.

One of the most powerful factors in the Farm Movement of the West has been the fortnightly forum of discussion in every farm organization, where the women take part freely as the men and the women have their group of organizers actively organized as the men. In Mrs. Parlby’s constituency—I think it is Lacombe—some of the old line fellows “weren’t going to vote for no woman as their representative”. Greenfield went into that constituency—and Greenfield is English by birth—and told them the suicidal reaction of such a policy on the Farmers’ Party; and Mrs. Parlby, herself a farmer, was elected and went into Greenfield’s Cabinet. The reaction of thaj on the Farm Woman’s vote doesn’t need predicting. It was one of the examples of the fair and square thing being always ' he wise and judicious thing.

Labor and the Woman Vote

AS TO Labor, will Labor stand for the woman vote, when the woman wage-earner is the competitor of the man wage-earner and in many quarters resented by the man labor vote? British Co'umbia is the best answer to that. When Ralph Smith, Labor member, died. Mrs. Ralph Smith went into the Labor constituency and “carried on” and “the Hon. Mary Ellen” was elected and offered the speaker’s chair.

One of the funniest examples I witnessed of the Labor woman’s attitude was in Nanaimo, a very radical Labor centre, where big strikes and half time have injected peculiar bitterness into the dispute between mine owners and mine workers. I was trying to show in a lecture how the pulling apart of capital and labor would injure both, how pulling together would help both, when some half dozen Radical “Reds” stalked out of the audience and began singing revolutionary “Red” songs to distract attention from an argument based on facts. Sitting right under my nose was a big Welsh woman, the wife of a striking “Red.” Now I have nothing to say about the merits or demerits of this particular quarrel, but as I went on to show the loss to miners and mine owners from strikes an

half time, no matter how high or low the wage level, the big Welsh woman began to grunt under her breath'with a very red, angry face. What she was saying at the end of every sentence of mine was, “Make ’em work!”

“Make ’em work!”

“Make ’em work!”

I can’t predict, of course, but it is a safe bet that woman’s vote will be her own private judgment and not as her husband tells her to vote.

How about women as independents? Will they vote independent? Won’t they just double the old vote? Won’t they neglect home life for politics?

Nellie McClung’s election in Alberta is the best answer in terms of fact to these questions that I know. Her home life is also one of the most beautiful things that I know; and I know it intimately; and I have known Mrs. McClung since she was a student in the Winnipeg Collegiate and so was I. Her home is one of the happiest and most domestic circles to which I have ever been admitted. Home is her first consideration. She has probably made more enemies in her prohibition campaigns than any woman in Canada; and while I don’t always agree with her in detail, I agree with her utterly in essentials. The saloon had become too dangerous a factor in politics, too doubly dangerous a factor in the menace to youth and family life, and most damnably dangerous in economic life, when workmen getting $10 and $11 a day during the War worked double time Sunday for double pay and came back soused on Mondays and Tuesdays to handle T.N.T. and blow themselves and the factories up by being only about fifty per cent, efficient. The saloon had to go; but the fact remains in the going out of the saloon to which no one contributed more than Mrs. McClung, she made some terribly active enemies.

Why She Stays in Edmonton

J SAID that I did not always agree with her in details.

One of the details was when I heard she was likely to go into political life, I wanted her to go into the federal arena rather than the provincial. I considered she wife needed more in the federal arena than the provincial; and I did not want to see any fiasco in the Canadian federal arena such as we had witnessed when Miss Rankin went to Washington. Mrs. McClung is very sympathetic with Labor. Labor trusts her implicitly; but she would never lose her head for fear of constituents back home. She would never hang back from a righteous vote for fear of what the electors might say. Whether that is what upset Miss Rankin or not, I don’t know; but I know that was the only way one could account for her erratic collapse, when the War vote and the Conscription thing came up.

I talked all this over with Mrs. McClung. She would not hear of goin^into the federal arena. Do you know why? Because she said her first duty was to her home and she could serve in Alberta and not leave her home, when she could not so serve in Ottawa. She did not want to leave home while her youngest boy still needed a mother’s constant care and love. He is now of an age, when old-type mothers often bundle their boys off to a boy’s school and see little of them till they are grown

But that is not the whole story of Mrs. McClung’s election.

Though independent, she ran as a quasi-supporter of the Stewart Government, which everybody knew had no chance of winning; not because of lack of faith in Stewart but because the farmer insisted on a farm party instead of an old party.

She did not ask one living soul for a vote.

She did not ask for the nomination.

She did not spend one dime in getting elected; and she ran on what she knew would be the losing side; and she had a huge majority. It is no secret, the women elected Mrs.


I can only infer that looks as if women would vote according to their own -onvictions, rather than according as they are told

Will the older nonmilitants come out and vote?

Facts again, this time from the American side of

the Line; for women are women independent of bound-

I was passing the polls last November, when a motor load came up to the booth. In the car was a dear old aunty aged nine-two, ultra-reactionary, ultra-non-militant, very Victorian in all her ideas, a descendant of the old county families who, in all lands, truly believe moderns are headed straight for destruction; her sister age seventy; her sister’s daughter age fifty; her sister’s daughter’s daughter, age twenty-one—three generations with the points of view of three generations—in the traces, half out of the traces, altogether out of the traces; early Victorian, when they put frills on piano legs and forbade a woman to cross her knees for fear of revealing the fact she had two limbs;

(and I say limbs advisedly -there were no legs in those days;) mid-Victorian, when you could cross your limbs but wore trains on the street to conceal them; and modern, when you don’t wear trains —no, you don’t. I’ll let it go at that.

