Document 12: "Reports from 'Women's Day,'" Progressive Woman, April 1910, p. 12.
The April 1910 issue of Progressive Woman described the celebration of Woman's Day in major cities across the United States. In New York City a triumphant meeting took place in Carnegie Hall. Later that year at the International Socialist Women's Meeting in Copenhagen, delegates suggested that an International Woman's Day be launched in 1911. In less than two years, National Woman's Day had spread from New York City to become an international celebration.
REPORTS FROM "WOMAN'S DAY."
San Francisco, Cal.
Woman's Day was celebrated in the Golden Gate Commandry hall, which has a seating capacity of 800, and which was crowded to the door even standing room being at a premium. About half the audience was men. One hundred and fifty copies of Charles Edward Russell's pamphlet, "Obstructions in the Way of Justice" (woman suffrage) were sold also one hundred copies the suffrage number The Progressive Woman, and subscriptions for the latter were taken. The collection more than paid the expenses, which were unusually high.
Mrs. Emma P. Gray, chairman, introduced William McDewitt, who was candidate for mayor on the Socialist ticket. He said the great emancipating force in the world was science and knowledge that liberty was knowledge, and the struggle of women for the right to vote was a fight for liberty, the breaking of an old bond of slavery. McDewitt insisted that women should be given a full and fair chance with men.
"It all depends," continued the speaker, "on an industrial base, an economic foundation. You must know social science to know the woman question. It is a struggle against industrial bondage. Socialism provided a field in which the suffragist could fight, because it furnished the knowledge. It provided the weapon to fight with and the organization to abolish class slavery."
Mrs. Dorothy Johns talked on "Woman and Economics." She declared that she was not on the firing line of the suffragists, and that in her opinion politics was a cesspool that could not be purified by adding women's votes. Her method of correcting the existing evils was a wider study and a deeper understanding of economic conditions that govern the world. Ballots for women, she declared, would be a waste of time and energy which could be used to better advantage in studying economic and social conditions for the purpose of their betterment. Economic independence, Mrs. Johns said, should be the keynote and motive power behind woman's activity.
The need of the ballot among working women was discussed by Miss Mand Younger, president of the waitresses' union. She insisted that many of the existing hardships imposed upon the working woman at the present day by the corporations could be regulated by the proper legislation if women had votes.
Mrs. Elizabeth Lowe Watson, state president of the California Equal Suffrage association, spoke on woman's day. She said in part:
"Woman's day! Has it really dawned? We are seeing this afternoon the first faint golden light which is being spread over the wide world. Successful reform must be along natural laws. So woman's emancipation is as sure as the law of gravity. Science and knowledge are to redeem humanity, and it is our awakening that has given impetus to the progress of the last century in the matter of woman's rights.
"It is said in the argument against giving the women the ballot that she has lowered the wage scale and is crowding men out of employment.
"You never hear that man has taken away much of woman's work. Are men weavers and spinners? They have taken these occupations and women have been left with but very little home work. Her needs, however, are the same as they were when she did this kind of work, and she has been compelled to follow the work out into the world. There is many a cry goes out today from women and girls whose hearts are being ground out for dollars for the capitalists.
"The remedy lies in human nature and in the world in which we live. Happiness will never come so long as part of humanity is trodden down by the swine feet of lust.
"By wanting to vote woman has in mind the little children and women of the north and south whose lives are being crushed out by man's greed. We are trying to find a way out of this dilemma."
J. Stitt Wilson[A] was the last speaker. His remarks were short, reviewing socialistic work he had recently been doing in England.
New York City
When a score of women and girls with flushed faces and eyes that beamed satisfaction gathered in the committee room after the meeting, warmly pressing each others hands in mutual congratulation, one of the most memorable events in the history of Socialism in this city had just come to a close.
