Talked Out

When that Bill was passing through the House, John Stuart Mill moved as an amendment almost the very measure that the House has considered to-day. That great apostle of our cause demanded that in the grant of Household Suffrage the occupier should have the vote regardless of sex. You can imagine the hullabaloo it evoked, what a Godsend it was to all the comic papers; you have only to read them to-day to see how well a joke wears! A woman who wanted a vote was supposed to be a sort of lower creature who chewed the quid and divided the skirt. But nevertheless there was a very grave and memorable debate, and with John Stuart Mill were found no less than 73 other righteous men who voted for this amendment. 196 voted against. Where were the other 400? As usual, neglecting their duty. This epoch-making debate took in 1867 - exactly forty years ago. Forty years of Wandering in the Wilderness; it is high time we entered the Promised Land.

Four years later - in 1871 - when the Ballot Act was passed, Mr Gladstone said in the House of Commons that there could be no harm now in woman's voting. Mr Gladstone meant that, now that the old rowdiness and publicity attaching to elections had been abolished, the last excuse for refusing to enfranchise woman had been equally swept away. Thirty-six years ago, then, there was not a vestige of a reason left for refusing woman the vote. Yet the logical animal, man, has gone on 36 years as a passive resister. Women unborn in 1871 have now got girls of their own, and if the women we see on this platform had not begun to wake things up, their granddaughters and great-granddaughters would probably be doomed to go on passing annual resolutions and awaiting the chivalry of their lords and masters. It is a strange thing that English ladies should have to go to prison to-day to bring home to Englishmen the words of the last four Prime Ministers in succession - Gladstone, Salisbury, Balfour, and Campbell-Bannerman.

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