Tag Archives: women’s rights

The Ladies’ University (As it Should Be): 1875

THE LADIES’ UNIVERSITY.

(AS IT SHOULD BE.)

SceneThe Examination Room of the University.

Professor Punch seated at table, writing. Enter Candidate for Matriculation.

Professor. My dear young Lady, pray take a chair. First let me saу that I am glad to see you have adopted a very proper costume in which to present yourself before the Authorities. A plain stuff gown, a neat cap, and a brown Holland apron. Nothing could be better.

Candidate (seating herself). I am delighted to have gained your approbation, Professor. My choice was regulated by the reflection that I intend to work and not to play.

Professor. Well said! And now, are you desirous of becoming a Member of this University?

Candidate. I am. I covet the honour.

Professor. It is necessary to ask you a few questions. What do you consider to be the “Rights of Woman”?

Candidate. She has but one right, which involves many duties— the right to be the Sweetness and Light, the Grace and Queen of home.

Professor. Very good. You would not wish to sit in Parliament?

Candidate. When my household duties were over, I should not object to an occasional seat in the Ladies’ Gallery—that is, supposing my husband were a Member of the House fond of addressing the Speaker.

Professor. A very proper reply. You do not wish to be a doctor or a lawyer?

Candidate (laughing). Certainly not. My ambition would be quite satisfied were I a good nurse and an efficient accountant.

Professor. An efficient accountant?

Candidate. Yes—that I might be able to check the butcher’s book.

Professor. Very good, indeed! Now do you know the chief object of this University?

Candidate. I believe so. It is to elevate the art of Cooking into a Christian duty. As Mr. Buckmaster said the other day at York,

“Our health, morality, social life, and powers of endurance depend very much on our food, and if it be a Christian duty to cultivate the earth, and make it bring forth food both for man and beast, it is equally a Christian duty to make that food enjoyable and wholesome by good cooking.”

Professor. You are quite right. I too will quote from Mr. Buckmaster’s very excellent speech. He said—

“So long as people prefer dirt to cleanliness and drink to food, and who know nothing, and don’t care to know anything, of those processes and conditions or laws which God has ordered as the condition of health, and without health there can be no happiness, so long as this ignorance and the prejudices which flow from it exist, all efforts except teaching will be comparatively useless. No law can prevent people from eating improper and unwholesome food, or accumulating heaps of filth in the dark corners of rooms, or compel them to open their windows or wash their bodies. Nothing but knowledge or a better education in common things will ever bring about these desirable results. It is for these and many other reasons that I am most anxious about the education of girls. The future of this country depends on their education. Every girls’ school should have a kitchen, with such appliances as they would be likely to have in their own homes, and every young lady should bе able to prepare, from first to last, a nice little dinner.”

Do you agree with Mr. Buckmaster?

Candidate. Most cordially. I think Mr. Buckmaster deserves the thanks of every man, woman, and child in the United Kingdom.

Professor. And so do I. What classes do you wish to join?

Candidate. The Cooking Class, the Dress and Bonnet Class, the Furniture-Judging Class, and the Domestic Economy Class. After I have passed through these, I should very much like to finish my University career by undergoing a final course of Music, Painting, and Modern Languages.

Professor (signing certificate). I have much pleasure in informing you that you are now a Member of the Ladies’ University. You have passed your preliminary examination most creditably.

Candidate. A thousand thanks, Professor.

[Rises, curtsies, and exit to join the Cookery Class.]

Professor. A sensible girl that!

[As the Scene closes in, Professor Punch smilingly returns to his work.]

Punch 20 March 1875: p. 123

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  As Mrs Daffodil’s readers will ascertain from the citation, this is cutting satire for 1875, when university education for women had scarcely begun to be bruited in public discussion and when Mr Patmore’s poem, “The Angel in the House,” was the pattern for feminine behavior. To be Relentlessly Informative, Mr J.C. Buckmaster, a chemist and  associate of a number of scientific societies and the Royal Polytechnic Institute, was the author of Buckmaster’s Cookery, Buckmaster’s Domestic Economy and Cooking. He lectured on cookery at the Great Exhibition.

Punch seemed fond of using culinary references in their barbs directed at women’s education. In 1894, under the heading “The Girton Girl, B.A.” it was announced that a female student at Girton, Miss E.H. Cooke, was on the list of Wranglers for Cambridge University. (This means that she placed in the first class in the very difficult Mathematics Tripos, even though, at this time, women were still not yet allowed to officially take the Tripos.) Punch commented:

Bravissima Miss E.H. Cooke. No difficulty in securing a first rate-place for so excellent a chef. Of course, so admirable a Cooke will at once receive the cordon bleu!

