The Confessions of a She-Politician
A STARTLING ADMISSION from the pen of a successful feminine politician, known in several Canadian provinces, who asserts: “It is a grave mistake for women to rush into political life,” and adds: “The more that I know of women, the more I think of men.”
THESE Women know not the Way of the World”—such was the caption on a recent newspaper item referring to-the fact that the sisters of a certain Catholic Order would not take advantage of their right to vote as they “knew not the ways of the World.” Lucky women! Thrice blessed are they for not only are they riot “worldly wise”'but they do not covet that wisdom, and, unlike another Sisterhood (which some bold, bad man has unkindly called “The Shrieking Sisterhood of Suffragettes”) they are not disturbed over their “rights.”
I, myself, am a victim of the Vote for Women. I have been duly “elected” and have held public office so I know whereof I speak. For fear of lynching, or social ostracism (and which is to be more dreaded?) I cannot give the exact details but I can say most emphatically that both experience and observation have led me to the conclusion that it is a grave mistake for women to rush into political life.
I quite appreciate what a dire and dreadful statement that is to make and I know what the chorus will immediately be: “She must have been a failure herself so she thinks we all would be.”
No, my dear sisters, I was not considered to be a failure but I can tell you right here that I had to “sweat blood” not to fall behind the men who were elected in a similar capacity. And in the detail work I believe I made good, but my great stumbling block was—can you guess?— the very thing which elected me to office, the fact that I was not a man.
This I will explain later. I want first to give you my experience from the beginning. I am a woman who has always been in favor of our sex having the vote, but I have never been a suffragette of the agitating variety, that is, always having had a fairly decent set of men folk around me I never personally chafed under conditions as they were. Rather, appreciating the tremendous responsibilities which our men have to shoulder, I felt that we might give them more of a helping hand if we had the franchise and could take a share of work to which we were particularly adapted. After all, it was the men themselves who gave us the vote so I felt they must deem it a wise thing. I do hope that when some more of the “women politicians” are busy muddling things up for the men, these men will remember the words of the title of Princess Bibesco’s book: “I have Only Myself to Blame.”
Personally I think I gave fair service during my term of office, just as intelligent service anyway as a “mere man” would give if he were suddenly transplanted intoa “Mothers, meeting” and asked which he really thought a baby thrived on better, barley water or mother’s milk; or if he aspired to be the convenor of a nominating committee for a new dub, and had to learn all the tricks of juggling Mrs. A. into the presidency and Mrs. B. out of it etc.; or if he arrived in the preserving season at the critical moment when the blamed jelly wouldn’t “jell.” I repeat, I believe I put up as good a bluff as any man could have[done of knowing something of an entirely unfamiliar subject, and in appearing deeply interested when in fact my feminine mind would awandering go. Sometimes I could not help wondering how that nice, nice man ever married that little cat of a woman, or how sweet little Mrs. X. could ever live with a “perfect brute”like that, when my straying thoughts would be gathered back with an inquiry as to my opinion on the present system of taxation.
“The More I Think of Men”
I BELIEVE it is not only the women themselves who accept public office who fail but it is the women who elected them who are failing also. Sometimes during my term in office I was regretfully confirmed in the opinion that “the more I know of women the more I think of men.” Pioneering in any line is difficult, pioneering in politics is no exception. First, when a woman is elected she realizes that she has taken a man’s place, that is, kept a man out of a place which he thinks rightfully belongs to him, and so do his friends, and it will not be long before she is aware of the antagonism in that quarter. Watch your step there, Madam! Then allow me to say that I have yet to find the Parliament, the Council, Board of Education, or any body of men who will receive you into their charmed circle with unbounded enthusiasm. On the contrary, while punctiliously courteous a lady member is oft-times constrained to “scream” at the repetition of the silent rendition of “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains.”
We start, therefore, with the simple task of taking a man’s place and of overcoming prejudice inside the camp and out of it. The man I defeated was a professional man of much ability and experience, a man familiar with affairs, whose business kept him in almost daily contact with the other men in office. As stated before, my greatest drawback in properly filling the office was one which could not be overcome by experience or knowledge gained, for it was the fact that I was not a man. No doubt someone will ask: “Are you not as intelligent as a man?” Yes, I believe that I had as much intelligence as any of the men, our education was about equal and I am what I suppose is known as a “Club woman” and am, therefore, familiar with procedure, etc.
But the point is this, I was never present at the informal discussions of the business with which we had to deal, and I think any man will tell you that the informal discussions (lunch together at the club, meeting in the bank, or any of the dozen ways men are in contact “downtown”) sometimes mean far more than regular meetings of a formal nature. I had'the uncomfortable feeling most of the time that I was not “on the inside”; we are all supposed to be tenants of the same house but the men occupied
the living room and I the verandah. If an emergency arose and some matter had to be disposed of in a hurry, didn’t Brown just telephone to Black to bring Green along to the Rotary for lunch and they’d have a chance to “fix that thing up?”
