Oppression of Women (Haslam, 1906)

1.250-77. Thomas J. Haslam, The Rightful Claims of Women, Irish Women’s Suffrage and Local Government Association (Dublin: The Ormond Printing Company, 1906), pp. 4-6; Women’s Suffrage from a Masculine Standpoint, Irish Women’s Suffrage and Local Government Association (Dublin: The Ormond Printing Company, 1906), pp. 21-22. BL 08415.df.444 and 08415.df.445

Extracts from two addresses by Thomas J. Haslam on the position of women.

Joyce claimed that his mother was slowly killed by both his father’s conduct and his own and asserted that she had been the victim of a system. He was not the only Dublin man of the period to exclaim against the oppression of women:

. . . in Christian Europe, so far as I know, there is not a country, save noble little Finland, from Russia to our own United Kingdom, in which, even yet, women of all classes are recognised as capable, reasonable beings, entitled to the same rights and privileges as their husbands and brothers. As girls, with the exception of the wealthier, and more cultivated classes, they do no usually receive as liberal an education as their brothers; as workers, — compelled to toil for their living, — they are seldom remunerated as equitably as their male competitors; as wives and mothers, whether they are aware of it or not, they are legally subjected to dishonoring disabilities, in regard both to themselves and their children; and, as citizens, they are denied that share in the legislation and administration of their respective countries, to which, as responsible, tax-paying members of the community, they claim to be legitimately and inalienably entitled. It is quite true, — we rejoice to acknowledge it, — that owing to the growing sense of justice, on the part of legislators almost everywhere, — in several of our European countries, as well as our own, in the United States, and, more particularly, in those bright young Colonies beyond the seas, — considerable progress has been made in the removal of many of these inequalities; but a great deal still remains to be done almost everywhere; and women are now asking, — as a matter of equitable right, — that, at long last, as far as practicable, they shall be recognised as the moral equals of their husbands and brothers in all these relationships; and be everywhere treated accordingly.
¶¶Now, frankly and honestly, is there anything unreasonable in this demand? And, in making it, is there a generous-hearted man, the world over, — I feel sure there is not in this room, — who will not delightedly give his sisters the right hand of cordial fellowship? One of the foulest blots upon human nature has been the treatment of the weaker sex by the stronger in all past ages; no well-informed man can be ignorant of the fact; it will take centuries of chivalrous compensation to wipe out the bitter memory of the wrongs, some of them scarcely nameable, which they have everywhere endured. In most countries, even at the present hour, — I am not exaggerating when I say, that, with the exception of the well-to-do, refined, and cultivated classes, — such as I see before me, — the larger share of the world’s drudgery, and by far the larger share of the world’s suffering, still fall to the lot of the wives and mothers; and devoted as they may be, they would be less than human if they did not everywhere revolt against it.
¶¶But it is not our women only who need the benefits which the Parliamentary vote will enable them to realise; there is hardly an important reform affecting both sexes, in which philanthropic men, — both in and out of Parliament, — do not require the women’s electoral help in carrying them. The Temperance question will never be adequately settled until those who, with their children, are the chief sufferers from the present licensing system, have the power of expressing their views in Parliament. Our Poor Laws will never be administered either humanely or economically until our women have obtained a much larger share in their administration than the present law assigns to them; and for the acquisition of this, again, the Parliamentary vote is requisite. The question of Old Age Pensions for the deserving poor awaits their intervention before our Legislators will seriously grapple with it. Our Hospitals, our Reformatories, our Prisons, our Lunatic Asylums, are, sometimes at least, barbarously administered through the absence of wise female co-operation. There is not a University Senate, an Intermediate Board, a National Board, which does not need the presence of cultivated women amongst its members; and even our War Administration stands in need of woman’s help in both the Commissariat and the Nursing Departments. And as our wives and mothers are among the most grievous sufferers from an unjust or unnecessary war, no war should ever be undertaken until those wives and mothers have virtually expressed their conviction of its necessity through a Parliament and a Cabinet which embody their views as well as those of our male electors.
¶¶These reforms will ever be effected in their integrity until our women have the casting vote in the election of the men through whom alone they can be passed through Parliament. For there is not a more certain fact in our constitutional history than that no great section of our population ever receives justice at the hands of Governments until they have an adequate share in the election of our Legislators. Even our farm labourers have discovered that fact. The persistent exclusion of one half of our population, — and that, moreover, the half that most requires protection, — from all direct voice in the appointment of our rulers, — will hereafter be looked upon as an astounding blot upon our Nineteenth Century civilisation. How soon, in the opening years of this newly-born century, this injustice will be redressed, it is of course impossible to foresee; but some steps will probably be taken to remove it when next our Representative system comes up for revision; and that, in the judgment of those who are supposed to know, — may possibly take place much sooner than many of us at present would dare to anticipate.