Punch 23 June 1894: p. 297

Really, it is enough to make one slip a little undetectable poison into that “nice little dinner.”

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

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Women in 1900: A letter from the future: 1853

The New Woman

Letter Written in 1900.

Mr. Editor: How the following letter came into my possession, I leave you and your readers to conjecture. It may have come through a “medium” from the Spirit of Prophecy, but this I only throw out as a suggestion. Meanwhile, rest assured, Mr. Editor, that should I be favored with any more communications from the same source, they shall be transmitted to you without fail.

Your friend and correspondent,

Annie Elton.

Washington City, Jan. 1, 1900.

My Dear Friend: Writing to you, as I now do at the commencement of the twentieth century I am naturally led to speak of the wonderful changes which have taken place within the last half of the century just past. I remember very well when men were considered the lords of creation, when all the offices of honor and profit were in their hands. Women were at that time held in subjection by their haughty oppressors, and women’s rights were almost unknown. Now, thank Heaven! All this is reversed. Instead of lords we have ladies of creation.

Our navies do not now consist of men of war—they are all women of war. Now, happily, a woman occupies our presidential chair, while our halls of Congress are filled with a body of intelligent females, from all parts of the country. Formerly we had professional men—now we have professional women.

But, without further preface, let me give you a little sketch of Washington, which I am at present visiting. Everybody is praising the administration of Hon. Mrs. Betsey Jones, who has just assumed the reins of government. She has filled her Cabinet with some of the most distinguished stateswomen in the country. Where, for instance, could she have found a better Secretary of War than Gen. Abigail Chase, of Massachusetts, who covered herself with glory in our late war with the Sandwich Islands?

I went to the President’s levee, a few evenings since. Among the crowd who were present, I noticed Hon. Mrs. Jenkins, the distinguished Senator from the new State of Patagonia. The Russian Minister, Mrs. Orloff, had on a splendid fur cape, which attracted the attention of all the ladies present. I was sorry not to have seen the Secretary of State—but she sent word that her baby was sick, and she couldn’t come.

I called to see the Attorney General the other day, and found her husband setting the table for tea, and taking care of the children. He said his wife was so much occupied with the cares of office, that she had but little leisure for her family.

This morning arrived the steamer America, Capt. Betty Martin, commander—bringing the latest news from Europe. It seems that the Queen of Austria has just issued a womandate, ordering all the men in her dominions to have off their whiskers. In consequence of this very reasonable edict, an insurrection took place among the men, which, however, was soon quelled by the efforts of Gen. Polly Kosciusko.

I heard last Sunday an eloquent sermon, from the Rev. Sally Sprague, minister of the first Church in this city. I understand that it is to be published.

I see by the papers, that a man out west attempted to lecture on men’s rights recently, in which he foolishly insisted that men had a right to vote. I was glad to hear that he was pelted from the stage by a volley of stones from the females (dear creatures) whose rights he had assailed. Poor man! He quite forgot that, in the words of the poetess—

“Times aint now as they used to was been,

Things aint now as they used to was then.

Paulina Pry.

The Fremont [OH] Weekly Journal 5 February 1853: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is, Mrs Daffodil is given to understand, International Women’s Day. The article above is what passed for wit about women’s rights in the newspapers of 1853. It took 67 years after this article for women to receive the right to vote in the United States. In Switzerland, it took until 1971. There was one ingenious critic who said that the right to vote was unnecessary; that women around the world already wielded unlimited political power and that American women ought to seize that power:

Much as we may admire the conservatism that governs, or that should govern, the influence of women in the White House, we may wonder if the higher politics of America, what may be called the diplomatic politics, is not neglecting a potent weapon. It is not a little strange that women should be least powerful in republics and democracies and most powerful in monarchies. When one of the great Indian princesses was recently in America some of our prominent society women sought to interest her in the feminist movement and to stimulate the ambition of Indian women to a share in the government of the Indian provinces. The Maharanee was much amused. She said that the women of India might live in seclusion, but it was actually they who governed the country. Their husbands sat upon the thrones and filled the offices, but only to carry out the advice that came from behind the purdah curtains. The women of India, said the princess, were much more influential in politics than their sisters in America, no matter how many votes they might have.

Much the same is true in England, where women have no votes, but where they have a political power that our women have hardly dreamed of. It does not matter very much who is the wife of an American President or cabinet officer, provided always that she is a lady and is willing to be inconspicuous. But the English statesman is well-nigh a lost soul without his wife. She is expected to be minutely familiar with domestic, imperial, and international politics and to take a practical view of advancing the various causes with which her husband is identified. A ball by the wife of the prime minister may easily have wider reaching results than a meeting of the cabinet. Here it is that the most delicate webs of diplomacy are spun, and spun very largely by women, who have unsurpassed opportunities for exercising the clairvoyance of their sex. Some of the most remarkable political revelations that have ever been made are to be found in the published diaries of women….

