The vote? Get out…

August 23, 2013

A guest post from (Roughly) Daily

93 years ago, in August 1920, U.S. politics changed forever. The 19th Amendment was ratified, giving millions of women the right to vote and answering a nearly century-long demand for suffrage.

But Emma Goldman was skeptical…  was woman not, when it came down to it, just as foolish as man?  Indeed, was suffrage even the point?

We boast of the age of advancement, of science, and progress. Is it not strange, then, that we still believe in fetish worship? True, our fetishes have different form and substance, yet in their power over the human mind they are still as disastrous as were those of old.

Our modern fetish is universal suffrage. Those who have not yet achieved that goal fight bloody revolutions to obtain it, and those who have enjoyed its reign bring heavy sacrifice to the altar of this omnipotent deity. Woe to the heretic who dares question that divinity! Woman’s demand for equal suffrage is based largely on the contention that woman must have the equal right in all affairs of society. No one could, possibly, refute that, if suffrage were a right. Alas, for the ignorance of the human mind, which can see a right in an imposition. Or is it not the most brutal imposition for one set of people to make laws that another set is coerced by force to obey? Yet woman clamors for that “golden opportunity” that has wrought so much misery in the world, and robbed man of his integrity and self-reliance, an imposition that has thoroughly corrupted the people and made them absolute prey in the hands of unscrupulous politicians…

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 cannot 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…

- excerpt from “Women Suffrage,” published in Anarchism and Other Essays in 1910

Winston Churchill famously observed that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried…” (House of Commons speech, November 11. 1947).  Emma Goldman, it seems, demurs…

But while they might disagree on methodology– even feasibility– I suspect that they could agree on the critical importance of extracting “the poison already inherent in politics.”

[TotH to Lapham's Quarterly for a pointer to the text]

###

As we return to Mother Earth, we might recall that it was on this date in 1920 that Mary Roberts Reinhart’s The Bat opened at the Morosco Theatre in New York.

Reinhart, often called “the American Agatha Christie,” invented the “Had-I-But-Known” school of mystery writing; and while she never actually seems to have written it, is widely-credited with the phrase “the butler did it.”  The Bat was one of her successes: it ran for over two years, was revived twice, novelized (see below), and filmed three times.

And perhaps as importantly, one of the film adaptations of The Bat has been cited by Bob Kane as an inspiration for his creation, Batman.

 source

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