Women's Duty at the Polls
Now that women in Missouri have been given the right to vote for President of the United States and the prospect is good that they will be granted full franchise in the state, it will be interesting to observe how they will respond to the new duty laid upon them. That it is a duty for every self-respecting woman to discharge faithfully there can be no question; and as these women are not in the habit of failing in their duties, there is no danger that they will do so now if they understand the situation. We must get rid of the habit of classing all women together politically and thinking of the “woman’s vote” as one and indivisible. When the question of woman suffrage was last before the voters of the state, one ardent advocate of the measure who was also a strong prohibitionist made the remark, “When women have the ballot we’ll do away with this whisky business.” But when women secured the ballot in California, the state rejected the prohibition amendment and just lately, with women voting, Chicago went wet, “wringing wet” as one editor says. This simply shows what we have all really known, that there are all kinds of women as well as of men and that woman’s vote will no more bring purity into politics and can no more be counted on as a unit than can man’s vote. It is easy to forecast the effect of woman’s suffrage on politics if the home-loving home-keeping women should refuse to use their voting privilege, for the rougher class of women will have no hesitancy in going to the polling places and casting their ballots. There must be votes enough from other woman to offset these in order to keep the balance as it has been. Then too, there is legislation which is needed to protect farming interest. Shall farm women fail to use the power given them by the ballot, to help secure this legislation? And so, as I said before, instead of being a privilege to be taken advantage of or neglected according to individual fancy, voting has now become for the better class of women, a duty to be bravely and conscientiously done, even tho it may be rather distasteful. It is “up to them” to see to it that their power of their ballot is behind their influence for good clean government; for an honest administration of public affairs; for justice for all and special privileges for none. In short, as they have stood behind their soldiers, at home and abroad who were fighting for freedom and democracy, now to stand shoulder to shoulder with them and keep up the fight. I fear that we are not quite ready to use the ballot intelligently. Tho there has been warning enough that the responsibility was coming to rest upon us, we have been careless about informing ourselves of the conditions which the people of the United State must handle and the questions they must answer. In this reconstruction period, the most serious time which our nation and the world has ever been called upon to face, we come into the responsibility of helping to decide the fate of the world for perhaps hundreds of years, without being prepared. Women can no longer hide behind their husbands and fathers and brothers by saying, “I don’t pay any attention to politics. That is the men’s business,” nor can they safely vote as their men folks do without any other reason for so doing. We women know in our hearts, tho we would not admit it, that our men are not infallible. They do sometimes make mistakes and have the wrong ideas. Frankly now, is it not true? This being the case, now that the responsibility is ours, we shall be obliged to think things out for ourselves if we are honest and fair to them and ourselves. If we expect to be fit companions of the men who did their duty so bravely, fighting and working to save our country, we must do our part in upholding our ideals in time of peace. In plain words, as the other women will vote, we must do so in order to keep things properly balanced and tho we may be unprepared at present, there is no reason why we should not be able to vote intelligently by the time we are called upon to exercise the privilege. ~Mrs. A.J. Wilder in her column, "The Farm Home." Missouri Ruralist, April 20, 1919.
Posted in Quotations from Laura