The Knox Correspondence Resumed November 15, 22 and December 15
Davison returns to her debate with A. Knox in the pages of The Morpeth Herald two weeks after his last letter. They exchange two more letters before the editor of the Herald puts an end to what has become a circular exchange, a round of “he said,” “she said.” It is worth noting, however, that Davison does have the last word in the exchange. The Morpeth Herald, Davison’s “home town” newspaper was not a supporter of her actions or of the suffrage movement in general. Suffrage news is hard to find in the weekly issues, while news of the Primrose League and of the Liberal Party men’s and women’s meetings is frequent and regular. News of Davison’s imprisonments is reported with little sympathy. But she is the one who wins the field in this debate.
November 15, 1912, To the Editor of The Morpeth Herald, “The Woman Suffrage Question”
Sir, — As I am in Wales for the moment, and did not receive the ‘Morpeth Herald’ till yesterday, I am hurrying to answer Mr. Knox’s latest effusion, trusting to be in time for your next issue.
Mr. A. Knox appears to be of the type to which the old saw ( brought aptly up to date) applies, ‘Convince a man against his will, he is of the same opinion still.’ The doctors’ or, rather, the scientists’ opinion, being too overwhelming for Mr. Knox’s empirical belief, he wisely confines himself to a mysterious hint that he could an’ he would (!) bring evidence to confute me, and unwisely shifts the ground (which he finds to be of the nature of a quagmire) to the, if anything, more insecure tenure of personal observation. Now we all know that personal observation, especially if tinged with a strong bias, is a very unreliable thing. It takes the wide-minded view of a true philosopher to make really useful criteria, and Mr. Knox is apparently no philosopher, for he refuses to face the facts.
Thus it is only that we can account for the glaring error which lies at the basis of all Mr. Knox’s special pleadings in that he seems to take it for granted that the volition and reasoning or judgment are identical functions of the brain, and form criteria of its value. These are, of course, quite distinct. Thus idiots are known to have the most intense will-power, and, indeed, it is that fact which makes them dangerous. Again, I have already mentioned that some of the heaviest brains in the world belong to idiots, all of which goes to show the futility of Mr. Knox’s arguments. It is not this or that faculty, or this or that comparison of size, which goes to prove the value of the brain. I was never maintaining that because nowadays it is a recognized fact that women have relatively equal brains, if not larger brains than men, therefore they are either equal or superior to men. If I did, I should be falling into an error, similar to that of Mr. Knox. I was merely pointing out the absurdity of making wild assumptions from special facts, and, above all, that Mother Nature (whom our anti-suffragist friends so slander and misrepresent) is so wise that even when for centuries man has sought to upset her law that man and woman, male and female, are both equally necessary, yet she has been quietly at work readjusting men’s follies.
So in his attempt to avoid one error, Mr. Knox has fallen into a greater one, the personal one. He accuses women of indecision of character and lack of will power. Why? The antitheses of these are the peculiarity of the so-called ‘new woman,’ or, as I prefer to dub her, ‘womanly woman,’ as she is beginning to realize her own possibilities. No man in his senses can seriously accuse us suffragettes of indecision or lack of will power and intensity of purpose. Again, as to the ancient bogies raised unchivalrously enough by me against the unfortunate ‘manly’ women (who are the result of men’s arrogant attempt to assume the role of creator and moulder) of hysteria and childishness, we ask a little too logically to please them, ‘a qui la faute?’ We do not hesitate nowadays to blame the parents for the faults of the children, and men have hitherto treated these women too much like children to be able to escape from a similar reproach.
Mr. Knox, who is apparently too fond of rushing into assumptions, says: ‘Miss Davison will probably tell us that, giving a woman the same education and the same social advantages as man, will enable her to rise in time to the level of men.’ Considering what women have done when held completely at a disadvantage, I sincerely believe that, given equality of opportunity (which, with all regard to Mr. Knox, is not necessarily ‘the same education’), they will, I hope, rise considerably above the present low level of men, and as a result drag the men up with them to a higher place.
As to Mr. Knox’s truly insulting remarks about American women, he is, of course, doing what he has done all along the line, making empirical assertions, which we must excuse on the ground of ignorance. In this case, for example, Mr. Knox is apparently ignorant of the important consideration of the effects of climate. It is amusing that Mr. Knox, having abandoned the evidence of the doctors when they do not suit his purpose, returns to them when convenient.
The last words of Mr. Knox prove conclusively what we suffragists (male and female) have found to be the bedrock feeling of ‘antis,’ namely, that women are not human beings equally with men, or, as I put it in one letter, they hold the fossilized theory that ‘man has a sex, but woman is a sex.’—Yours, etc.,
EMILY WILDING DAVISON
Longhorsley, Nov. 7, 1912