Today, December 9, 2018, is the feast of St. Leocadia, Virgin, Martyr (Died December 9, 304 AD) according to Lives of the Saints by Fr. Alban Butler (first published in 1887 under the title Lives of the Saints–With Reflections for Every Day in the Year), read here http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/lots/lots378.htm
Reading about these saints is a wonderful daily reflection, such marvelous lives the saints lived, such an army, the Church Triumphant, who has our back in heaven.
Saint of the Day & Women were Slaves?
That was the rhetoric used during the suffragette movement and it was justified, as this article—another strike in the compelling and historically reasonable argument to allow women to become Catholic priests—from Aeon Magazine notes.
We are in the midst of a global commemorative epoch. The Great War ended a century ago, an anniversary that has been widely celebrated. The centenaries of the Easter Rising and the Russian Revolution were observed in 2016 and 2017 respectively, while 2018 saw South Africa hail the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. This year, Britain has observed 100 years of women’s suffrage by honouring the Representation of the People Act of 1918, while New Zealand celebrated 125 years of women’s enfranchisement. The United States will soon witness the centenary of the Nineteenth Amendment in 2020, an act of congress that enfranchised most American women.
With all this commemorative fervour, social media and popular culture have become platforms that offer insight into what our feminist foremothers said to advocate for women’s enfranchisement. To celebrate the Representation of the People Act, for example, the UK bookseller Waterstones chose a historical quotation from the leader of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), Tweeting: ‘I would rather be a rebel than a slave.’ – Emmeline Pankhurst #vote100’ on 6 February 2018.
Waterstones had missed the memo. Their since-deleted Tweet quoted a slogan that had become infamous only three years earlier. Prior to the October 2015 release of Sarah Gavron’s much-anticipated film Suffragette, a regrettable photoshoot was produced with the magazine Time Out London, for which the film’s stars Carey Mulligan, Romola Garai, Anne-Marie Duff and Meryl Streep wore promotional T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan: ‘I’d rather be a rebel than a slave.’ This created a furore on social media, which then spread to various other media outlets. Why has this rallying cry become so inflammatory in the 21st century?
Suffrage histories illustrate both the best and the worst of the early 20th-century women’s movement. In today’s commemorative moment, many of us have been confronted – sometimes for the first time – with the hard, incontrovertible evidence of the racism and classism in the history of feminism. Seen from a 21st-century viewpoint, this particular Pankhurst quote is typical of much turn-of-the-century feminist rhetoric. It is illustrative of the exclusionary character of the global campaign for women’s suffrage.
In 1918, the Representation of the People Act did not, in fact, enfranchise all British women. Only those above 30 years of age who also met certain property or educational requirements were eligible to vote under this legislation. To earn the right to cast her ballot in 1918, a British woman needed to live in a home valuable enough to pay the £5 annual property tax (around £270 in 2017 figures) or be a university graduate – lofty bars by any measure, especially since few universities admitted women students at the time. It was another decade before all British women were enfranchised through the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act of 1928. At the end of 2018, many Britons are likely more aware of these important nuances than they had been at the start of the year, because historians and journalists have been at pains to illustrate the minutiae of the nation’s suffrage history.
Across the world, other early suffrage legislation was characterised by even more exclusionary legislative provisions. In 1893, New Zealand became the first self-governing colony in the British empire to enfranchise all women over the age of 21. But when Australia extended the franchise in 1902, the new legislation applied only to women of European descent. A similar situation transpired in South Africa, where only white women were enfranchised in 1930. In the US, a federal suffrage amendment finally passed in 1920 but, even then, various judicial and extrajudicial methods of exclusion meant not all African-American women – or men – could exercise their right to vote. Only after the gains achieved by the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s could more African Americans cast their ballot, while Australia extended the vote to indigenous people as late as 1962. Following the fall of South Africa’s apartheid regime, the country’s black people were finally enfranchised in 1994.
As noted by Mari Takayanagi, a senior archivist at the UK’s Parliamentary Archive and co-curator of the recent exhibition Voice and Vote: Women’s Place in Parliament, the realities of suffrage history make the celebration of suffrage centenaries a challenging enterprise. Since it became impolitic to describe disenfranchisement in terms of slavery only quite recently, suffrage history is littered with what now seems to be scandalous rhetoric – such as that Pankhurst quote. Countless challenges emerge when we reflect closely on exactly what was said by advocates of women’s suffrage. Some of these details are both surprising and disturbing.
Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) is a work long recognised as an early classic of feminist philosophy. Wollstonecraft argued for women’s education and opportunities in society beyond the confines of marriage; to do so, she repeatedly used analogies between slavery and the status of women. This approach might seem odd and even untenable to many of us today. Of course, previous generations often expressed their thoughts in language that can seem antiquated and inappropriate to the contemporary reader. But just as Wollstonecraft inspired many subsequent generations of women’s rights reformers, suffragists and feminists, the process of comparing women’s oppression to that of enslaved peoples is actually a form of political rhetoric that has both persisted and taken on new connotations in the centuries since.
How exactly did Wollstonecraft express these ideas in her most famous work? Women, she wrote, ‘may be convenient slaves, but slavery will have its constant effect, degrading the master and the abject dependent.’ The 18th century, we must recall, was an era that witnessed the expansion of the transatlantic slave trade. Many of her contemporaries, men such as Thomas Paine, embraced the slavery analogy to articulate the rights of man – rights that they did not necessarily view as extending to women. As the historian Moira Ferguson observes, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman made more than 80 references to slavery. This was in deep contrast to Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Men (1790), which referred to slavery on only a handful of occasions. It is difficult to fully account for such a stark difference, yet this suggests that she viewed slavery as a more apt analogy for the condition of women than for the condition of humanity.
Wollstonecraft was far from alone in advocating for women’s rights using the slavery analogy. Other British women, from the 18th-century writer Mary Astell to the 19th-century abolitionist Harriet Martineau, embraced similar rhetoric. So did John Stuart Mill, a renowned British philosopher and member of parliament (MP). Alongside women such as Helen Taylor, Frances Power Cobbe, Emily Davies, Millicent Garrett Fawcett and other members of the London National Society for Women’s Suffrage, Mill and fellow MP Henry Fawcett were some of the earliest and most vocal supporters of women’s enfranchisement in Britain. Mill’s classic work The Subjection of Women (1869) – which was much influenced by conversations with Taylor – also described women’s oppression in terms of slavery. As he wrote: ‘[N]o slave is a slave to the same lengths, and in so full a sense of the word, as a wife is.’
Retrieved December 5, 2018 from https://aeon.co/essays/was-the-suffragettes-description-of-women-as-slaves-justifiable