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New York Times
May 5, 1912
Female suffrage was a major reform goal of the Progressive Era.
Emma Goldman, however, did not believe that the ballot would
secure equality for women. She rejected the idea, which many
suffragists held, that by voting women would clean up politics.
Excerpt from "Woman Suffrage"
by Emma Goldman (1910)
Needless to say, I am not opposed to woman suffrage on the conventional ground that she is not equal to it. I see neither physical, psychological, nor mental reasons why woman should not have the equal right to vote with man. But that can not possibly blind me to the absurd notion that woman will accomplish that wherein man has failed. If she would not make things worse, she certainly could not make them better. To assume, therefore, that she would succeed in purifying something which is not susceptible of purification, is to credit her with supernatural powers. Since woman's greatest misfortune has been that she was looked upon as either angel or devil, her true salvation lies in being placed on earth; namely, in being considered human, and therefore subject to all human follies and mistakes. Are we, then, to believe that two errors will make a right? Are we to assume that the poison already inherent in politics will be decreased, if women were to enter the political arena? The most ardent suffragists would hardly maintain such a folly. .
The American suffrage movement has been,
until very recently, altogether a parlor affair, absolutely detached
from the economic needs of the people. Thus Susan B. Anthony,
no doubt an exceptional type of woman, was not only indifferent
but antagonistic to labor; nor did she hesitate to manifest her
antagonism when, in 1869, she advised women to take the places
of striking printers in New York.*
I do not know whether her attitude had changed before her death.
There are, of course, some suffragists who are affiliated with workingwomenthe Women's Trade Union League, for instance; but they are a small minority, and their activities are essentially economic. The rest look upon toil as a just provision of Providence. What would become of the rich, if not for the poor? What would become of these idle, parasitic ladies, who squander more in a week than their victims earn in a year, if not for the eighty million wageworkers? Equality, who ever heard of such a thing?
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