Are Women People: A Book of Rhymes for Suffrage Times

I found this book on Project Gutenberg and it’s by Alice Duer Miller, I thought it might be an interesting read and I was wrong, it’s a fascinating read.  Miller picks apart many of the arguments used against suffrage, sadly arguments used against women and feminism today, and neatly takes them apart in poems.  I’m going to quote some of my favourites below and comment underneath (as appropriate), but I highly recommend you pick up a copy of the book from Project Gutenberg if you can – it’s not very long but is very entertaining.

The Revolt of Mother(“Every true woman feels….” – Speech of almost any Congressman)

I am old-fashioned, and I think it right
That man should know by Nature’s laws eternal,
The proper way to rule, to earn, to fight,
And exercise those functions called paternal;
But even I a little bit rebel
At finding that he knows my job as well.

At least he’s always read to expound it,
Especially in legislative hall,
The joys, the cares, the halos that surround it,”How women feel” –
he knows that best of all.
In fact his thesis is that no one can
Know what is womanly except a man.

I am old-fashioned, and I am content
When he explains the world of art and science
And government – to him divinely sent -I drink it in with ladylike compliance.
But I cannot listen – no, I’m only human –
When he instructs me on how to be a woman.

Sound familiar?  Our lovely Prime Minister Tones has often instructed us on how to be women.

The Maiden’s Vow

(A speaker at the National Education Association advised girls not to study algebra.  Many girls, he said, had lost their souls through this study.  The idea has been taken up with enthusiasm)

I will avoid equations,
And shun the naughty surd,
I must beware the perfect square,
Through it young girls have erred:
And when men mention Rule of Three
Pretend I have not heard.

Through Strum’s delightful theorems
Illicit joys assure,
Through permutations and combinations
My woman’s heart allure,
I’ll never study algebra,
But keep my spirit pure.

Miller studied mathematics and astronomy at college in the late 1800s, so she must have thought it terribly funny that someone was advising against learning algebra.  Of course, the idea that maths is hard and not for girls is a poison that still lingers today, thankfully though we’re not being told we’ll lose our souls if we study algebra (which I quite enjoy).  Though I do wonder why boy’s souls are more robust at surviving algebra.

“Oh, That ‘Twere Possible!”

With apologies to Lord Tennyson

(“The grant of suffrage to women is repugnant to instincts that strike their roots deep in the order of nature.  It runs counter to human reason, it flouts the teachings of experience and the admonitions of common sense.” N.Y. Times, Feb. 7, 1915.)

Oh, that ’twere possible
After those words inane
For me to read The TimesEver again!

When I was wont to read it
In the early morning hours,
In a mood ‘twist wrath and mirth,
I exclaimed: “Alas, Ye Powers, These ideas are fainter, quainter
Than anything on earth!”

A paper’s laid before me.
Not thou, not like to thee.
Dear me, if it were possibleThe Times should ever see
How very far the times have moved(Spelt with a little “t”).

The Times Editorials

Lovely Antiques, breathing in every line
The perfume of an age long passed away,
Wafting us back to 1829,
Museum pieces of a by-gone day,
You should not languish in the public press
Where modern though might reach and do you harm,
And vulgar youth insult your hoariness,
Missing the flavour of your old world charm;
You should be locked, where rust cannot corrode
In some old rosewood cabinet, dimmed by age,With silver-lustre, tortoise shell and Spode;
And all would cry, who read your yellowing page:”Yes, that’s the sort of thing that men believed
Before the First Reform Bill was conceived!”

And this is certainly how I feel about The Australian and most of Murdoch press.

Why We Oppose Pockets for Women

  1. Because pockets are not a natural right.
  2. Because the great majority of women do not want pockets.  If they did, they would have them.
  3. Because whenever women have had pockets they have not used them
  4. Because women are required to carry enough things as it is, without the additional burden of pockets
  5. Because it would make dissension between husband and wife as to whose pockets were to be filled.
  6. Because it would destroy men’s chivalry toward women, if he did not have to carry all her things in his pockets.
  7. Because men are men, and women are women.  We must not fly in the face of nature.
  8. Because pockets have been used by men to carry tobacco, pipes, whiskey flasks, chewing gum and compromising letters.  We see no reason to suppose that women would not use them more wisely.

Given the dearth of pockets on women’s clothing today, I can only assume that fashion designers took this to heart and have been denying us pockets.

But Then Who Cares for Figures

An argument sometimes used against paying women as highly as men for the same work is that women are only temporarily in industry.

Forty-four percent of the women teachers in the public schools have been more than ten years in the service, while only twenty-six per cent of the men teachers have served as long.

The Bundesrath of Germany has decided to furnish medical and financial assistance to women at the time of childbirth, in order “to alleviate the anxiety of husbands at the front.”

How strange this would sound: “The Bundesrath has decided to furnish medical assistance to the wounded at the front, in order to alleviate the anxiety of wives and mothers at home.”

When a benefit is suggested for men, the question asked is: “Will it benefit men?”

When a benefit is suggested for women, the question is: “Will it benefit men?”

I suspect that this final question still holds true today, even though it’s pretty awful.

Why We Oppose Votes for Men

  1. Because man’s place is the armory.
  2. Because no really manly man wants to settle any question otherwise than by fighting about it.
  3. Because if men should adopt peaceable methods women will no longer look up at them.
  4. Because men will lose their charm if they step out of their natural sphere and interest themselves in other matters than feats of arms, uniforms and drums.
  5. Because men are too emotional to vote.  Their conduct at baseball games and political conventions shows this, while their innate tendency to fore renders them peculiarly unfit for the task of government.

“Mother, what is a Feminist?”
“A Feminist, my daughter,
Is any woman now who cares
To think about her own affairs
As men don’t think she oughter.”

I love that this still holds true today.  I’m tempted to get this on a T-shirt.


Last year the shops were crowded
With soldier suits and guns –
The presents that at Christmas time
We give our little sons;
And many a glittering trumpet
And many a sword and drum;
But as they’re made in Germany
This year they will not come.
Perhaps another season
We shall not give our boys
Such very warlike playthings,
Such military toys;
Perhaps another seasons
We shall not think it sweet
To watch their games of solder men,
Who dream not of defeat.

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