The fault, if fault there be. is not with the American government, but with the American woman. If the American woman were capable of exercising a political influence she would exercise it. and nothing could prevent her.

Vanity Fair 1 July 1916

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

Ladies Harassed in the Street: 1887

La modiste ou Jeune femme en manteau portant un carton, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, c. 1879 http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/the-milliner-or-young-woman-in-an-overcoat-carrying-a-box-533730

La modiste ou Jeune femme en manteau portant un carton, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, c. 1879 http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/the-milliner-or-young-woman-in-an-overcoat-carrying-a-box-533730

WOMEN’S RIGHTS IN THE STREETS.

The lawless freedom with which men approach or assail women in some American cities, while women on the other hand are subjected to the meddlesome and domineering interference of policemen, lends some interest to the case of Miss Cass in London, one of the victims of police brutality, which has excited an inquiry and comment in Parliament, and is likely to result in the punishment of the policeman. The New York Sun says:

“The case of Miss Cass, who was arrested in Regent Street as a disreputable character, has started in the Pall Mall Gazette a discussion of the annoyances to which decent women are subjected in the streets of London. It will be remembered that she was a respectable girl recently arrived in London, where she had obtained employment in a milliner’s shop, and that while waiting in Regent Street early in the evening she was arrested by a policeman, who insisted in regarding her as a professional street-walker, as which, also, she was held by a magistrate, who refused to listen to her denials and explanations.

“Many women have accordingly written to the Pall Mall Gazette to ask why, if a woman is liable to arrest on the mere suspicion of having addressed a man, men are allowed to annoy and insult women in the London streets with perfect impunity. The testimony of them all is that, even in the daytime, a lady with any claims to good looks, and who walks alone, is always liable to such treatment, no matter how modest her apparel and reserved her demeanor. It is not merely of insolent and persistent staring that they complain, for they have grown to expect that as a matter of course; but they are actually spoken to by men who are strangers to them, in the most insinuating and offensively flattering terms. These men are commonly described as ‘gentlemen’ in appearance; ‘a tall, distinguished, military-looking man ; ‘ ‘a youthful diplomat;’ ‘a government official, a man holding a lucrative appointment,’ and the like. They are not roughs; from them ladies have nothing of the sort to fear; but men who think to have the greater success and to enjoy the complete immunity because they wear the garb of gentlemen.

“Rev. Mr. Haweis writes that ‘you might easily fill the Pall Mall Gazette with nothing else for months, for we have come to such a pass as this, that a young girl cannot stand aside at a railway station while papa takes tickets, nor a girl lead her blind relative through the streets, nor can a married woman go twenty paces In a London thoroughfare without the risk of insult or even assault.'”

These evils are a relic of the old ideas of woman s Inferiority, and their only sure remedy is the destruction of that inferiority by the industrial and professional education, which will make the woman the par of her brother, and enable her to maintain her equal rights everywhere.

Buchanan’s Journal of Man October 1887: pp 15-16

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Alas, today one can still read accounts of modern-day street harassment that sound virtually identical to those of 1887. Plus ça change…

The case of Miss Elizabeth Cass was a London cause célèbre for months. PC Endicott arrested her as a common prostitute in Regent street in late June and swore under oath that he had been watching her for six weeks. Magistrate Newton accepted his testimony and refused to have Miss Cass’s employer sworn to vouch for her. The young lady was released with a stain on her character, but questions were asked in Parliament and it was found that Miss Cass, who worked for a respectable milliner, had only been three weeks in London. There was talk of charging PC Endicott with perjury, but Mrs Daffodil is uncertain if anything came of it. One suspects not. No doubt Magistrate Newton felt that the officer had merely made an honest mistake in the zealous pursuit of his duties.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

A Parlour-maid Goes to War: 1918

A female munitions worker. The women were also known as "munitionettes."

A female munitions worker. The women were also known as “munitionettes.”

A WOMAN OF FURNACELAND: A STORY AND ITS SEQUEL  

She had felt the strain; she was not well. To a woman unaccustomed to standing on her feet for twelve hours on end, the work had been terrific.  

