October 19, 1912, To the Editor of The Newcastle Weekly Chronicle, “Women and
In this response Davison makes her reply an opportunity to expand on an argument
she makes frequently—the slow pace of change in Britain, and the lessons of history.
Davison continues to see the suffrage movement as part of the onward march of
history, part of the tapestry of British valor, persistence and victory. She reads
Asquith’s dodge of throwing over the woman suffrage movement in favor of a
universal suffrage bill in 1913 as a sign of his near-capitulation to the suffragists.
Her conclusion, however, belies her optimism, for she writes that change will come
only when John Bull’s back is against the wall and the choice is either to torture and
murder women or give them the vote.
Sir,–The paragraph in a recent issue headed ‘Women and the Vote’ shows the
same intelligent appreciation which Mary previously displayed in her remarks on
the question (see letter 12). But as in so many other cases this appreciation is
limited simply because Mary forgets the essential characteristic of our nation.
This is dogged tenacity well indicated by the national type, John Bull. John Bull
holds on like grim death, but he is also extraordinarily slow to move, no doubt
owing to his immense bulk and weight! But when he does more [sic], then
there is no holding him back. It is this immense potentiality, which makes him
the respected dread of his neighbours, but which also makes him sometimes
obstinately pig-headed to his nearest and dearest. All reformers know this well.
The characteristic is at once his weakness and his strength.
So it is in our case. We are not surprised that we have an apparently
herculean task, when we read the lessons of history.
The lessons of history teach us this, that the struggle grows fiercer and
hotter towards the end, and that then is the time when every effort must be
directed towards the one goal, and certainly not relaxed. Where would England
have been if the gallant British square had relaxed their efforts at Waterloo, when
word came that Blucher was near? Where if Nelson had relaxed his final efforts
at Copenhagen and Trafalgar? Where the city which seemed impregnable is
within the grasp of the attacking force, do they retire and rest on their laurels?
No they carry on their tremendous struggle to victory. And so it is with the
women to-day. That the end is near was proved by the playing of the trump card
of manhood suffrage by Mr. Asquith.
Mary unconsciously gives her whole case away when she admits the
necessity of the early militancy to rouse the nation. She admits that it was
roused. But that was not enough. John Bull must move, and move to some
purpose. Public opinion, which is awakened as Mary owns, must come to the
pitch of ‘deeds not words.’ That can only be done by fighting to a finish. When it
is clear to the nation that it must either murder or torture its women in units, tens,
hundred, or thousands, or else emancipate them, there is not much doubt which
alternative it will choose. For after all there are other characteristics in John
Bull’s character. He has the highest reverence for courage, and an intense love
of fair play. But the lion must apparently be strongly roused, for then he will not
only roar but spring.—I am, etc.,
EMILY WILDING DAVISON
Longhorsley, Oct., 1912