First Aunty climbed out of the car and voted.

Then Grandmother climbed out and

Then Mother climbed out and voted.

Then Daughter climbed out and

Did they all vote the same? Only on one or two names. The rest they voted according to their individual conviction.

Why Miss Laut Didn’t Vote

AND I know that car load was typical of what happened in all similar communities in New England—which is ultra-conservative—in a community about evenly composed of old county families, of city summer commuters with country homes, and of factory operatives I know only one family that did not vote; and that family was my own because we had not taken out American papers.

Go back now and attempt an answer to the questions convulsing the politicians’ minds:—

Will the Canadian woman voter set herself to national problems, rather than sectional issues?

I should say the Canadian woman voter is thinking in terms of a nation, rather thanasection, with her eyes wide open to practical problems rather than blind with impracticable, unworkable theories.

Are Canadian women going to vote at all?

That question has been answered by a 95 per cent vote in many constituencies of Alberta and Manitoba and British Columbia.

Are they going to turn out at the polls?

They have done so.

Are they going to realize the responsibilities of citizenship as well as the


Mrs. Rogers’ election, Mrs. Parlby’s, Mrs. Smith’s, Mrs. McClung’s—answer that.

Are they going to act as the fifth wheel to a cart?

As I make out Mrs. McClung’s election, she was all four wheels of the cart, and her opponents were hardly fifth and sixth wheels.

Are they going to platform on moral reforms?

Only where moral reforms can be embodied in law as the expression of a majority vote. In other words, no fads, nor frills, but vital essentials. Please look at the women now elected. Each came in on a clear cut national issue. One on Labor, another on Farm, another Temperance and Labor and Farm, another on anti-Red.

Are they going to educate themselves for the new responsibility of citizenship?

Ask the Farm Worn-

en’s Institutes about their open forums:

Are they going to vote as husband votes?

The Welsh collier’s wife didn’t sound like it to me in Nanaimo.

Will they vote in terms of their heads, or their emotions?

Up to the present, they have voted in terms of their heads to a degree that has nonplused politicians; but behind their heads they have gently put the punch of emotions that put the saloon out of business.

Will they line up with the old parties?

Will They Line up With Old Parties?

SO FAR they haven’t but for that matter, are the men voters lining up behind old parties? Are not five provincial governments out of nine functioning as group governments? And hasn’t every woman elected so far come in as representative of a group?

Will the silk-stockings and the kid-gloves vote?

They have done so. Will the foreign-born women turn out?

You have the record of what they did in Manitoba and Alberta.

Will the old guard of anti-militants turn out?

They did in the United States, from aunty, grandmother and mother to daughter. Will personalities count more with women than men? I can only answer that the personal attacks on Mrs. McClung added to her majority.

In the present mayoralty contest in New York, women are registering proportionately to men.

Granted from one million to one million five hundred thousand Canadian women go to the polls in December. not with which party will they stand but for what nationality will they stand.

It has always seemed to me a heresy that a good mother cares more for her children than a good father. Emphasize the word ‘good’ please! But there is one sense in which a mother’s love strikes deeper into the very vitals of life and love than a father’s. It is the mother, who has given of her very life physically to the child. It is the mother, who watches for and sees the first blind motions of the tiny hands attain sensible conscious direct actions, the first smile of conscious recognition come to the eyes. It is the mother, who remembers the touch of hands and lips from the child in caresses and kisses no matter how big a man the child may grow, how far away the daughter may drift. It is the mother, who notices the first blind physical processes merge to thought and conscious mental direction; and to the day she, herself, passes into a future life, it is the mother heart treasures the memory of these things and feels the pressure of those little hands; and with the most of grown people, it is ¿he mother’s presence that abides a living memory and guide forever, whether absent, or present, separated by distances, or by death. I don’t think the most of people will gainsay these facts.

Our Canadian Mothers!

NOW while Canadian soldiers fought the war to victory on the firing line, Canadian mothers fought the War to victory in their souls with these memories tearing at their souls day and night for four years. You know, and so do I, mothers, whose hair turned snow white in those four years and who never uttered one whimper of loss or fear in those years.

The price paid was too great for that sense of national consciousness and national unity to be lost after the war; so I am constrained bo believe the new electorate of womanhood will not vote in terms of race, class; party, province, sex. They will vole for the first lime in Canada's history nationally. It won’t be personality; and it won’t be party.

If it be in groups, it will be on the pledge that the groups merge in a national unity of aim, action and destiny to carry forward as a nation in the victory of peace the victories won in war; and considering Canada's problems, there will have to be a lot of give and take, East for West and West for East, capital for labor and labor for capital manufacturer for farmer and farmer for manufacturer, to carry forward that unity conceived and born in the war. Far as I can judge, party and personality are going down before that aim ; and more than that I do not think facts justify any prophecy.