LONDON LETTER

NEEDED: A WOMAN'S WORLD

Beverley Baxter January 1 1952
LONDON LETTER

NEEDED: A WOMAN'S WORLD

Beverley Baxter January 1 1952

NEEDED: A WOMAN'S WORLD

LONDON LETTER

Beverley Baxter

LET ME confess at once that I have never seen or met Senora Peron of the Argentine. About

three years ago she planned a visit to England hut, for reasons which must have seemed adequate to the powers that he, there was no invitation for her to stay at Buckingham Palace so the lady stayed away. From what I know of them Elizabeth and Margaret must have been disappointed, at any rate Margaret.

If Señora Perón in her younger days took a broad-minded view of life, that would seem a matter for her husband and the people of the Argentine. However, she did not come to England and we shall have to leave it at that.

But not very long ago this interesting woman said something which stirred my imagination and set my thoughts manoeuvring in all directions. I read her words on a foggy morning while going over the newspapers in bed. So bad was the news in general, so dark and foreboding was the future, that I almost felt like a friend of mine who, when asked on the phone to come to a luncheon said: “No, no. I have been reading the newspapers, so I’m just going to stay in bed and wait peacefully for the end.”

What were these words of Eva’s I hat were so pregnant with meaning? 1 iere they are:

There should be a woman's movement in every country. Everything in this contemporary world has been made according to man's measure. I do not despise man. nor his intelligence. In many parts of the world we have created happy homes together. Why cannot we make humanity happy together?

Anyone who has spent some years in political life must inevitably ponder this question from time to time.

Because of recurring wars there are more women than men in nearly every country. If they combined for political purposes they could dominate any election and even form an all-woman government. They could indeed go much farther than that. Since they are the creators of life they could bring the human race to an end if they refused to hear children. Theirs is the power, if not the glory.

It is indeed a strange commentary on the human race that women through the ages have preferred indirect to direct power. One can understand why that was so in the primitive era of civilization because the brute strength of a man is greater than that of a woman. A mere tap on the female skull by a cave dweller’s club and she stopped nagging. The cynic might wonder why they were called the dark ages, but we shall not enter into that.

Yet, as mankind advanced in learning, and with science developing means of mass slaughter which did away with hand - to - hand combat, women could really have become warriors if they chose. But, to use the jargon of Communism, women are not deviationists. They still believe their mission in life is to marry and perpetuate the human race and to leave the management or mismanagement of the world to men.

Their sex did not, however, suffer from lack of inspiration from women who would not accept the discrimination of the established order. Look at the great Elizabeth of England who declared in public: “I have the body of a woman hut the heart of a man.” When she ascended the throne England was weak, leaderless and discouraged. The only question was whether its throat would he cut

by France

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or Spain. But by the end of Elizabeth’s reign England bestrode the world like a colossus, not only in the realm of arms but in the arts. She had a great minister in Lord Burleigh, the first of the Heuse of Cecil, but then great monarchs often have great ministers. No wonder Shakespeare found that period in history a mighty and inspiring one for his vaulting genius.

We must not pretend Britain was the only nation to produce a mighty queen. In fact it would be against the popular trend of the moment to claim that Britain could produce anything these days but horizontal boxing champions and dollar gaps. Therefore let us glance for a moment at the Empress Maria Theresa who came to the throne of Austria in the middle of the eighteenth century and, by her indomitable spirit and her rare union of feminine tact and almost masculine energy, won the love of her people and raised Austria from the dregs to a position of assured power.

Joan of Arc has suffered from being mentioned too often by people who know nothing more about her than that she led the French Army against the English some time or other and was burned at the stake. Actually she was not a born leader of troops and had only the sketchiest idea of what war was like but she put spirit into the exhausted veins of the French and, as everyone knows, the spiritual is more important than the material in any struggle.