Where was Mrs. 0. then, the lady member? Why, she was miles away in her home, perhaps making one of those ducky little candy jars: have you seen them, they’re so
cute and they take only half a yard of......, but I forgot,
I must away with such frivolities. Or else, perchance the lady member was making a speech on, “The Purifying Effect of Women in Politics,” while Brown, Black and Green were puzzling their heads over meeting debentures and floating overdrafts. (There I’ve got it right this time; I never could remember which had to be met and which had to be floated1.
Then, as well as trying to take the place of a perfectly good man, a woman elected to such a position has also to take the place of a woman. You see the women who voted for her demand more than that she should give all her energies to the work for which she was elected. Oh, my, yes, that’s quite a side issue. A lady member, quite a novelty you know, therefore-the best of her strength and the most of her time is taken up addressing WTomen’s Clubs and patting them on the back so that they can feel that they have indeed accomplished something. And though a smug “we put you there” air may be slightly irritating, yet the length of the vote of thanks and the applause is a soothing balm, and at such a moment we almost feel that women are “just born politicians.”
Have Women Business Sense?
THEN hundreds of the women who vote have no conception of business or of keeping business appointments. It was my experience while in office three times to see an announcement in the newspaper of an address to be given by myself at a certain place on a certain date when I had had no previous notice of the engagement. Twice I had two important committee meetings and could not attend, and although this was explained I know I was never forgiven and would not have received the votes of the women of the clubs concerned had I ever run for public office.
On another occasion I was asked by the president of one of our largest women’s organizations to meet on arrival a speaker from another city who had been announced to address a large public gathering. I met three trains but the lady failed to appear and so I communicated this fact to the president. I could see that the worthy lady seemed to doubt my conclusion that the expected speaker had not arrived and inferred that I might have “missed” her.
I am not in the habit of missing people, but hesitatingly suggested that the meeting should be cancelled at once. This was not done so at the hour announced I arrived at the lecture hall as I was rather curious to find out if my elusive lady had really arrived. I found the hall full of women and juut as I arrived my friend, the president., announced that she regretted that the speaker advertised had not come hut she was sure that Mrs. 0.
“the lady member" would lie quite willing to take her place. My first impulse was to decline the honor thrust upon me in such an off-hand manner but then I remembered that these were the women who had voted for me they had elected me, could I rcfu:« ^
Who says that women do not pay for their vote.' .
We pay with something more precious than money, personality, independence, and mental and physieal strength.
By the way, it transpired some time after that M" «¡»eaker didn't arrive for the sim pie reason that she didn’t know that she was expected, never having been invited. You see the president wrote a letter asking Iter to come hut the poor dear put the letter in hot knitting hag and there it calmly reposed until she went to her next Thimble Tea.
Another incident which illustrates the general lack in women of business methods, their inattention to detail and desire for public applause before real accomplishment occurred at a banquet given by a womens organization. A résumé of some of the “reforms in which they had interested themselves during the past year was given by one of the speakers who was accorded a truly thrilling ovation when she announced the success of a certain much desired reform. As the writer had been particularly interested in this, it came as a surprise to her that actual accomplishment had taken place but the lady made her announcement with such convincing assurance and the audience appeared so readily triumphant over the victory that doubt vanished from her mind.
A few days later another Women’s Club requested the “lady member” to address them on this reform, so I at once communicated with the lady who had been the recipient of all the congratulations at the banquet, to obtain particulars. After much questioning, I found that the only basis the good lady had for making her wonderful announcement was that while visiting previously in a neighboring city, a woman there told her that she “had heard” that the government had received a delegation of ladies in regard to this ánd had been “so nice” to them that they were sure the reform was going through. As a matter of fact, I had been aware of this delegation and also that it had approached the local government, but fruitlessly, since the matter was not under its jurisdiction. The fact that the good gentlemen were on this occasion able to “pass the buck” was no doubt the cause of the “niceness” already referred to.
This was actually the only foundation for the lady’s speech of triumph and matters are just where they were in regard to that particular reform. But think of the applause my dear friend the president would have missed!
Women also “just naturally” cannot help introducing the personal element into everything. While a delegate at a large convention I was invited by another woman delegate to dine with her at the hotel where she was a guest to meet two of the other women delegates. When I met my hostess at the appointed time she expressed regret that only one of the women would join us at dinner as at the election of officers for the ensuing year, which had taken place that afternoon, her two invited guests had both stood for election to the same office, and the lady who was defeated was feeling so “hurt” that she could not bring herself to eat her dinner with her victorious rival. Are we fitted for public . life?
