Excerpts from "The Unexpurgated Case Against Woman Suffrage"
by Sir Almroth E. Wright M.D., F.R.S. 1913
On first reading, this well-distributed anti-suffrage tract may appear to be the rantings of a lunatic. However, it actually makes perfect sense internally; that is to say, it consists of a (mostly) consistent argument based on a set of beliefs about women and men.
It's like looking at the question of suffrage (and the other subjects he covers such as equal pay and employment opportunities) through misogynistic spectacles. If one accepts that women are and will always be completely inferior to men, then his arguments make perfect sense. Only if you do not accept that basic premise does everything he writes appear to be the rantings of a madman. Interestingly, Dr Wright thought the demands of feminists were the rantings of madwomen.
He did make a number of factual errors, which prove that he had scant knowledge of the very subject that he wrote about. For example, he assumed that all suffragists were unmarried, which was untrue; in fact it is hard to see how he could have made such a blunder considering that the very leaders of the movement (both suffragist and suffragette) were married (e.g. Mrs Garrett Anderson, Mrs Pankhurst, Mrs Pethick Lawrence). He also asserted that the non-violent wing of the movement didn't even exist any more when in fact it had five to ten times as many members as the militant wing.
Another thing that makes one wonder just how much Dr Wright knew about the real world was his claim that "Up to the present in the whole civilised world there has ruled a truce ...based upon the solemn covenant that ... the weapon of physical force may not be applied by man against woman ..." and "the reign of force which prevails in the world without comes to an end when a man enters his household." Oh really? Throughout Dr Wright's lifetime there was an epidemic of wife beating.
Another stunningly illogical error emerged when he stated that laws were not made by men, but descended from "the past" and "evolved by precedent, by the decisions of generation upon generation of judges, and it has for centuries been purged by amending statutes." It is hard to believe that he could write such a thing without realising that the very judges he cited, and the creators of statutes he mentions, have always been exclusively male, and that it was, of course, males who limited these positions of authority to males. That he could not see that points to a great failure of logic. He also said that "the drafting of statutes and the formulating of legal decisions is almost as impersonal a procedure as that of drawing up the rules to govern a game; and it offers hardly more opportunity for discriminating between man and woman." Again, this points to a staggering ignorance of the law, which discriminated against women in a thousand ways, including, most obviously, in relation to the very subject on which he was writing - that of women not being allowed to vote. It's hard to understand how he could not see the illogicality of his argument.
He also made many sweeping generalisations about both women and men. For example he asserted that men did not want to associate with women in intellectual or physical work, that men do not want to relate to women outside of a sexual context. They didn't want women's companionship, they didn't want women as co-workers or as fellow students or in any context whatsoever other than sexual. In fact, men worked alongside women in the very suffrage cause that he was denigrating, and also in the anti-suffrage cause, the trade union movement, anti-slavery, Chartism, in all political parties, in temperance and charity work, and even on the stage.
Dr Wright's essay is a true reflection of his genuine beliefs about the sexes and the world. These were: men own the world and men created civilisation, men therefore rule everything. Women have been allocated a place in man's world, as wives and mothers. Through being sexually attached to a man, women got access to money and resources that they were incapable of getting by their own exertions, and so shoud be grateful. If women did not have sexual intercourse with men they were unfulfilled and became mentally ill. Women should be "grateful" for the civil rights that men have allowed them, because men, as owners and rulers of the world, did not have to give women any rights at all. Men gave women concessions, protected them and were gallant and chivalrous, and women would lose all that if they got the vote. Women should express that gratitude by being silent and submissive. Women have no rights to take part in ruling man's world, for several reasons. It's not theirs, because man created it, so they have no right to come along and benefit from something that they did not help to create. It is cheeky of women to want any kind of authoritative position in a world made by men. Women who demand the vote because they own property and pay taxes ought to remember that they only got that money and property because a man earned it and gave it to them. Women were mentally and physically unable to take on such burdens in any case. They are illogical, over emotional, and everything to do with reproduction debilitates them and makes them unfit to take part in the administration of the country and unfits them to work alongside men as equals. Thirdly, when women protest about being under male rule they make themselves into undesirable, ugly creatures that no man wants.
I have edited his over long, repetitive and tedious rant down to a few paragraphs, because that is all that we need to understand his arguments. The quotes give us the chance to read the tone of his actual words.
The task which I undertake here is to show that the Woman's Suffrage
Movement has no real intellectual or moral sanction, and that there
are very weighty reasons why the suffrage should not be conceded to
The preponderating majority of the women who claim the suffrage do not
do so from motives of public interest or philanthropy.
They are influenced almost exclusively by two motives: resentment at
the suggestion that woman should be accounted by man as inherently his
inferior in certain important respects; and reprehension of a state of
society in which more money, more personal liberty (In reality only
more of the personal liberty which the possession of money confers),
more power, more public recognition and happier physiological
conditions fall to the share of man...
ARGUMENTS WHICH ARE ADDUCED IN SUPPORT OF WOMAN'S SUFFRAGE
And it is to be noted with respect to those women who pay their full
pro rata contribution and who ask to be treated as a class apart from,
and superior to, other women, that only a very small proportion of
these have made their position for themselves.