Just two more examples and we shall return to our argument, for in these days we do not want to offend even Señora Perón. But we cannot leave out Catherine the Great. Catherine really was not great (she might have been if she had not indulged in so many

promiscuous love affairs' but she encouraged literature and journalism, an encouragement that did so much to bring about the mighty gallery of Russian dramatists and novelists which enriched the whole world.

Finally there was Victoria of England. I can remember in Toronto when with my brother and sister I waited with eyes bulging in excitement for the arrival of father with the horse and buggy. For we were going for a picnic, and in style! And just then mother came down the steps crying as if her heart would break. Queen

Victoria was dead ! So we children cried very loud too—my brother afterwards claimed that he cried much louder than either of us—but our grief was partly for the canceled picnic.

What a reign Victoria had! If she herself was never glorified by the word no one can deny the greatness of her reign. Not since Elizabeth had England so dominated the destinies of mankind. Nor can the advances of that era be discounted by the undoubted social inequalities that existed. The age of the common man has yet to prove itself.

If we admit then that these women were great rulers why is it that their sex has not turned in larger numbers to political life? Mrs. Pankhurst tied herself to the railings of No. 10 Downing Street, and one of her supporters threw herself in front of the King’s horse in the Derby, to attain the vote for women. Once the battle was won it was inevitable that women would be allowed to run for parliament. But where are the female politicians in t he parliaments of today?

When the British Parliament met early in October this year to prorogue

for the election Lady Astor was in the Speaker’s gallery with Mrs. Churchill and Mrs. Attlee. Nancy Astor was the first woman to take her seat in parliament and that was a long time ago. What must have been her thoughts as she looked down at the crowded benches and saw a mere sprinkling of feminine coiffures among the vast acreage of masculine baldness? To change the metaphor, she had blazed the trail but so few had followed her.

What is the explanation? What is the missing equation? There is the elemental fact that a woman would have difficulty in running her own house and the House of Commons at the same time. That is true, but it is not the whole truth. Business and professional men also find difficulty in combining politics with their careers but there is never any lack of men willing to try. There are plenty of career women about, but why do so few of them choose the world of politics?

There is a partial explanation which is understandable even if deplorable. When you elect a man as MP you normally get a wife thrown in, for the bachelor is at a disadvantage in securing nomination. But if you elect a married woman you get a husband thrown in and somehow that does not seem right. We know that women boss their husbands at home but they are wise enough not to do it outside. The position of the male consort is always difficult. Let us agree that such a view is illogical, that it lacks gallantry, and that it merely perpetuates the philosophy of the stone age, but the passing of the centuries with their wars and mismanagement has not destroyed the legend of the superiority of the male.

The Small Hands of Women

Which brings me back to Eva Perón (and about time!). Perhaps you can recall that this letter started with her suggestion that there should be a woman’s movement in every country, a movement devoted to the cause of peace and amity.

We glibly use the phrase “the brotherhood of man” but is it not true that there is much more reality in the sisterhood of woman? The mother of a dead British pilot in 1940 must have felt an understanding pity for the mother of a dead German pilot. When men kill each other it is one life for another, but to the mother it is the destruction of what she created. It is not only the breaking of a heart, but the end of a dream. From her womb came a child and in the passing of time he would have begat a child and so on down the ages. War takes not only a woman’s son but her part in the future of the race.

Supposing the women of the world combined and said that nations must learn to live in peace with nations. Supposing the women of Russia could meet the women of the West. Supposing the small hands of women could succeed where men have failed and raise the iron curtain.

We are quite rightly arming against the threat of Russia, for history has taught us the bitter lesson that peace is not attained by weakness. But a policy of armaments is not enough. There should be an equally vigorous policy of peace. Somehow the human race must become the human family. Otherwise we may as well return the world to the monkeys.

Therefore 1 commend Eva Perón for her brave words. She has lit a candle and, in turn, it may light a torch. The world is sick. The world is sick to the point of death and it needs the healing touch of women’s hands. ★