Our great Carnegie hall meeting was an unqualified success. Long before the doors were opened a crowd of people stood outside the hall in the warm and drizzling rain that altered with bursts of hopeful sunshine, and when the doors were swung open it took only a short while to fill the mighty hall from pit to gallery. Three thousand men and women were there to listen to the message of Socialism and woman's suffrage, and the audience was as earnest and enthusiastic as it was large. The boxes that were chiefly occupied by Socialists and other progressive organizations, were adorned with many banners and presented a festive appearance. There were the red banners of various assembly districts and of the woman's committee, there were the yellow "votes for women" banners of different suffrage societies, there was the many colored emblem of the Inter-High School Socialist League, and the green flag adorned with a shamrock of the Irish Socialist Federation. Many were the nationalities that were represented, but uniform was the progressive spirit that prevailed.
It was just three o'clock when Miss Marie Oberlander, secretary of our local woman's committee stepped forward to the speaker's table, adorned with the party banner and a large American flag, to open the meeting and introduce the chairman, Mrs. Meta L. Stern. In a brief, introductory speech, Mrs. Stern explained the meaning and purpose of Woman's Day, and pointed out that the disfranchised sex and the exploited class were natural allies. She dwelt upon the rapid growth of the Socialism woman's movement, and said that if there ever had been a time when Socialists were more or less indifferent to the woman question, that time had passed. Then she introduced as chief speaker of the day, Franklin H. Wentworth, "a man who is to the Socialists of the present time, what Wendell Phillips[B] was to the abolitionists of his day." The speaker paid a long and glowing tribute to the woman's portion in the history of civilization and bitterly denounced his own sex for the past and present enslavement of women, closing with Mrs. Gilman's elevating verses on the free woman of the future, "She Who is to Come."
The next speaker, Carrie W. Allen, introduced as the indefatigable campaign speaker of the Socialist party and special representative of the Socialist women of New York, dwelt less upon the ideal and more on the economic phase of the question. She depicted the trials of the woman wage slave in the factory and of the slave of a slave at her kitchen stove; she spoke of the industrial conditions that make "white slaves" of young and innocent girls, and she pointed out the great social duty of mothers toward the growing generation.
The crowning moment of the day was when Mrs. Caroline VanName, with a voice of rare power and sweetness, sang that song which has been the international hymn of freedom since the days of the French revolution, the "Marseilleise," and the entire audience, rising to their feet, joined in the chorus.
Miss Rose Schneiderman, vice-president of the Woman's Trade Union League and its organizer for the east side districts spoke from the working woman's point of view, and based her arguments for suffrage on many personal experiences during the recent strike of the shirt-waist makers. Miss Schneiderman said that a general strike of all women workers would speedily lead to the granting of the ballot to women.
The last speaker, Mrs. Charlotte Perkins Gilman[C], introduced by the chairman as one of the finest women in America, made a speech that had but one fault; it was too short. The advanced hour -- it was nearly six o'clock - canned Mrs. Gilman to make a virtue of brevity. But what she gave us was indeed "multum in parvo." It was a little auto-opology, a little sociology, and a little philosophy combined, and presented in such a simple and incid manner that no one could help but understand.
The committee on arrangements presented resolutions that were framed and read by Mrs. Anita G. Block, associate editor of the New York Call, and were adopted by the meeting by a unanimous vote. The resolutions read as follows:
"WHEREAS, A consistent attempt has been manifest of late on the part of those placed in positions of judicial authority through the use of court injunctions and arbitrary convictions: First, To deny the right of free speech; Second, To prohibit a free press, and Third, To prevent peaceable assemblage, resulting in false imprisonment and the imposition of unjust fines: and,
"WHEREAS, The first amendment to the constitution of these United States distinctly provides that there shall be no abridgement of the freedom of speech or of the press or the right of the people peaceably to assemble; therefore be it
"Resolved That the women today here assembled being themselves denied the rights of citizenship, and therefore sympathizing especially with all to whom the rights of citizenship have been denied, protest against the violations of the constitution as above enumerated; and be it further
"Resolved, That copies of this protest be sent to all labor unions, trade organizations, suffrage societies and other progressive organizations for their public endorsement, as well as to the press of this city."
