This essay about the propriety of gender roles and sexual differences appeared in the first issue of the anit-suffrage publication, The Woman's Protest in June 1912.
What is the thesis, the main argument, of this essay? Judging from this piece, what did the anti-suggragists fear would happen if women got the right to vote?
"THE ELIMINATION OF SEX."
THE Suffragist use of this extraordinary phrase is qualified by the added words, "in politics," and that qualification has stamped it with a queer kind of appearance of reality and given it such short-lived currency as a counterfeit may have.
The absurdity of the proposition to eliminate a fundamental, natural fact, or even to eliminate the influence--which is, of course, the Suffragists mean--of one of the greatest of natural forces from the conduct of human affairs is so overwhelming as to be a real proof of the complete lack of humor in the characters of those women who gravely propound what can only arouse ridicule. When the record of this movement comes to be reviewed at some far-distant day, surely no part of it will seem more silly than this proposal of "elimination," which must provoke the laughter of gods and men, and incidentally all sane women. When some ardent, if timid, Anti-Suffragist has of late voiced a fear that suffrage would produce a hybrid type, it has certainly seemed a needless anxiety, but now comes the declaration of just such an intention from the suffrage side, to astound the temperate mind.
How, one wonders, do they intend to go abort this extraordinary business? As well determine to eliminate the lungs or legs from participation in politics, decide to shut out the sun, or 'conclude that we can do without the earth. No natural fact is more definite no human condition has evolved to a full development more completely, than has that of sex. Its influence, beneficent in the main, and surely in natural intent, is felt in every walk, in every situation at every' moment of life. The bond between mother and son, between father and daughter, between sister and brother is heightened and strengthened by the psychic and aesthetic influence of sex. The persuasiveness of man to woman and woman to man, is a perfectly natural, - useful, proper element in their practical and friendly relations. It is only in misuse that danger lies, just as it lies in the misuse of any other natural force or condition. It can not be eliminated anyhow, or anywhere, and to ignore it is for the fool once more to play the ostrich, and cry out from beneath a sandstorm of illogical, unfounded and impossible assertions, "I am not a woman, I am a politician; I have eliminated sex!" Is it to be supposed that her masculine competitor in the struggle for place and power is apt to mistake her for a man—or even a hybrid?
The proposal must also be recognized as disingenuous, for the behavior of the Suffragists does not bear out the declaration of their determination to "eliminate sex from politics." Go to Albany during the legislative session and watch the women lobbying in favor of the Suffrage bills, and then ask whether the tactics they use are those of men, whether their manner is that of men, whether they decline the courtesies offered them as from men to women, or allow them to forget for one moment that they are women, I do not criticize them adversely for this, but for their repudiation and denial of it. They are entitled to a legitimate use of the persuasive eloquence of their womanhood, and every one who has been before the Legislature, either in committee or as a whole, in the interest of conditions needing betterment, knows that the influence of one good woman, unhampered by political affiliations, with nothing personal to gain. with no side-glance at possible political preferment, can carry more weight a hundred-fold than her single vote could possibly do, implying as it would all sorts of party responsibilities or political aspirations for herself or others.
Such names as Mrs. Wm. B. Rice, Mrs. Francis P. Kinneutt, Louise Schuyler, Mrs. Florence Kelly, Mrs. Edward R. Hewitt, to name a few well known in our State and city for their philanthropical and sociological work, are an incontrovertible proof of what women can do without the ballot. Is it possible that any one can think for an instant that these women could have accomplished such results if they had been deprived of that sex influence which they have used in the highest and best way always, or that these names, to which others from diverse places, as Josephine Shaw Lowell, Mrs. Cabot and Jane Addams, for instance, could be added, and among this brief list some are for and some against woman, suffrage, would stand out as they do in the record of great philanthropy and high citizenship had their womanhood been eliminated and the vote given in exchange?
This proposition to eliminate sex, under any circumstances, or for any purpose—is such an insult to womanhood that if one could stop laughing at the absurdity one must weep at the tragedy of misapprehension and misunderstanding.
From The Woman’s Protest, June 1912, page 4.