Immeasurably the larger number are in a solvent position only because
men have placed them there. All large fortunes and practically all the
incomes which are furnished by investments are derived from man.
Nay; but the very revenues which the Woman Suffrage Societies devote
to man's vilification are to a preponderating extent derived from
funds which he earned and gave over to woman.
Next to the plea of justice, the plea which is advanced most
insistently by the woman who is contending for a vote is the plea of
When we have succeeded in getting through these thick husks of untruth
we find that the idea of liberty which floats before the eyes of woman
is, not at all a question of freedom from unequitable legal
restraints, but essentially a question of getting more of the personal
liberty (or command of other people's services), which the possession
of money confers and more freedom from sexual restraints.
The suffragist agitator makes profit out of this ambiguity. In
addressing the woman worker who does not, at the rate which her labour
commands on the market, earn enough to give her any reasonable measure
of financial freedom, the agitator will assure her that the suffrage
would bring her more money, describing the woman suffrage cause to her
as the cause of liberty. By juggling in this way with the two meanings
of "liberty" she will draw her into her toils.
The vote, however, would not raise wages of the woman worker and bring
to her the financial, nor yet the physiological freedom she is
The tactics of the suffragist agitator are the same when she is
dealing with a woman who is living at the charges of a husband or
relative, and who recoils against the idea that she lies under a moral
obligation to make to the man who works for her support some return of
gratitude. The suffragist agitator will point out to her that such an
obligation is slavery, and that the woman's suffrage cause is the
cause of freedom.
And so we find the women who want to have everything for nothing, and
the wives who do not see that they are beholden to man for anything,
and those who consider that they have not made a sufficiently good
bargain for themselves--in short, all the ungrateful women--flock to
the banner of Women's Freedom--the banner of financial freedom for
woman at the expense of financial servitude for man.
The grateful woman will practically always be an anti-suffragist.
ARGUMENTS FROM INTELLECTUAL GRIEVANCES OF WOMAN
We pass from the argument from elementary natural rights to a
different class of arguments--intellectual grievances. The suffragist
tells us that it is unchivalrous to oppose woman's suffrage; that it
is insulting to tell woman that she is unfit to exercise the fran-
chise; that it is "illogical" to make in her case an exception to a
general rule; that it is mere "prejudice" to withhold the vote from
her; that it is indignity that the virtuous and highly intelligent
woman has no vote, while the drunkard has; and that the woman of
property has no vote, while her male underlings have; and, lastly,
that it is an affront that a woman should be required to obey
We may take these in their order.
Let us consider chivalry, first, from the standpoint of the woman
suffragist. Her notion of chivalry is that man should accept every
disadvantageous offer which may be made to him by woman.
That, of course, is to make chivalry the principle of egalitarian
equity limited in its application to the case between man and woman.
It follows that she who holds that the suffrage ought, in obedience to
that principle of justice, to be granted to her by man, might quite
logically hold that everything else in man's gift ought also to be
But to do the woman suffragist justice, she does not press the
argument from chivalry. Inasmuch as life has brought home to her that
the ordinary man has quite other conceptions of that virtue, she
declares that "she has no use for it."
Let us now turn to the anti-suffragist view. The anti-suffragist (man
or woman) holds that chivalry is a principle which enters into every
reputable relation between the sexes, and that of all the civilising
agencies at work in the world it is the most important.
But I think I hear the reader interpose, "What, then, is chivalry if
it is not a question of serving woman without reward?"
A moment's thought will make the matter clear.
When a man makes this compact with a woman, "I will do you reverence,
and protect you, and yield you service; and you, for your part, will
hold fast to an ideal of gentleness, of personal refinement, of
modesty, of joyous maternity, and to who shall say what other graces
and virtues that endear woman to man," that is chivalry .
It is not a question of a purely one-sided bargain, as in the
suffragist conception. Nor yet is it a bargain about purely material
It is a bargain in which man gives both material things, and also
things which pertain perhaps somewhat to the spirit; and in which
woman gives back of these last.
But none the less it is of the nature of a contract. There is in it
the inexorable do ut des; facio ut facias [give me this, and I will
give you that; do this for me, and I will do that for you].
And the contract is infringed when woman breaks out into violence,
when she jettisons her personal refinement, when she is ungrateful,
and, possibly, when she places a quite extravagantly high estimate
upon her intellectual powers.
We now turn from these almost too intimate questions of personal
morality to discuss the other grievances which were enumerated above.
With regard to the suffragist's complaint that it is "insulting" for
woman to be told that she is as a class unfit to exercise the
suffrage, it is relevant to point out that one is not insulted by
being told about oneself, or one's class, untruths, but only at being
told about oneself, or one's class, truths which one dislikes. And it
is, of course, an offence against ethics to try to dispose of an
unpalatable generalisation by characterising it as "insulting." But
nothing that man could do would be likely to prevent the suffragist
resorting to this aggravated form of intellectual immorality.
We may now turn to the complaint that it is "illogical" to withhold
the vote from women.
This is the kind of complaint which brings out in relief the logical
endowment and legislative sagacity of the suffragist.
