I shall put the case somewhat from the standpoint of the militant suffragettes themselves, trying to give some idea of the philosophy and ethical principles underlying the militant propaganda and, above all, with the hope of making clear to American readers some of the radical differences between English and American conditions.
The militants hold that they are at war with the British government, basing their right to rebel on the axioms that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and that resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.
As our colonial ancestors felt that a decent regard for the opinions of mankind should impel those in a state of rebellion to declare their reasons, so the suffragettes have repeatedly endeavored to set before the world the grievances for which they are suffering.
The grounds for revolt may be classified, roughly, as follows: The miserable status of English women; the impossibility of obtaining attention for, much less redress of, their grievances by constitutional methods; the historic precedents established by the use of force by the British people whenever the progress of freedom has been blocked by the British government; the insincerity and brutality shown by the present Liberal government in dealing with the women's agitation as compared with the leniency shown to male political offenders both past and present; the determination of the newspapers to stifle the movement by persistently excluding suffrage news and propaganda from their columns.
In the United States, though the great majority of women are still disfranchised and many of the unjust laws inherited from England continue to disfigure our statute books, the suffragists are absolutely peaceful. We owe this, not to American women, but to American men. In every country it is the men who should be held chiefly responsible for the tone and conduct of the suffrage movement, as the government is in their hands, authority and power are theirs, and they are able to make the task of the feminist comparatively easy and pleasant.
In England the militant movement is like a slave insurrection; it presents characteristics of the uprising of a servile class; the bitterness of those who have been treated unjustly, the determination of the down-trodden to rise and at all hazards to themselves to conquer respect and consideration for their sex; and the arming of the one part of the community — women — against the other part. If the word "slave," applied to contemporary English women seems an exaggeration, let me say that our colonial ancestors considered taxation without representation tyranny.
That the negro mother had no control of her child seemed to Abolitionists a potent argument for emancipation. Today the English woman, if married, is not the legal parent of her child. The father is the parent and has the right to prescribe the child's education, religious training and medical attendance; he may take it away from the mother and may by will appoint a guardian without her consent. The position of a married woman is in many ways wretched: though her husband is supposed to support her, there is no legal machinery by which a woman can enforce this law... a man may disinherit his wife and leave her penniless with destitute children whom the law compels her to support.
The divorce laws are unequal, practically encouraging immorality on the part of the husband, as it is not a ground for securing a divorce from him unless coupled with cruelty or desertion.
At the request of the American Academy of Political and Social Science she made a survey of the English Suffrage movement. She was Founder and President of the Pennsylvania Limited Suffrage Society and was active with the National Woman’s Party. At its Draftee Parade on September 4, 1917, she was arrested at the age of 44 and sentenced to 60 days at the Occoquan Workhouse. On August 6, 1918, she was again arrested at the Lafayette statue in D.C. At the trial on August, 15, 1918, for “holding a meeting on public grounds” the arrestees refused to participate in their trial.