Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Alice Stone Blackwell: Human nature is conservative

This is an excerpt from "Objections answered", a pamphlet written in 1915 by Alice Stone Blackwell, refuting the arguments against women's suffrage (source:

"Women Do Not Want It
Whenever the majority of women ask for suffrage, they will get it.

Every improvement in the condition of women thus far has been secured not by a general demand from the majority of women, but by the arguments, entreaties and "continual coming" of a persistent few. In each case the advocates of progress have had to contend not merely with the conservatism of men, but with the indifference of women, and often with active opposition from some of them.
When a man in Saco, Me., first employed a saleswoman, the men boycotted his store, and the women remonstrated with him on the sin of placing a young woman in a position of such "publicity." When Lucy. Stone began to try to secure for married women the right to their own property, women asked with scorn, "Do you think I would give myself where I would not give my property?" When Elizabeth Blackwell began to study medicine, women at her boarding house refused to speak to her, and women passing her on the street held their skirts aside. It is a matter of history with what ridicule and opposition Mary Lyon's first efforts for the higher education of women were received, not only by the mass of men, but by the mass of women as well.
In eastern countries, where women are shut up in zenanas and forbidden to walk the streets unveiled, the women themselves are often the strongest upholders of these traditional restrictions, which they have been taught to think add to their dignity. The Chinese lady is as proud of her small feet as any American anti-suffragist is of her political disabilities. Pundita Ramabai tells us that the idea of education for girls is so unpopular with the majority of Hindoo women that when a progressive Hindoo proposes to educate his little daughter, it is not uncommon for the women of his family to threaten to drown themselves.
All this merely shows that human nature is conservative, and that it is fully as conservative in women as in men. The persons who take a strong interest in any reform are generally few, whether among men or women, and they are habitually regarded with disfavor, even by those whom the proposed reform is to benefit.
Many changes for the better have been made during the last half century in the laws, written and unwritten, relating to women. Everybody approves of these changes now, because they have become accomplished facts. But not one of them would have been made to this day, if it had been necessary to wait till the majority of women asked for it. The change now under discussion is to be judged on its merits. In the light of history, the indifference of most women and the opposition of a few must be taken as a matter of course. It has no more rational significance now than it has had in regard to each previous step of women's progress." 

(Women's right to vote in the US was actualised in 1920 by the 19th amendment. 5 years later). 


This, in fact, also applies very well to some other matters such as democracy, pluralism, free elections, human rights, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, racial equality, etc.

1 comment:

  1. "Some people wanna abuse you, some wanna be abused by you..." :))