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Extract from Scotland: Her Story by Rosemary Goring

  08 Mar '24   |  Posted by: Birlinn

Scotland’s history has been told many times, but never exclusively by its women. This book takes a unique perspective on dramatic national events as well as ordinary life, as experienced by women down the centuries. From the saintly but severe medieval Queen Margaret to today’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon, it encompasses women from all stations of class and fame and notoriety, offering a tantalising view of what happened to them, and how they felt.

This extract shows real correspondence published in the Greenock Telegraph in December 1909 – commentary on the ongoing fight for women’s’ right to vote in the UK (page 199-200).


VOTES FOR WOMEN – DANGEROUS

Greenock Telegraph, December 1909

There were only around 100 militant suffragettes in the country by 1909, but thousands took a more peaceful route, such as writing to the newspapers. This correspondence highlights what women were up against when they encountered males with an antediluvian outlook.

Gourock, 17th Dec.

Sir, The president of the ‘Men’s League for opposing Women’s Suffrage’ overlooks the primary motive in the pro-suffrage movement, viz., that these women who pay taxes and have the same qualifications as men voters ought to have a Parliamentary vote. All other statements as to ‘women’s opinions being represented under the present system’ and ‘that their interests are regarded’ and ‘the majority of women do not wish to vote’ are beside the point. How this granting of votes to tax paying women would lead to universal suffrage for adults I leave to Lord Cromer to explain. It has not yet led to universal suffrage in the case of men.

I am, yours faithfully,

Jus Suffragii

Greenock, 20th Dec.

Sir, – ‘Jus Suffragii’ has gone far off the track. She – for clearly that writer is not only a woman but also one of those book-taught, swellheaded women with a smattering of Latin and other worthless learning they mistake for education – treats us to all that tiresome nonsense about people who pay taxes being of right entitled to a Parliamentary vote. No sane person who knows anything of the subject could make a statement of the kind. The basis of franchise in manhood is householding – not mere payment of taxes – so that the argument is hollow as a blown egg! (Obviously no woman can ever possess manhood!) Surely that ends the matter.

Women already have the local vote, and they do not appreciate the privilege, nor is it to any extent worth speaking of. Nevertheless, they have thus a voice in the management of the parish pump, and that is enough for them. I am not an old man, but in my time I have met many scores of sensible, intelligent women, though never yet have I met one who was fit for the Parliamentary franchise. They say there is only one [such] woman in the country, and that is Mrs. Bernard Shaw. I take leave to doubt even her fitness. When a markedly virile nation such as Germany gives its women the vote it will be time enough for us to think about it. Meanwhile such a step would not be safe!

I am, yours faithfully,

Z


Rosemary Goring graduated with a history degree from the University of St Andrews. Since then she has worked in publishing and newspapers, and is currently a columnist and reviewer with The Herald. She is also the author of two historical novels, After Flodden and Dacre’s War, and the editor of the bestselling Scotland: The Autobiography, which was published to great acclaim in 2007. Her most recent book is Homecoming: The Scottish Years of Mary, Queen of Scots.

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