Are Women Loyal?
V/f Y EXPERIENCE has led me to question the loyalty of our sex to one another. I frankly believe that the majority of women will be more loyal to a man in public office than they will to a woman in a similar position.
It may be that, being familiar with their own personal feminine failings, they are quicker to detect the weaknesses in their sisters who are in the pitiless spotlight of publicity.
I was once at a gathering of men after the first appearance of one of our women office-holders and the comment was all on the speech she had made, favorable mention being made of the same. Immediately after I was at a tea where the conversation was on the same subject (poor lady) and the general verdict was a smashing criticism, not of her speech, but of her wearing apparel: “French heels and silk stockings! How out of place when making a public speech,” and: “Well, if we women are going in for things like that, we’ll have to learn to dress in a suitable, sensible style,” etc. etc. “What would the men think?”
Ah, yes, what would the men think, that was the point. Surely any woman who can make a clever speech has no right to adorn her person in an attractive manner; that would be too keen a competition for the poor dears whose only lure is a dainty ankle and a daring heel. They must not be deprived of the consolation of being able to say, when their particular male remarks on the ableness of Mrs. Politician’s speech:
“Oh yes, it was rather clever but what a frump she is. I just couldn’t see anything but those ‘sensible’ heels of hers; her speech may not have been flat but her heels certainly were, and her arches, I’m sure they’ve fallen— just you notice them the next time you hear her.”
And as Mr. Male glances fondly at the slim, delicatelyarched “three” which is not exactly hiding its light under a bushel, any woman knows that his undivided attention will never again be given to a female politician’s speech.
Women electors are also apt to think that the moment a woman is elected to public office she automatically becomes a sort of “professional reformer” and she must be ready at any time to do the flag waving and emit the battle cry for any weird “reform” which may be taken up by any group of her loyal supporters. Personally, my election to office seemed to he a kind of declaration that I was one of those women who believe that the world is going to the “demnition bow-wows, ”a combination Ma Pankhurst (in her earlier career), Sylvia Pankhurst, Chrystabel Pankhurst, Carrie Nation, etc. etc. etc. While no doubt I was supposed to be the type of woman who would have “pronounced convictions,” these did not get much exercise for my obliging sisters preferred that I should adopt theirs.
For instance, I might be asked to address a meeting of a certain Mother’s Club and when I consented, I would perhaps be told that they desired me to speak on “The Evil Effects of Drinking Hula-Hula.” Never having indulged in this particular beverage, I was not aware of
there being an “evil effect,” so I felt that in order to deal truthfully and feelingly with my subject I must “taste and try” before I publicly condemned the small boy’s friend. After experimenting with a small quantity and failing to experience any of the predicted “evil effects,” I was about to follow the advice of a member of my household and order a case of it when I could give it a real test, when I received a communication from the president of the aforesaid Mother’s Club cancelling the engagement.
On discreet private inquiries being made afterwards, I found out that the reason was that it had been discovered in time that their worthy vice-president, an influential member of their association, happened to be the wife of the distributor in thát district.
As I have said before, I believe the average woman will find it quite a difficult task to fill a man’s place, politically, and as I have also intimated there will be ceaseless demands on her time, just because she is a woman. The wife of any politician knows the social duties which are required of her. Well, these social duties, of which the man in politics is relieved by his women folk, will have to be undertaken by the women politicians themselves. The invitations to “receive,” to “pour,” etc., etc., present quite a problem, let me assure you; a pleasant problem you may say but one which sometimes develops into a strain—a strain on one’s health, one’s time, and also on one’s pocketboek. The difficulty lies in the fact that either practically every invitation has to be accepted or else all refused, or we are charged with discriminating among the various elements of which the women voters are composed.
I have sometimes been so “fagged out” after the strain of some of these social obligations that my brain simply would not function at a meeting later, when dealing with some of the real problems for which I was elected. And while perhaps the women I had just left were still gushing: “Isn’t she just lovely,” etc; I myself knew that I would really have been much “lovelier” if I had spent my afternoon in rest and study of some of the questions to be under discussion at my meeting. Of course, all these “social stunts” are great vote-getters, and in this line of “campaigning” no mere man can ever hope to compete with a feminine candidate.
Do Women Purify?
ONE of the overworked arguments for the extending of the franchise to women was the “purifying effect” of their entry into politics. Formerly, I subscribed to this idea myself, especially when I heard of the “dreadful” men accepting money for theirvotes, but believe me there are other political bribes besides cash, and these feminine favors are more dangerous because more subtle. What of social preferment? A little boost up the social ladder to a lady of the climbing variety is worth at least one vote. And to such a lady who may be able to influence a number of votes, it may be worth even a dinner invitation from the wife of a Cabinet Minister. Indeed, I think a fair schedule would bé the following:—
One vote......Invitation to a “crush ” tea.