With regard to her logical endowment it will suffice to indicate that
the suffragist would appear to regard the promulgation of a rule which
is to hold without exception as an essentially logical act; and the
admission of any class exception to a rule of general application as
an illogicality. It would on this principle be "illogical" to except,
under conscription, the female population from military service.
I pass now to the two most familiar grievances of the suffragist; the
grievance that the virtuous and intelligent woman has no vote, while
the male drunkard has; and the grievance that the woman of property
has no vote, while her male underlings have.
All that is worth while saying on these points is that the suffragist
is here manufacturing grievances for herself...
The man who looks forward to the intellectual development of woman
must be brought near to despair when he perceives that practically
every woman suffragist sees in every hard case arising in connexion
with a legal distinction affecting woman, an insult and example of the
iniquity of man-made laws, or a logical inconsistency which could with
a very little good-will be removed.
We have come now to the last item on our list, to the grievance that
woman has to submit herself to " man-made laws ."
This is a grievance which well rewards study. ... it shows how little the
suffragist understands of the terms she employs; and how unreal are
the wrongs which she resents.
The woman suffragist misapprehends when she suggests that we, the male electors,
have framed the laws.
In reality the law which we live under--and the law in those States
which have adopted either the English, or the Roman law--descends from
the past. It has been evolved precedent, by precedent, by the
decisions of generation upon generation of judges, and it has for
centuries been purged by amending statutes. Moreover we, the present
male electors--the electors who are savagely attacked by the
suffragist for our asserted iniquities in connexion with the laws
which regulate sexual relations--have never in our capacity as
electors had any power to alter an old, or to suggest a new law;
except only in so far as by voting Conservative or Liberal we may
indirectly have remotely influenced the general trend of legislation.
"Well but"--the suffragist will here rejoin--"is it not at any rate
true that in the drafting of statutes and the framing of judicial
decisions man has always nefariously discriminated against woman?"
The question really supplies its own answer. It will be obvious to
every one who considers that the drafting of statutes and the
formulating of legal decisions is almost as impersonal a procedure as
that of drawing up the rules to govern a game; and it offers hardly
more opportunity for discriminating between man and woman.
There are, however, three questions in connexion with which the law
can and does make a distinction between man and woman.
The first is that of sexual relations: rape, divorce, bastardy, and
the age of consent. In connexion with rape , it has never been
alleged that the law is not sufficiently severe. It is, or has been,
under colonial conditions, severe up to the point of ferocity. In the
matter of divorce the law of a minority of man-governed States
differentiates in favour of man. It does so influenced by tradition,
by what are held to be the natural equities, and by the fact that a
man is required to support his wife's progeny. The law of bastardy
[illegitimate childbirth] is what it is because of the dangers of
blackmail. The law which fixes the age of consent discriminates
against man, laying him open to a criminal charge in situations where
woman--and it is not certain that she is not a more frequent
The second point in which the law differentiates is in the matter of
exacting personal service for the State. If it had not been that man
is more prone to discriminate in favour of woman than against her,
every military State, when exacting personal military service from
men, would have demanded from women some such equivalent personal
service as would be represented by a similar period of work in an army
clothing establishment, or ordnance factory, or army laundry; or would
at any rate have levied upon woman a ransom in lieu of such service.
The third point in which the law distinguishes between man and woman
is with reference to the suffrage. The object of this book is to show
that this is equitable and in the interests of both.
The suffragist further misapprehends when she regards it as an
indignity to obey laws which she has not herself framed, or
specifically sanctioned. (The whole male electorate, be it remarked,
would here lie under the same dignity as woman.)
But in reality, whether it is a question of the rules of a game, or of
the reciprocal rights and duties of members of a community, it is, and
ought to be, to every reasonable human being not a grievance, but a
matter of felicitation, that an expert or a body of experts should
have evolved a set of rules under which order and harmony are
achieved. Only vanity and folly would counsel amateurs to try to draw
up rules or laws for themselves.
Again, the woman suffragist takes it as a matter of course that she
would herself be able to construct a system of workable laws. In point
of fact, the framing of a really useful law is a question of divining
something which will apply to an infinite number of different cases
and individuals. It is an intellectual feat on a par with the framing
of a great generalisation. And would woman--that being of such short
sight, whose mind is always so taken up with whatever instances lie
nearest to her--be capable of framing anything that could pass muster
as a great generalisation?
If we now consider the question of woman's franchise from the wider
point of view here opened up, it will be clear that, so far as
concerns the control which is exercised through public opinion on the
Government, the intelligent woman, and especially the intelligent
woman who has made herself an expert on any matter, is already in
possession of that which is a greater power than the franchise. She
has the power which attaches to all intelligent opinion promulgated in
a free State. Moreover, wherever the special interest of women are
involved, any woman may count on being listened to if she is voicing
the opinions of any considerable section of her sex.
In reality, therefore, woman is disfranchised only so far as relates
to the confirmation of a Government in office, or its dismissal by the
ultima ratio [ultimate reason] of an electoral contest. And when we
reflect that woman does not come into consideration as a compelling
force, and that an electoral contest partakes of the nature of a civil
war, it becomes clear that to give her the parliamentary vote would be
to reduce all those trials of strength which take the form of
electoral contests to the level of a farce.
