PALLIATIVES OR CORRECTIVES FOR THE DISCONTENTS OF WOMAN
What are the Suffragist’s Grievances?—Economic and Physiological Difficulties of Woman—Intellectual Grievances of Suffragist and Corrective.
Is there then, let us ask ourselves, if the suffrage with its programme of feminism is barred as leading to social disaster, any palliative or corrective that can be applied to the present discontents of woman?
If such is to be found, it is to be found only by placing clearly before us the suffragist’s grievances.
These grievances are, first, the economic difficulties of the woman who seeks to earn her living by work other than unskilled manual labour; secondly, the difficult physiological conditions in which woman is placed by the excess of the female over the male population and by her diminished chances of marriage ; and thirdly, the tedium which obsesses the life of the woman who is not forced, and cannot force herself, to work. On the top of these grievances comes the fact that the suffragist conceives herself to be harshly and unfairly treated by man. This last is the fire which sets a light to all the inflammable material.
 Vide footnote, p. 138.
It would be quite out of question to discuss here the economic and physiological difficulties of woman. Only this may be said: it is impossible, in view of the procession of starved and frustrated lives which is continuously filing past, to close one’s eyes to the urgency of this woman’s problem.
After all, the primary object of all civilisation is to provide for every member of the community food and shelter and fulfilment of natural cravings. And when, in what passes as a civilised community, a whole class is called upon to go without any one of these our human requirements, it is little wonder that it should break out.
But when a way of escape stands open revolt is not morally justified.
Thus, for example, a man who is born into, but cannot support himself in, a superior class of society is not, as long as he can find a livelihood abroad in a humbler walk in life, entitled to revolt.
No more is the woman who is in economic or physiological difficulties. For, if only she has the pluck to take it, a way of escape stands open to her.
She can emigrate; she can go out from the social class in which she is not self-supporting into a humbler social class in which she could earn a living; and she can forsake conditions in which she must remain a spinster for conditions in which she may perhaps become a mother. Only in this way can the problem of finding work, and relief of tedium, for the woman who now goes idle be resolved.
If women were to avail themselves of these ways of escape out of unphysiological conditions, the woman agitator would probably find it as difficult to keep alive a passionate agitation for woman suffrage as the Irish Nationalist agitator to keep alive, after the settlement of the land question and the grant of old age pensions, a passionate agitation for a separate Parliament for Ireland.