"Be it Resolved That we, citizens of the city of New York, in mass meeting assembled in Carnegie hall, extend our sympathy to the striking car-men of Philadelphia and express the earnest hope that they may be successful in their brave struggle, not only to improve their own economic condition, but also the economic conditions of the entire working class; and be it further
"Resolved That a portion of the proceeds of this meeting be contributed to the fund of the Philadelphia strikers."
Upon the following day the entire press of the city took notice of the meeting and -- a fact that is remarkable with the muzzled capitalistic press -- reported it fairly. The Socialist women of this city feel that their Woman's Day will go down as a red letter day in the history of Socialism and suffrage, and they feel that they owe special recognition to the men comrades for their gallant support. Upon this day the Socialist men of New York have shown that they stand for woman's suffrage, in fact, as well as in theory.
Woman's Day was celebrated in the Labor lyceum, with speeches and music. The Socialist Sunday school children sang the "Red Flag" and "The Marsellais." Comrade Wm. Schott gave some fine selections from Mendelssohn. Miss Gertrude Schmable recited "Ma Can't Vote." Mrs. Carrie Allen of New York, and Mrs. Idells N. Gardner of Connecticut were the principal speakers.
"When woman takes her place side by side with man in the affairs of the country," said Mrs. Allen, "A long step will be taken toward the redemption of humanity."
Mrs. Gardner's speech was short. She caused merriment by her witty comment.
Woman's Day was observed by members of the Socialist party throughout the United States, and a local celebration was held at Shoemakers' hall in Elm street. A literary and unusual program was given and there were addresses by Mrs. Mabel Kennon and John O'Rourke.
Mrs. Kennon's subject was "Woman Suffrage From the Socialist Standpoint." Among other things, Mrs. Kennon said: "I believe that political freedom must come before industrial freedom, that the question of woman suffrage will be settled before co-operative commonwealth is brought into existence. The Socialists do not know whether it would prove injurious to the cause if woman suffrage were to become an established fact or not, but they advocate it whatever the result, as they feel it is a just measure. I believe that women in the use of the ballot would be less conservative than men have been for they are bound by no political traditions.
"There is an unrest today among women workers and the only hope for them lies in industrial freedom. Help us to get the ballot, and we will promise to march side by side with men into the co-operative commonwealth."
Mr. O'Rourke spoke on "Socialism and Woman Suffrage," and said that the party he represented did not expect woman to come and beg for the right to vote. That the ballot was her right and that she was entitled to it.
"The interests of men and women are identical in the class struggle in which we are engaged," he said, "and it is necessary for them to work together."
Mrs. Frances Steiner presided at the meeting. Miss Frank and Mrs. Wollenhaupt sang, and Mrs. Bask read a paper. After the meeting a social hour was spent.
The Socialist women of Chicago celebrated Woman's Day in grand style in the Garrick theater. May Wood Simons[D] made an eloquent address, in which she showed the relation of the woman's movement to the industrial and economic movement of the working class. She appealed to the working woman especially to join the Socialist party, and thus help in the emancipation of the working class. Lida Parce read the "Statement of Principles," prepared by the Chicago women, with the view to having them presented for a place in the next party platform, through the woman's committee. Mrs. Parce made some telling remarks [illegible] the articles, and also spoke on the necessity of bringing women into our movement. There were other interesting speakers, the music was first-class and the collection good. Woman's day in Chicago, was an all-around success.
A. J. Stitt Wilson was the mayor of Berkeley.
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B. Wendell Phillips was an orator and journalist in the 1850's and 1860's.
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C. Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a leader in the Progressive feminist beliefs. She later became a sociologist and feminist theoretician.
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D. May Wood Simons was an original member of the Woman's National Committee of the Socialist Party of America.
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