ARGUMENTS WHICH TAKE THE FORM OF "COUNSELS OF PERFECTION" ADDRESSED TO
The suffragist here gives to man "counsels of perfection."
It will be enough to consider here two of these:--the first , the
argument that woman, being the weaker vessel, needs, more than man,
the suffrage for her protection ; the second , that woman, being
less than man in relation to public life, ought to be given the vote
for instructional purposes .
The first of these appeals will, for instance, take the following
form:--"Consider the poor sweated East End woman worker. She knows
best where the shoe pinches. You men can't know. Give her a vote; and
you shall see that she will very soon better her condition."
When I hear that argument I consider:--We will suppose that woman was
ill. Should we go to her and say: "You know best, know better than any
man, what is wrong with you. Here are all the medicines and remedies.
Make your own selection, for that will assuredly provide what will be
the most likely to help."
But the aspect of the question which is, from our present point of
view, the fundamentally important one is the following: Granting that
the extension of the suffrage to woman would enable her, as the
suffragist contends, to bring pressure upon her parliamentary
representative, man, while anxious to do his very best for woman,
might very reasonably refuse to go about it in this particular way.
If a man has a wife whom he desires to treat indulgently, he does not
necessarily open a joint account with her at his bankers.
If he wants to contribute to a charity he does not give to the
managers of that charity a power of attorney over his property.
And if he is a philanthropical director of a great business he does
not, when a pathetic case of poverty among his staff is brought to his
notice, imperil the fortunes of his undertaking by giving to his
workmen shares and a vote in the management.
We come next--and this is the last of all the arguments we have to
consider--to the argument that the suffrage ought to be given to woman
for instructional purposes.
... one wonders why it has not been proposed to carry woman's
instruction further, and for instructional purposes to make of a woman
let us say a judge, or an ambassador, or a Prime Minister.
There would--if only it were legitimate to sacrifice vital national
interests--be not a little to say in favour of such a course. One
might at any rate hope by these means once for all to bring home to
man the limitations of woman.
ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE CONCESSION OF THE PARLIAMENTARY SUFFRAGE TO
WOMAN'S DISABILITY IN THE MATTER OF PHYSICAL FORCE
International Position of State would be Imperilled by Woman's
Suffrage--Internal Equilibrium of State would be Imperilled.
The primordial argument against giving woman the vote is that that
vote would not represent physical force.
Now it is by physical force alone and by prestige--which represents
physical force in the background--that a nation protects itself
against foreign interference, upholds its rule over subject
populations, and enforces its own laws. And nothing could in the end
more certainly lead to war and revolt than the decline of the military
spirit and loss of prestige which would inevitably follow if man
admitted woman into political co-partnership.
The internal equilibrium of the State also would be endangered by the
admission to the register of millions of electors whose vote would not
be endorsed by the authority of physical force.
Regarded from this point of view a Woman's Suffrage measure stands on
an absolutely different basis to any other extension of the suffrage.
An extension which takes in more men--whatever else it may do--makes
for stability in the respect that it makes the decrees of the
legislature more irresistible. An extension which takes in any women
undermines the physical sanction of the laws.
The general lesson that all governmental action ought to be backed by
force, is further brought home to the conscience when we take note of
the fact that every one feels that public morality is affronted when
senile, infirm, and bedridden men are brought to the poll to turn the
scale in hotly contested elections.
... the voting of
women would be an unsettling element in the government of the State,
forasmuch as they would, by reason of a general lack of interest in
public affairs, only very; seldom come to the poll: would, in fact,
come to the poll in full strength only when some special appeal had
come home to their emotions.
Now an electorate which includes a very large proportion of quite
uninterested voters would be in the same case as a legislature which
included a very large proportion of members who made a practice of
staying away. It would be in the same case, because the absentees, who
would not have acquired the training which comes from consecutive
attention to public affairs, might at any moment step in and upset the
stability of State by voting for some quite unconsidered measure.
WOMAN'S DISABILITY IN THE MATTER OF INTELLECT
Characteristics of the Feminine Mind--Suffragist Illusions with Regard
to the Equality of Man and Woman as Workers--Prospect for the
Intellectual Future of Woman--Has Woman Advanced?
The woman voter would be pernicious to the State not only because she
could not back her vote by physical force, but also by reason of her
Woman's mind attends in appraising a statement primarily to the mental
images which it evokes, and only secondarily--and sometimes not at
all--to what is predicated in the statement. It is over-influenced by
individual instances; arrives at conclusions on incomplete evidence;
has a very imperfect sense of proportion; accepts the congenial as
true, and rejects the uncongenial as false; takes the imaginary which
is desired for reality, and treats the undesired reality which is out
of sight as non-existent--building up for itself in this way, when
biased by predilections and aversions, a very unreal picture of the
The explanation of this is to be found in all the physiological
attachments of woman's mind: in the fact that mental images are in
her over-intimately linked up with emotional reflex responses; that
yielding to such reflex responses gives gratification; that
intellectual analysis and suspense of judgment involve an inhibition
of reflex responses which is felt as neural distress; that precipitate
judgment brings relief from this physiological strain; and that woman
looks upon her mind not as an implement for the pursuit of truth, but
as an instrument for providing her with creature comforts in the form
of agreeable mental images.
woman, even intelligent woman, nurses all sorts of
misconceptions about herself. She, for instance, is constantly
picturing to herself that she can as a worker lay claim to the same
all-round efficiency as a man--forgetting that woman is notoriously
unadapted to tasks in which severe physical hardships have to be
confronted; and that hardly any one would, if other alternative
offered, employ a woman in any work which imposed upon her a combined
physical and mental strain, or in any work where emergencies might
have to be faced.