She had been a parlour-maid in a good situation, with plenty of room and fresh air, where she had cleaned silver, answered the door-bell, waited at table, carried trays, turned out her pantry, gone to the door, had her regular outings, and was perfectly certain to get an hour or two for sewing or reading every afternoon; where she had never got out of her bed before half-past six and was generally back in it before ten; where she had been well fed and well paid, warmly housed and generously considered.  

Tom had joined the colours at the first roll of the drum. She would not have “walked out” with him had he not done so, and truth to tell, he was mighty keen and patriotic.  Quickly trained, hard trained, strenuously trained, he was ready amongst the first batch of the New Army who went to the front, ten or eleven months after the outbreak of war. During these ten months she had kept her situation, had knitted him socks and mufflers, had seen him when on leave, and had encouraged him to do well at the guns.  Then came the final parting. He was to sail from Southampton for “somewhere in France.” Before the momentous day, he received a final few days’ leave.  

“Tom,” she said, “you are off to do your bit, God bless you, and you will be constantly in my thoughts and my prayers;  but I do not suppose we shall meet again for many months — perhaps longer — and I am going to spring a mine upon you, not a German mine, old chap, but a truly British one.  While you are at the front firing shells, I am going into a munition factory to make shells. The job will not be as well paid as domestic service, it will not be as comfortable as domestic service; it will be much harder work, but it will be my bit, and every time you fire your gun you can remember I am helping to make the shells.” 

“Well done, my girl, it is splendid of you, but can you stand it?“ 

“I will stand it,” she replied with that determination which one knows to be the British characteristic, even when it means getting up at five o’clock every winter morning and not returning home for fourteen hours at a spell. 

« « « « «  

It was an awful night. The wind howled. Sleet blew in great blasts. Tom’s letters had been frequent from “somewhere in France,” interspersed with those quaint postcards every soldier and every home knows so well.  He had been through those awful days at Loos, when his battery had pulled out into the open and the only shelter was under the limbers. His leading horse’s driver had been killed before him, and without even waiting for the word of command he had scrambled along to that horse’s back and taken the dead man’s place. He had done his bit with a vengeance. The work of the 15th Division at Loos will never be forgotten; but very little news had travelled home, so the encouragement and inspiration that the girl might have had on that score had been sadly lacking.  

That night Tom was constantly in her thoughts. It was her week of night duty. She had made a railway Journey, to arrive at the factory wet, cold and dejected, and before her lay a twelve-hours shift. Warm food in the Y.W.C.A. Canteen at midnight cheered her. She washed her hands in warm water (which means a great deal to workers, many, thousands of whom had to wash in cold and exist all the first cruel winters without a canteen at all), and through the factory mud and slush she waded back to her workshop, picturing the mud of Flanders and Tom.   

What a scene!  

A veritable beehive of workers. Eight thousand women answered the call of the drum in that district alone. Neat khaki caps and neat khaki overalls made them both trim and smart and a veritable little soldier-women’s army.  

The glass domes of the Birmingham “shop” had been blackened overhead so that Zeppelins should no longer find their whereabouts. The great furnaces below were roaring flames. The machinery was drumming and banging and screeching. The noises were deafening; it was impossible to hear a neighbour speak. Everything was carried on by signs.  

We have all seen men at the forge of a country village putting their black horseshoes into the fire with iron tongs and pulling them out red hot. That was what this woman was doing, but her horseshoe was a part of a shell, and it must be remembered that it takes 150 operators to finish the parts of one fuse, and 21 operators to machine a 4.7 shell. In addition there are other workers who gauge, who assemble, paint and varnish them, and yet others who fill them with explosives. Yes! one hundred and fifty operators to prepare the parts of one fuse and twenty-one people to machine a single shell.

Pause and think then: the brains, the skill, the machinery, the efforts put in motion to make; that little shell before it leaves the hands of the workers and reaches those of the gunner at the front, where hundreds of shells, now that the women have made them, may be fired in a single day from one single gun to which a dozen or so were handed out before and at Loos. And this is war, a half-century planned war, undertaken by the enemy for might against right, a deadly cruel war.

 The chorus of machinery in that shed never ceases, it is incessant, it appears eternal and the amount of human effort is prodigious. Such is the exigency of war. A woman — one of hundreds — presses a lever with her foot, and instantly a big hammer falls with a heavy thud. At a single blow it fashions the-red hot metal on the anvil, and with a shriek it is snatched up again in the twinkling of an eye. The operator picks the still hot metal off the anvil with a tongs and drops it into an iron box with many others, while her mate— a young girl— pulls another piece from the furnace and places it in the die. The machine does the heavy work and yet the strain of that pressure of the foot is bad for the delicate mechanism of woman-kind. There is every class in that shed. There are well-educated ladies— enthusiasts; there are parlour-maids, like this girl— who are patriots; there are the usual factory hands, who have come from soda-water-manufactories, jam, biscuit, cocoa, toy or cheap jewellery factories, who are all doing their bit.  