Family vote......Invitation to a Luncheon.
Officers Women’s Clubs (influence)......Invitar
tion to a formal dinner.
Now-, ladies and gentlemen, if bribery and conniption is charged, can it be proven under the Elections Act that had the lady not actually attained such a height on the social ladder that the invitation would have been accorded her irrespective of her politics pr influence? A ticklish question indeed; I would suggest that some of the Men’s Clubs interest themselves on behalf of defeated masculine candidates who have been victims of the results of this social boosting. Our fair Portias might at last find a field for their endeavors.
It would not surprise me to hear some of our men folk exclaim: “Well, the nerve of them,” when they read in almost every daily paper of some other woman being in the running, it may be for a County Council in England, a House of Commons in Canada, or some such little affair as Governor of a State. That’s a mere detail, as is also the fact as to whether we have the slightest qualification or preparation for such an office; we. don’t bother about such trifles as that, the main question is, can we “beat ’em” at the polls. Women seem to be plunging headlong, and without one thought of their incompetency * into the affairs of the state where great men have trembled and the wisest erred. A popular occupation for our female political aspirants, both in England and the United States, at the present time seems to be that of salesgirl. I just cannot recall any young salesman aspiring, by a sudden leap from behind a counter, to the governor’s chair but then men are so slow—it will take the women to show them what can be “did!”
The doubt has also arisen in my mind as to whether women are really sincere in their desire to revolutionize the world by their entry into politics. I had occasion to doubt their sincerity when I learned of the difficulty expeileneed in organizing Women’s Political Associations. There seemed to be two main reasons for this difficulty: first, some women were not sure whether it was just “the thing” to do; they wanted to know who would be on their committees, etc. and to be quite satisfied that their social standing would not be jeopardized; the second class of women consisted of those whose male relatives “put the brake” on their political activities. I have witnessed the spectacle of an influential club woman of whose political sympathies there was no doubt in times of peace, suddenly growing dumb when the battle was waged. You see, directors, shareholders, and the like, sometimes “pull the strings” and Friend Husband’s appointment must be protected.
NOW I have no sympathy for the woman whose sole aspiration in life is to be “in it” socially and whose small mind is satisfied with a petty round of gaieties. I heard someone remark not long ago that they had not seen a certain Mrs. Q. lately, and this was the reply:— “Oh. no, at this time of the year she is just a wreck, heart, you know—with ‘going’ so much.” This is the type of woman one hears most frequently criticising women who do try to take an interest in public affairs. “Think of the ghastly publicity: why, my dear, you’ll be talked about by every Tom, Dick and Harry in town,” was the comforting comment made to me when Í first stood for public office.
Personally, I prefer my speech to be “covered” by the public press rather than the details of my gown to be “covered” (or uncovered) in the so-called society column.
As to the other terrible warning: “You’ll get yourself talked about by every Tom, Dick and Harry,” I would much prefer the attention of the Toms, the Dicks and the Harrys of this world, to that of the Algernons or Clarences.
My own experience has given me a new appreciation of the burdens the men of this world have been carrying, and an increased respect for their ability in adminis-
tration, their capacity for hard work, their grasp of detail, their clear-headed thinking, and most of all the “stickatitiveness” which so many women lack. And as I came in contact with these men from a different angle and realized some of the problems they had to solve, and as I have seen them “all fagged out” after a heavy day, bent on “getting through to gethome,” I could not help wondering what kind of homes they were going to, and I had a new conception of what their homes might mean to them, truly “a rock in a weary land and a shelter in a time of storm.”
MEN must be rather amused at the critical attitude of our women reformers, and at the smug complacency with which they approach problems which have strained the intelligence, wit and tact of generations of law-makers. When we think of turning over a new leaf we always think of it as being a man’s reform. We have grown so accustomed to think of women as good and men as bad that there never seems any need for women to turn over a new leaf.
Everything generally in the world is in a topsy-turvy condition at the present time, and I fervently hope that in the adjustment which we hope eventually will come, women will again become possessed of the good old-fashioned common sense of their grandmothers, and will leave the political game to the men. A shrewd lawyer told me not long ago that he was not worrying at all over woman’s entry into politics because he thought they would soon sicken of it themselves. I believe this to be true, and I venture to say it will be with a sigh of relief that they will retire, and that they will be “mighty glad” the men are left to carry on. About that time if some enterprising woman feels the call “to organize a new Club” (which Heaven forbid), I would suggest a “Back to the Home” Club; the officers might be exwomen politicians, and I believe the men would be generous contributors to the funds. We have now a “Save the Children” movement, why not a “Save the Women” movement?