In like manner the suffragist is fond of picturing to herself that
woman is for all ordinary purposes the intellectual equal, and that
the intelligent woman is the superior of the ordinary man.
Thus, for instance, that not very unusual type of spinster who is in a
condition of retarded development (and you will find this kind of
woman even on County Councils), is completely unconscious of the
sexual element in herself and in human nature generally. Nay, though
one went from the dead, he could not bring it home to her that
unsatisfied sexuality is an intellectual disability.
If to move about more freely, to read more freely, to speak out her
mind more freely, and to have emancipated herself from traditionary
beliefs--and, I would add, traditionary ethics--is to have advanced,
woman has indubitably advanced.
But the educated native too has advanced in all these respects; and he
also tells us that he is pulling up level with the white man.
Let us at any rate, when the suffragist is congratulating herself on
her own progress, meditate also upon that dictum of Nietzsche,
"Progress is writ large on all woman's banners and bannerets; but one
can actually see her going back."
WOMAN'S DISABILITY IN THE MATTER OF PUBLIC MORALITY
Yet a third point has to come into consideration in connexion with the
woman voter. This is, that she would be pernicious to the State also
by virtue of her defective moral equipment.
Let me make clear what is the nature of the defect of morality which
is here imputed to woman.
It would be difficult to find any one who would trust a woman to be
just to the rights of others in the case where the material interests
of her children, or of a devoted husband, were involved. And even to
consider the question of being in such a case intellectually just to
any one who came into competition with personal belongings like
husband and child would, of course, lie quite beyond the moral horizon
of ordinary woman.
... one would not be very far from the truth if one alleged
that there are no good women, but only women who have lived under the
influence of good men.
ULTERIOR ENDS WHICH THE WOMAN'S SUFFRAGE MOVEMENT HAS IN VIEW
In countries, such as England, where an excess female population 
has made economic difficulties for woman, and where the severe sexual
restrictions, which here obtains, have bred in her sex-hostility, the
suffrage movement has as its avowed ulterior object the abrogation of
all distinctions which depend upon sex; and the achievement of the
economic independence of woman.
 In England and Wales there are, in a population of 8,000,000 women
between the ages of twenty and fifty, 3,000,000 unmarried women.
To secure this economic independence every post, occupation, and
Government service is to be thrown open to woman; she is to receive
everywhere the same wages as man; male and female are to work side by
side; and they are indiscriminately to be put in command the one over
the other. Furthermore, legal rights are to be secured to the wife over
her husband's property and earnings. The programme is, in fact, to give
to woman an economic independence out of the earnings and taxes of man.
Nor does feminist ambition stop short here. It demands that women
shall be included in every advisory committee, every governing board,
every jury, every judicial bench, every electorate, every parliament,
and every ministerial cabinet; further, that every masculine
foundation, university, school of learning, academy, trade union,
professional corporation and scientific society shall be converted
into an epicene institution--until we shall have everywhere one vast
The proposal to bring man and woman together everywhere into extremely
intimate relationships raises very grave questions. It brings up,
first, the question of sexual complications; secondly, the question as
to whether the tradition of modesty and reticence between the sexes is
to be definitely sacrificed; and, most important of all, the question
as to whether epicene conditions would place obstacles in the way of
... With regard
to the third, the feminist either fails to realise that purely
intellectual intercourse--as distinguished from an intercommunion of
mental images--with woman is to a large section of men repugnant;
It will be necessary for
us to find out whether really intimate association with woman on the
purely intellectual plane is realisable. And if it is, in fact,
unrealisable, it will be necessary to consider whether it is the
exclusion of women from masculine corporations; or the perpetual
attempt of women to force their way into these, which would deserve to
be characterised as selfish.
In connexion with the former of these issues, we have to consider here
not whether that form of intellectual co-operation in which the man
plays the game, and the woman moves the pawns under his orders, is
possible. That form of co-operation is of course possible, and it has,
doubtless, certain utilities.
Nor yet have we to consider whether quite intimate and purely
intellectual association on an equal footing between a particular man
and a selected woman may or may not be possible. It will suffice to
note that the feminist alleges that this also is possible; but
everybody knows that the woman very often marries the man.
Wherever we look we find aversion to compulsory intellectual
co-operation with woman. We see it in the sullen attitude which the
ordinary male student takes up towards the presence of women students
in his classes. We see it in the fact that the older English
universities, which have conceded everything else to women, have made
a strong stand against making them actual members of the university;
for this would impose them on men as intellectual associates. Again we
see the aversion in the opposition to the admission of women to the
bar. But we need not look so far afield. Practically every man feels
that there is in woman--patent, or hidden away--an element of unreason
which, when you come upon it, summarily puts an end to purely
intellectual intercourse. One may reflect, for example, upon the way
the woman's suffrage controversy has been conducted.
