Document 17: "Woman's Day Honored As Thousands Acclaim Causes of Socialism, Suffrage and Justice," New York Call, 1 March 1915, p. 1.
Reporting on Woman's Day in New York City in 1915, the New York Call described the meeting as one where "the doctrines of equal rights, Socialism, suffrage, feminism, etc. [were] expounded by able leaders in modern thought." A nationalist note was struck by Fannie Witherspoon in response to "Europe's holocaust" of World War I. She predicted that after the war European women "must inevitably turn to America's women for leadership in the struggles against tyranny." Support for the war by German socialists and socialists in other of the warring nations brought the Second International to a tragic conclusion, and ended whatever superiority American socialist women might have granted to the European socialist movement.
WOMAN'S DAY HONORED AS THOUSANDS ACCLAIM CAUSES OF SOCIALISM, SUFFRAGE AND JUSTICE
Sorrows of Society Can Be Eliminated When Feminists Realize Their Power to Act -- Big Meetings Held Throughout Nation -- Prominent Socialists Tell of Knowledge of Power.
In those two words are embodied the grandest conceptions of the human race. In them the most modern conceptions of the rights of womankind to a full and equal share in the duties and responsibilities of twentieth century life are expressed.
So it was no wonder that yesterday -- Woman's Day -- saw the Socialist woman in full glory. Big meetings, among them the most successful ever attempted by Socialists here, were held in every part of the country. Particularly successful from the point of view of the attendance and interest manifested at the gatherings, were those held in the metropolis. Almost a dozen such meetings were staged in various points throughout the Greater City, where hordes of unconverted men and women alike heard many of them for the first time, the doctrines of equal rights, Socialism, suffrage, feminism, etc., expounded by able leaders in modern thought.
And if success in propaganda can be measured in crowded meeting halls, in tumultuous applause, in gladly-given collections and in large sales of books and newspapers, then the efforts expended by Socialists yesterday must bring fruit in new converts and propagandists.
Womankind, her hopes, aspirations, rights, duties and privileges, were put under the microscope yesterday afternoon in Pabst's Coliseum, in Harlem. The men and women who did it are classed among the top-notch thinkers, teachers and lecturers on the Socialist stage of the city. And they did it before an audience that thrilled them. Crowded as no house in recent years has been, the audience that filled the Coliseum auditorium during the bright, sunny afternoon house could warm the heart of the most erratic pedagogue. Attentive almost to a fault, it followed closely the eleven different speeches, expressing its hearty approval of them in continued applause that punctuated the entire meeting.
Such an interesting symposium on this live topic has never been attempted here before. The question of the day of course, was "Woman." And it was handled in able manner from eleven different viewpoints by as many able Socialists.
The Topics and Speakers
Here is the array of topics and the men and women who look them up: The working woman, Theresa S. Malkiel; the mother, Meta L. Stern; the voter, Meyer London, Congressman-elect; the trade unionist, Pauline M. Newman; the physician, Dr. Anna Ingerman; the educator, Bertha H. Mailly; the journalist, Anita C. Block; the housewife, Esther Friedman; the teacher, Henrietta Rodman; the father, Leon A. Malkiel; the feminist, Juliet Stuart Poyntz.
Morris Hillquit, who was to have approached the subject as a Socialist, sent his regrets from Chicago, where he was detained on business. Neither did Inez Milholland Boissevain, scheduled to represent the lawyer's point of view, appear.
"Greeting and cheer in the Comrades assembled at the mass meeting," wired Hillquit. "I favor woman suffrage, because I am a Socialist. The standpat Republican, as a rule, opposes woman suffrage, the reform Democrat may favor it, the Progressives should favor it. The consistent Socialists must favor it. For Socialism stands for democracy. Democracy means the rule of the people, and the rule of the people means all people, men and women alike."
Autocratic Bell Used
Fannie Witherspoon, representing the Socialist-Suffrage Campaign Committee of Greater New York, presided over the meeting. She wielded an autocratic bell that cut speakers short after the ten minutes allotted to each had been spent -- another innovation at local Socialist meetings. It's a little device that will evidently find added favor at future meetings, judging by the enthusiastic reception which the audience accorded to it.
Miss Witherspoon outlined the ground which the speakers must cover. "The existence of a Woman's Day," she stated, "is proof positive that the Socialist party needs the women in its ranks." She spoke glowingly of the future for womankind, as evidenced by the spreading revolt against man-made laws, customs, religions, etc. And, speaking on the war, she felt that, after Europe's holocaust had spent itself, its women must inevitably turn to America's women for leadership in the struggles against tyranny, even though they today vied with one another in pledging aid and allegiance to capitalistic governments and, misleading "patriotisms."
A large delegation from the Socialist Woman's Committee of Bronx County, socialist party, as well as from the Woman's Political Union, were present with banners prominently displayed.
"How the Workingwoman Views the Woman Question" occupied the attention of Theresa S. Malkiel, prominent in Socialist and labor circles. "The workingwoman," she said, "smoothed the thorny path of man at the cost of her own self-absegation. Stifling the longing in her heart, she bowed to the prevailing belief that ceaseless labor must be her lot."
When man was torn from the home by the industrial revolution a century ago, she showed, the woman question appeared. As most men refused to acknowledge the industrial changes, so they refused to recognize any changing status of woman. She, however, entered the arena of human activity as a mere appendage to man, without civil, legal or political rights. Her ceaseless activities, however, have opened to her 392 occupations, whereas but six had formerly been hers.
Mrs. Malkiel, tracing the status of man and woman over the industrial and political situation, showed conclusively why women must get the same rights and privileges as man. She cited from examples of recent civil service occurrences to show that women are discriminated against, even though they rank as high as men in mental equipment.
"Woman should get the vote," contended Mrs. Malkiel, "because:
"She will be able to express her wish in the manner of distribution and administration of wealth she helps create.
"It will lift her legal status from the level of criminals, lunatics and savages.
"She can help influence sanitary, wage, and other reforms.
"She will be able, as an integral part of the intelligent working class, to help cope with an encroaching capitalist and master class.
"In other words, Mrs. Malkiel pointed out, "the working woman looks upon the ballot as the next step in the solution of the woman question. Mankind must grant woman suffrage; for the working woman's share in political life is only a natural sequence to her wonderful advance in every phase of human activity.