Happy Women's History Month!
100 years ago, The Progressive argued for women's right to vote and hold office.
The Progressive Magazine started out as a suffragist magazine, under the guidance of Belle Case La Follette, wife of Fighting Bob.
As we launch our new e-book series: progressive.org/ebooks from our archives this month, we thought we'd give you a little taste of feminist history from The Progressive — a topic that kicks off our first e-book, Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall.
To sign up for e-alerts on upcoming ebooks, email ebooks [at] progressive [dot] org
In light of women’s gains in the new Congress — as well as what looks like the launch of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential campaign— we give you this passage written by Belle Case herself in June of 1917, meditating on the question of women in public office.
"How about women holding office?"
The average objector to woman suffrage generally puts this question to an advocate with the finality of playing a trump card. Usually we counter with questions such as these: "Was not Queen Elizabeth a wise ruler?" "Would not Jane Addams make a good mayor?" "How about women school superintendents?" "Are not women now doing most of the work in minor public offices?" At least I am free to confess this is the tack I have usually adopted on the platform and in personal discussions.
Even if I had believed it possible to elect a woman representative to the 65th Congress, I should hardly have considered it helpful to the cause of suffrage to argue the proposition with a hostile audience. If I had done so, it would have been on the theory that such an exceptional event would only happen when an exceptional woman, exceptionally qualified was a candidate, a national figure, such as Miss Addams, Dr. Shaw or Mrs. Catt.
Since the fourth of March Jeannette Rankin of Montana has been a member of the House of Representatives. "The Lady from Montana" is a fine type of American womanhood. But what surprises the visitors in the galleries most is that she is "typical" rather than "different," Slender, young looking, simply but becomingly dressed, Miss Rankin sits at ease or moves about with a poise and grace that makes her presence seem as fitting on the floor of the House of Representatives as in the drawing room.
If you call on her at her office, you find the womanly touch there. The furniture is arranged conveniently. There are flowers on her desk. Miss Rankin has the social gift. Her expressive face reflects her changing thought She has had a wide range of experience, is humorous, resourceful and fascinating in conversation. Liberal minded, sympathetic trained in economics, her attitude on public questions represents the progressive and enlightened twentieth century spirit.
Want to read more? Check out the rest of Belle's editorial in "Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall," which you can pre-order now by sending an email to ebooks [at] progressive [dot] org.
Erik Lorenzsonn is an editorial intern at The Progressive.
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