When a group of earnest and devout believers meet together for special
intercession and worship, we do not tax them with selfishness if they
If we do not characterise such exclusions as selfish, but rather
respect and sympathise with them, it is because we recognise that the
whole object and raison d' etre of association would in each case be
nullified by the weak-minded admission of the incompatible intruder.
We recognise that if any charge of selfishness would lie, it would lie
against that intruder.
But the feminist will want to argue. She will--taking it as always
for granted that woman has a right to all that men's hands or brains
have fashioned--argue that it is very important for the intellectual
development of woman that she should have exactly the same
opportunities as man. And she will, scouting [rejecting with contempt]
the idea of any differences between the intelligences of man and
woman, discourse to you of their intimate affinity.
The importance of the higher development of woman is unquestionable.
But after all it is the intellect of man which really comes into
account in connexion with "the mass of mental faculties available for
the higher service of mankind."
[The] way man feels about woman. He
recognises that she is by virtue of her sex for certain purposes an
incompatible person; and that, quite apart from this, her secondary
sexual characters might in certain eventualities make her an
IS THERE, IF THE SUFFRAGE IS BARRED, ANY PALLIATIVE OF CORRECTIVE FOR
THE DISCONTENTS OF WOMAN?
After all, the primary object of all civilisation is to provide for
every member of the community food and shelter and fulfilment of
natural cravings. And when, in what passes as a civilised community, a
whole class is called upon to go without any one of these our human
requirements, it is little wonder that it should break out.
But when a way of escape stands open revolt is not morally justified.
Thus, for example, a man who is born into, but cannot support himself
in, a superior class of society is not, as long as he can find a
livelihood abroad in a humbler walk in life, entitled to revolt.
No more is the woman who is in economic or physiological difficulties.
For, if only she has the pluck to take it, a way of escape stands open
She can emigrate; she can go out from the social class in which she is
not self-supporting into a humbler social class in which she could
earn a living; and she can forsake conditions in which she must remain
a spinster for conditions in which she may perhaps become a mother.
Only in this way can the problem of finding work, and relief of
tedium, for the woman who now goes idle be resolved.
If women were to avail themselves of these ways of escape out of
unphysiological conditions, the woman agitator would probably find it
as difficult to keep alive a passionate agitation for woman suffrage...
For the happy wife and mother is never passionately concerned about
the suffrage. It is always the woman who is galled either by
physiological hardships, or by the fact that she has not the same
amount of money as man, or by the fact that man does not desire her as
a co-partner in work, and withholds the homage which she thinks he
ought to pay to her intellect.
For this class of grievances the present education of woman is
responsible. The girl who is growing up to woman's estate is never
taught where she stands relatively to man. She is not taught anything
about woman's physical disabilities. She is not told--she is left to
discover it for herself when too late--that child and husband are to
woman physiological requirements. She is not taught the defects and
limitations of the feminine mind. One might almost think there were no
such defects and limitations; and that woman was not always
overestimating her intellectual power. And the ordinary girl is not
made to realise woman's intrinsically inferior money-earning capacity.
She is not made to realise that the woman who cannot work with her
hands is generally hard put to earn enough to keep herself alive in
the incomplete condition of a spinster.
The failure to recognise that man is the master, and why he is the
master, lies at the root of the suffrage movement. By disregarding
man's superior physical force, the power of compulsion upon which all
government is based is disregarded. By leaving out of account those
powers of the mind in which man is the superior, woman falls into the
error of thinking that she can really compete with him, and that she
belongs to the self-same intellectual caste. Finally, by putting out
of sight man's superior money-earning capacity, the power of the purse
Uninstructed woman commits also another fundamental error in her
comparison. Instead of comparing together the average man and the
average woman, she sets herself to establish that there is no defect
in woman which cannot be discovered also in man; and that there is no
virtue or power in the ordinary man which cannot be discovered also in
woman. Which having been established to her satisfaction, she is led
inevitably to the conclusion that there is nothing whatever to choose
between the sexes. And from this there is only a step to the position
that human beings ought to be assigned, without distinction of sex, to
each and every function which would come within the range of their
individual capacities, instead of being assigned as they are at
present: men to one function, and women to another.
Here again women ought to have been safeguarded by education. She
ought to have been taught that even when an individual woman comes up
to the average of man this does not abrogate the disqualification
which attaches to a difference of sex. Nor yet--as every one who
recognises that we live in a world which conducts itself by
generalisations will see--does it abrogate the disqualification of
belonging to an inferior intellectual caste.
The present system of feminine education is blameworthy not only in
the respect that it fails to draw attention to these disqualifications
and to teach woman where she stands; it is even more blameworthy in
that it fails to convey to the girl who is growing up any conception
of that absolutely elementary form of morality which consists in
distinguishing meum and tuum [ that which is mine and that which
is yours ].
Instead of her educators encouraging every girl to assert "rights" as
against man, and put forward claims, they ought to teach her with
respect to him those lessons of behaviour which are driven home once
for all into every boy at a public school.
