Saturday 10 November 2012

Lord Curzon's 15 Good Reasons Against the Grant of Female Suffrage

I regard women as superior and I don’t like to see them trying to become men’s equal.
Violet Markham, speaking in October 1910.

I am satisfied with my present position, and of my almost unlimited power of usefulness, that I have no need of a vote, and should not use it if I had it. 
Edith Milner, writing in The Times, 29 October 1906.

I frown hearing the suffragettes invoked by feminists who complain that there are not enough women in political life, as if as many women want to have political, or any, careers as men.

People increasingly talk about the Suffragettes as if they were admirable when they were nothing of the sort. Their extra-legal activity set back the cause of giving the vote to women by years. Women were eventually given the vote by the Conservatives as a reward for their contribution to the war effort in the Great War.

Giving the vote to women led to a great accession of strength for the right, as the liberals in Europe always knew it would. Had women not had the vote Labour would have won every British election from 1945 to 1979 inclusive. I do not have more recent figures. From a conservative point of view, giving women the vote, in the language of Sellars and Yeatman, was a Good Thing.

Most British women did not want the vote until they were given it, including plenty of feminists. 'Lord Curzon's 15 Good Reasons Against the Grant of Female Suffrage' are here and here. I wish I could find online his speeches to the Women's Anti-Suffrage League of which Mrs. Humphrey Ward, the novelist, was the president. I know he said this when he addressed the League:

What is the good of talking about the equality of the sexes?   The first whiz of the bullet, the first boom of the cannon and where is the equality of the sexes then?

It was a more innocent era and one for which one sometimes pines, now that the House of Commons has family-friendly hours that allow the Government to pass what bills it pleases. 

As for women bishops...


  1. "has family-friendly hours that allow the Government to pass what bills it pleases" - isn't that what the government is for?

    1. << "has family-friendly hours that allow the Government to pass what bills it pleases" - isn't that what the government is for? >>

      No, it's precisely not what the government is for.

      The mistaken view that being an MP is a job has created an enormous mess in the statute book.

      Once you view MPs as salaried employees, then you look for signs of "productivity" and that always entails more laws, not fewer. This prejudice towards more laws have done enormous damage since WW2.

  2. Possibly, but it's not what the House of Commons is for.

  3. Some of these points could be used against ladies having the vote in local council elections - which female taxpayers had had since the 1830s, I think Lord Curzon would have (upon reflection) have withdrawn his remarks about females not having intelligence or judgement fit for the vote. However some of the reasons are specifically connected to Parliamentary elections - for example that women can not be police officers or soldiers and the national government is (essentially) about the "Sword of State" (as it was once called - and still should be called). I think Lord Curzon would have been profoundly shocked by how his latter points have been answered, but it was a natural reply. If one says that females are unfit for the vote because they can not be police officers or soldiers - then they will become police officers and soldiers. One has to be rather careful about what sort of argument one uses. Personally I am unconvinced by the evidence for "Shield Maidens" in the past - but perhaps I had better stop here.

    1. Shield maidens? couisins of Der Valkure or wot?

      Charles F.