Sunday, August 7, 1911, To the Editor of The Graphic, “Suffrage Arguments. Recent
Incidents on Which Women Claim the Vote”
This letter introduces a theme which recurs throughout Davison’s writing, the economic
disadvantage women endure because they do not have the vote, and consequently have no
parliamentary recourse against discriminatory economic legislation.
Sir,–No better object lesson could be afforded of the imminent necessity of the speedy
enfranchisement of women than the passing by the Grand Committee sitting on the Coal
Mines Bill, by 15 to 13, of the amendment which will throw 3,000 women out of decent,
honest employment. This fact was fully recognized and explained by Sir Frederick
Banbury, who drew the attention of the Committee to the fact that, if the amendment
passed, it would afford one of the strongest possible arguments for Votes for Women.
That such an amendment could have ever been proposed in the House of Commons
rams the fact home. For this is a clear case of the rights of the individual, of the human
being, in short, of the right to work being infringed. Is there any single body of men from
whom their right to engage in the work by which they can earn their bread could be calmly
filched? We know there is not. The only possible grounds upon which such an action could
be justified is that the employment is injurious to themselves of the community. In this
case it is neither. The girls are claimed to be far healthier and better developed and to
make better wives and mothers than girls who are employed in factories. A great outcry
was raised, when it was proposed out of a spurious sentimentalism to prevent women
earning their living as barmaids; now there is not even the pretended excuse of moral
danger. The only real excuse is that a certain number of mining men want to exclude
women from taking any share in that employment for which they are fitted, so that men
may have it.
Sir Frederick Banbury, although a staunch anti-suffragist, has pointed the moral
well. The only safeguard against such iniquities is to give women the direct voice in
EMILY WILDING DAVISON
31, Coram Street, W.C.