Just as there you learn that you may not make unwarranted demands upon
your fellow, and just as in the larger world every nation has got to
learn that it cannot with impunity lay claim to the possessions of its
neighbours, so woman will have to learn that when things are not
offered to her, and she has not the power to take them by force, she
has got to make the best of things as they are.
One would wish for every girl who is growing up to womanhood that it
might be brought home to her by some refined and ethically-minded
member of her own sex how insufferable a person woman becomes when,
like a spoilt child, she exploits the indulgence of man; when she
proclaims that it is his duty to serve her and to share with her his
power and possessions; when she makes an outcry when he refuses to
part with what is his own; and when she insists upon thrusting her
society upon men everywhere.
[O]ne would wish that the educators of the rising generation of women
should, basing themselves upon these foundations, point out to every
girl how great is woman's debt to civilisation; in other words, how
much is under civilisation done for woman by man.
And one would wish that, in a world which is rendered unwholesome by
feminism, every girl's eyes were opened to comprehend the great
outstanding fact of the world: the fact that, turn where you will, you
find individual man showering upon individual woman--one man in
tribute to her enchantment, another out of a sense of gratitude, and
another just because she is something that is his--every good thing
which, suffrage or no suffrage, she never could have procured for
LETTER ON MILITANT HYSTERIA
Reprinted by permission from The Times (London), March 28, 1912.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES
SIR,--For man the physiological psychology of woman is full of
... no doctor can ever
lose sight of the fact that the mind of woman is always threatened
with danger from the reverberations of her physiological emergencies.
It is with such thoughts that the doctor lets his eyes rest upon the
militant suffragist. He cannot shut them to the fact that there is
mixed up with the woman's movement much mental disorder; and he cannot
conceal from himself the physiological emergencies which lie behind.
The recruiting field for the militant suffragists is the million of
our excess female population--that million which had better long ago
have gone out to mate with its complement of men beyond the sea.
Among them there are the following different types of women:--
First--let us put them first--come a class of women who hold,
with minds otherwise unwarped, that they may, whenever it is to their
advantage, lawfully resort to physical violence.
The programme, as distinguished from the methods, of these women is
not very different from that of the ordinary suffragist woman.
There file past next a class of women who have all their
life-long been strangers to joy, women in whom instincts long
suppressed have in the end broken into flame. These are the sexually
embittered women in whom everything has turned into gall and
bitterness of heart, and hatred of men.
Next there file past the incomplete. One side of their nature
has undergone atrophy, with the result that they have lost touch with
their living fellow men and women.
Their programme is to convert the whole world into an epicene
institution---an epicene institution in which man and woman shall
everywhere work side by side at the selfsame tasks and for the
These wishes can never by any possibility be realised. Even in
animals--I say even, because in these at least one of the sexes has
periods of complete quiscence--male and female cannot be safely worked
side by side, except when they are incomplete.
While in the human species safety can be obtained, it can be obtained
only at the price of continual constraint.
And I may add in connexion with my own profession that when a medical
man asks that he should not be the yoke-fellow of a medical woman he
does so also because he would wish to keep up as between men and
women--even when they are doctors--some of the modesties and
reticences upon which our civilisation has been built up.
Now the medical woman is of course never on the side of modesty, or
in favour of any reticences. Her desire for knowledge does not allow
... Inextricably mixed up with the types which we have been
discussing is the type of woman who flies out at every man
who does not pay homage to her intellect.
She is the woman who is affronted when a man avers that for him the
glory of woman lies in her power of attraction, in her capacity for
motherhood, and in unswerving allegiance to the ethics which are
special to her sex.
I have heard such an intellectually embittered woman say, though she
had been self-denyingly taken to wife, that "never in the whole course
of her life had a man ever as much as done her a kindness."
The programme of this type of woman is, as a preliminary, to compel
man to admit her claim to be his intellectual equal; and, that done,
to compel him to divide up everything with her to the last farthing,
and so make her also his financial equal.
troops of girls just grown up...
All these will assure you, these young girls--and what is seething in
their minds is stirring also in the minds in the girls in the colleges
and schools which are staffed by unmarried suffragists--that woman has
suffered all manner of indignity and injustice at the hands of man.
The programme of these young women is to be married upon their own
terms...To obey a man would be to commit the unpardonable sin.
It is not necessary, in connexion with a movement which proceeds on
the lines set out above, any further to labour the point that there is
in it an element of mental disorder. It is plain that it is there.
woman ought to receive the same wage as a man for the same work.
This doctrine is fatuous, because it leaves out of sight that, even if
woman succeeds in doing the same work as man, he has behind him a much
larger reserve of physical strength. As soon as a time of strain
comes, areserve of strength and freedom from periodic indisposition is
worth paying extra for.
Fatuous also is the dogma that woman ought to have the same pay for
the same work--fatuous because it leaves out of sight that woman's
commercial value in many of the best fields of work is subject to a
very heavy discount by reason of the fact that she cannot, like a male
employee, work cheek by jowl with a male employer; nor work among men
as a man with his fellow employees.
So much for the woman suffragist's protest that she can conceive of no
reason for a differential rate of pay for man.
Quite as fatuous are the marriage projects of the militant suffragist.
Every woman of the world could tell her--whispering it into her
private ear--that if a sufficient number of men should come to the
conclusion that it was not worth their while to marry except on the
terms of fair give-and-take, the suffragist woman's demands would have
to come down.
