October 22, 1911, To the Editor of The Sunday Chronicle, “Were Women ‘Free’”
In this brief letter Davison engages the subject of “the new woman,” reluctant to enter
traditional marriage. The most sensational exposition of the reasons for such reluctance
appeared in the 1895 Grant Allen novel The Woman Who Did, whose heroine chooses a loving
partnership with rather than marriage to her husband. The second half of the novel lays
out in excruciating detail all the ways society—and finally her only child—work not only to
defeat, but to utterly crush her for her decision to love freely outside the bonds of marriage.
Davison does not advocate—or even address–this particular aspect of the topic, but she does
say quite plainly that in contemplating marriage women contemplate exchanging freedom for
slavery imposed not by the husband but by the laws of the state.
Sir,–There is undoubtedly a marked tendency among the intelligent middle-class women
not to enter matrimony readily. But “Hubert” has not got hold of the real reason.
These women, having had their eyes opened by independent work and education,
see very clearly the disadvantages of the marriage state as it is at present. It is not that
they care less for marriages, or that they do not think it is the natural state for a man or a
woman. But they look around and see the unsatisfactory status of the wife, and hesitate to
exchange freedom for possible slavery.
The only way to cope with this situation is to put right the marriage conditions, and
then the matter will readjust itself. It is clear that the way to do this is to bring the
woman’s point of view directly into the State. Thus I contend that if women were
emancipated, marriage would increase.
EMILY WILDING DAVISON