As the morning draws on in that thundering noise, that roar of machines almost as deafening as the roar of the guns, the drumming lathes work on; but the want of sleep, the fatigue of work, the need of food begin to tell, and our little parlour-maid is feeling weary, well-nigh prone to drop; so she makes herself a cup of tea, that everlasting and ever- joyful cup of tea, which the men enjoy even more than the women — and she thinks of Tom.  

Renewed strength comes with the thought, and she works on.  She looks at the lathe-belts as they go round and round, and feels that every turn furthers her job, and every day brings more succour to the front and the war nearer to its end. But, still she grows weary again. The hours are long. The night shift seems unceasing, the only possible rest from her factory is on Sunday, when she is almost too worn out to leave her bed. As for an evening out, or a cinema show, such a recreation has long left her horizon, such a thing as an hour’s sewing or an hour’s reading in a cosy parlour has ceased to be.  

Two things keep her going, the thought of Tom, with a certain feeling that she is helping him, and the canteen at last provided by the Y.W.O.A. with its chairs and comforts. Had it not been for that canteen her health would have given out long before, for with all the will in the world the women Munition Workers’ hours in 1916 were too incessant for them to stand the strain.  

“What?” 

Through the din no one heard.  

“What did you say? “ 

“Zepps!“ 

Every one knew they would be thrust into darkness. Every one knew they must stop work. Every one knew they were prisoners amidst the worst of dangers — explosives on every side of them, inventive devils of cruelty above them — prisoners in a great arsenal. The chorus of machinery ceases. Belts are released and those palpitating iron and steel machines that grind the daily soul of the workers, slowly and dreamingly cease to toil. In a few minutes all is still.  

Oh, the tension of it. The anxiety, the expectancy, yet not a woman falters. The hours wear on. It grows colder. The action of the right leg on the lever has ceased. Both arms are at rest. The cold seems to penetrate their very soul; but the women say nothing. They know their men face the guns day and night. Big guns, little guns, every kind of hell fire. They know a shell or a rifle-bullet may end a man’s life any minute. They know these men at the front never shirk, why should they? The only people who shirk are the slackers at home, the “down tools,” the wasters, the scum. No soldier shirks his duty, no woman worker turns chicken-hearted. Both are out to do their bit to consolidate and hold a great nation together and build up a great people under the greatest Democracy in the world, known as the British Empire and King George. Numbed, chilled, but not nervous, she sits on a backless stool and thinks of the first months of toil without any seat, without warm water to wash those dirty, swollen, sore hands, without a food canteen, and with only paper-bag lunches of sandwiches and buns; and she remembers the new canteens outside, where a fourpenny or sixpenny dinner can be “bought out of her pay of 3d. per hour, and there is a warm fire and a cheery welcome.  

The clock strikes midnight, one, two, three. The Zepps have gone home again; but she can’t go home, she must still pull in and pull out of the re-kindled furnace her bits of red-hot metal. All she minds is the three hours’ loss in making shells for Tom.  

Was it telepathy?  Was it second sight? What was it that made her pause, as a cold shudder ran down her spine a couple of hours later and seemed to numb her senses? The night was still dull and cold and drear. Her face was deadly pale; the red glow from the furnace fire but accentuated the fact. She was just tired and nervy perhaps. And Tom’s cheery face pictured itself before her in the flames, as she worked on.  

* * * *  

An official envelope “On His Majesty’s Service” told the tale — “Killed in Action,” was all it said.  

Tom was dead.  

And she?  She turned sick and faint when the news came. She almost gave in; but no. There were others, there were other mothers, other sweethearts, and other wives, and for them she would work harder even than before. Work till the war ended.

God Bless her, the Heroine of Furnaceland. These are the women who will never falter until real victory by the Allies puts an end to war for ever.  

Surely if such a soldier-woman’s labour ends in death, she deserves as honourable a military funeral as any fighting-man in the field.  

Women and Soldiers, Mrs. Alec-Tweedie, F.R.G.S., 1918

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil would not dare trivialise the work of such a woman by calling her a “Munitionette,” and wishes that the women workers had received better from Britain than the post-war governmental admonishment to go home, be good wives and mothers, and let the men have their jobs back. The author of the piece, Mrs. Alec-Tweedie was Ethel Brilliana Harley Tweedie, a travel writer and advocate for women’s rights. One of her sons was killed in the First World War; her second son was also in the military and died in a military aircraft accident while serving with the RAF.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.