It is not at all certain that the institution of matrimony--which,
after all, is the great instrument in the levelling up of the
financial situation of woman--can endure apart from some willing
subordination on the part of the wife.
There is no one who does not discern that woman in her relations to
physical force stands in quite a different position to man.
Out of that different relation there must of necessity shape itself a
special code of ethics for woman. And to violate that code must be for
So far as I have seen, no one in this controversy has laid his finger
upon the essential point in the relations of woman to physical
It has been stated--and in the main quite truly stated--that woman in
the mass cannot, like man, back up her vote by bringing physical force
But the woman suffragist here counters by insisting that she as an
individual may have more physical force than an individual man.
And it is quite certain--and it did not need suffragist raids and
window-breaking riots to demonstrate it--that woman in the mass can
bring a certain amount of physical force to bear.
The true inwardness of the relation in which woman stands to physical
force lies not in the question of her having it at command, but in the
fact that she cannot put it forth without placing herself within the
jurisdiction of an ethical law.
The law against which she offends when she resorts to physical
violence is not an ordinance of man; it is not written in the statutes
of any State; it has not been enunciated by any human law-giver. It
belongs to those unwritten, and unassailable, and irreversible
commandments of religion, [ Greek 1], which we suddenly and
mysteriously become aware of when we see them violated.
The law which the militant suffragist has violated is among the
ordinances of that code ... which makes it an outrage for a man to do violence to a
To violate any ordinance of that code is more dishonourable than to
transgress every statutory law.
We see acknowledgment of it in the fact that even the uneducated man
in the street resents it as an outrage to civilisation when he sees a
man strike a blow at a woman.
But to the man who is committing the outrage it is a thing simply
unaccountable that any one should fly out at him.
Up to the present in the whole civilised world there has ruled a truce
of God as between man and woman. That truce is based upon the solemn
covenant that within the frontiers of civilisation (outside them of
course the rule lapses) the weapon of physical force may not be
applied by man against woman; nor by woman against man.
Under this covenant, the reign of force which prevails in the world
without comes to an end when a man enters his household.
Under this covenant that half of the human race which most needs
protection is raised up above the waves of violence.
And it is this solemn covenant, the covenant so faithfully kept by
man, which has been violated by the militant suffragist in the
interest of her morbid, stupid, ugly, and dishonest programmes.
Is it wonder if men feel that they have had enough of the militant
suffragist, and that the State would be well rid of her if she were
crushed under the soldiers' shields...
We may turn now to that section of woman suffragists--one is almost
inclined to doubt whether it any longer exists--which is opposed to
all violent measures, though it numbers in its ranks women who are
stung to the quick by the thought that man, who will concede the vote
to the lowest and most degraded of his own sex, withholds it from
"even the noblest woman in England."
When that excited and somewhat pathetic appeal is addressed to us,
we have only to consider what a vote really gives.
... a vote which puts a Government into office in a country where
murder is punishable by death is a vote which, by agency of the
hangman, puts the noose round the neck of every convicted murderer.
So that the difference between voting and direct resort to force is
simply the difference between exerting physical violence in person,
and exerting it through the intermediary of an agent of the State.
The thing, therefore, that is withheld from "the noblest woman in
England," while it is conceded to the man who is lacking in nobility
of character, is in the end only an instrument by which she might
bring into application physical force.
When one realises that that same noblest woman of England would shrink
from any personal exercise of violence, one would have thought that it
would have come home to her that it is not precisely her job to
... hang a murderer.
One cannot help asking oneself whether, if she understood what a vote
really means, the noblest woman in England would still go on
complaining of the bitter insult which is done to her in withholding
The evils of woman suffrage lie, first, in the fact that to give the
vote to women is to give it to voters who as a class are quite
incompetent to adjudicate upon political issues; secondly, in the
fact that women are a class of voters who cannot effectively back up
their votes by force; and, thirdly, in the fact that it may
seriously embroil man and woman.
If woman suffrage comes in here, it will have come as a surrender to
a very violent feminist agitation--an agitation which we have traced
back to our excess female population and the associated abnormal
If ever Parliament concedes the vote to woman in England, it will be
accepted by the militant suffragist, not as an eirenicon, but as a
victory which she will value only for the better carrying on of her
fight a outrance [to the bitter end] against the oppression and
injustice of man.
A conciliation with hysterical revolt is neither an act of peace; nor
will it bring peace.
One has only to ask oneself whether or not it would help the
legislator in remodelling the divorce or the bastardy laws if he had
conjoined with him an unmarried militant suffragist as assessor.
Peace will come again. It will come when woman ceases to believe and
to teach all manner of evil of man despitefully. It will come when she
ceases to impute to him as a crime her own natural disabilities, when
she ceases to resent the fact that man cannot and does not wish to
work side by side with her. And peace will return when every woman for
whom there is no room in England seeks "rest" beyond the sea, "each
one in the house of her husband," and when the woman who remains in
England comes to recognise that she can, without sacrifice of dignity,
give a willing subordination to the husband or father, who, when all
is said and done, earns and lays up money for her.
A. E. WRIGHT.
March 27, 1912.