September 28, 1911, To the Editor of The Manchester Guardian, “A Suffrage Lesson from
The letter below demonstrates Emily Davison’s ability to make bricks out of straw. She turns
a Kansas political conundrum to good use in pushing English suffrage political positions,
specifically that a municipal vote on local affairs is not at all equal to what was termed the
“parliamentary vote,” the powerful vote that can make a difference. Casuistic, the letter
uses the Kansas story to imply women’s greater moral fitness for government
and to suggest that emancipated women will indeed clean the “Augean stables” of public
Sir, –In your paper to-day you give an account of the trouble the woman Mayor of Kansas is
having with the male electors because she is persisting in appointing women to all kinds of
municipal official posts. The men are getting so angry at this that according to the accounts
they are refusing to pay taxes and to obey orders.
Now to those who think the reason is quite clear. Kansas, one of the central States,
is, like the other members of the Federation, riddled with political corruption. The men,
knowing this to be their canker, elected a fearless and upright woman to remove it. The
woman, being a thorough-going reformer, proceeded to cleanse out the Augean stables
with somewhat more zeal and energy than was anticipated. In her struggle she chose
women of like caliber to help her. The men, not being ready for a clean sweep, and finding
some of their own dearest vices threatened, began to kick, with the present result.
Now, as a keen English suffragist, I venture to suggest the real reason of the trouble.
We suffragists in England hold that we must win the Parliamentary vote as an
indispensable preliminary before all else. Anti-suffragists, recognizing that women are too
far in public life to-day to be totally excluded, say that they will not give women the vote,
but that they can devote all their surplus energies to local administration. By such a case as
this their ideas are shown to be completely illogical. If instead of electing a lady mayor the
men of Kansas who desired gradual and sure reform had given the full franchise to the
women of the State the course of events would have been altered. Kansas women would
have entered directly into politics and slowly but surely have eliminated corruption.
Instead of that, the men elected a lady mayor, who, not having had the political education of
being a full elector, rushes madly and courageously into headlong reformation, which may
throw back the cause of reform for some time.
In England, on the other hand, such women as Miss Margaret Ashton, having
wrestled vainly and nobly to bring about reform in municipal matters simply by personal
influence (the influence which our opponents praise), unsupported by the fact of being
publicly recognised as full citizens, have recognized that they must lay aside all such side
issues of the great question and win political enfranchisement. Kansas proves that they are
right! –Yours, &c.,
EMILY WILDING DAVISON
31, CORAM-STREET, LONDON, W.C.,