“Why not?” said Uncle Ike. “In the old days when they didn’t work, for they didn’t know how and didn’t want to, because they thought it was beneath them, if a man died, his wife and children became dependent upon some brother or sister or uncle or aunt, and they were obliged to provide for them out of their own small income or savings. In those days it was respectable to be genteelly poor, and starve rather than work and live on the fat of the land. Nothing has ever done so much to increase the self-respect of woman, and add to her feeling of independence, as the knowledge of the fact that she can support herself.” Alice bowed her head and covered her eyes with her hand. “There’s nothing personal in what I say,” said Uncle Ike. “I am only talking on general principles.”
Quincy yearned to say something against Uncle Ike’s argument, but how could he advance anything against woman’s work when the one who sat before him was a workingwoman and was weeping because she could not work? There was one thing he could do, he could change the subject to one where there was an opportunity for debate. So he said, “Well, Mr. Pettengill, I presume if you are such an ardent advocate of woman’s right or even duty to work, that you are also a supporter of her right to vote.”
“That does not follow,” replied Uncle Ike. “To be self-reliant, independent, and self-supporting is a pleasure and a duty, and adds to one’s self-respect. As voting is done at the present day, I do not see how woman can take part in it and maintain her self-respect. Improvements no doubt will be made in the manner of voting. The ballot will become secret, and the count will not be disclosed until after the voting is finished. The rum stores will be closed on voting day and an air of respectability will be given to it that it does not now possess. It ought to be made a legal holiday.”
“Granted,” said Quincy, “but what has that to do with the question of woman’s right to vote?”
“Woman has no inherent right to vote,” said Uncle Ike. “The ballot is a privilege, not a right. Why, I remember reading during the war that young soldiers, between eighteen and twenty-one years of age, claimed the ballot as a right, because they were fighting for their country. If voting is a right, what argument could be used against their claim?”
“I remember,” added Quincy, “that they argued that ’bullets should win ballots.’ Do you think any one should vote who cannot fight?” asked Quincy.
“If he does not shirk his duty between eighteen and forty-five,” said Uncle Ike, “he should not be deprived of his ballot when he is older; but the question of woman’s voting does not depend upon her ability to fight. The mother at home thinking of her son, the sister thinking of her brother, the wife thinking of her husband, are as loyally fighting for their native land as the soldiers in the field, and no soldier is braver than the hospital nurse, who, day after day and night after night, watches by the bedsides of the wounded, the sick, and the dying. No, Mr. Sawyer, it is not a question of fighting or bravery.”