Oreola Williams Haskell.

Banner bearers; tales of the suffrage campaigns online

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times you have used this as a dub to get the things you want.
But we women in industry ,lacking training and oi^ganization,
are weak. And the State by depriving us of the ballot
has made us weaker. We ask you to help put into our out-
stretched hands this political power that you have found
useful, both for defense and offense, we ask you to give us
the chance to have a voice in the laws that govern us, and
an influence over the public officials who administer them.'
And to make you understand why we ask you so earnestly,
let me tell you of our dire need."

And then Mrs. Beverly, listening with stmined attention,
heard described what seemed to her a veritable working wo-
man's inferno. She heard of little girls so young in years
that when an ex-President came to study the conditions
under which they worked, they fled in a panic, believing a
monster inspector was about to demolish them, their only
idea of a great man; she heard of windows on fire escapes
in flimsy buildings kept more tightly locked than all others
for fear oif thieves, thus threatening the safety of thousands
of the cheaply valued lives of women and girls; she heard of
fires that rushed with demoniac fury upon helpless workers
who perished in horrible panic because their ways of egress
were barred; she heard of strikes made by thousands of
puny workers whose starvation wages, long hotirs, fines,
and brutal treatment had driven them to desperation; she
heard of 10,000 convicts forced by the state to learn and
engage in the needle-work trades thus competing against
the helpless women in those trades; forcing them, as Jose-
phine said, **into idleness, a lower standard of living, or the
lowest step of all"; she heard of tenement house sweatshops,
a deadly menace to society, and a dub by which the wages
of women in the factories were forced lower; she heard of
overcrowding, disease, adulterated food» and immorality.


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Into one brief space of time Josephine Cassidy crowded the
personal experiences of her years of organizing, going up and
down the country and inquiring into all kinds of trades and
conditions, and she painted her pictures in vivid words that
made them stand out raw, livid, awesomely real.

And then, before Mrs. Beverly could cry out that surely
it was only necessary to tell of these wrongs to have them
remedied by wise and just lawmakers, Josephine told of the
attempts made to do that very thing, the abortive and pitiful
attempts of the weak and the disfranchised to pit themselves
against the strength of the business interests and the voter
who had the power of the direct constituent over the man in
oflSce, and who could drown the most touching appeals by the
significant whisper: "If you want to be re-elected listen to
me." There came, then, a long enimieration of the times
and occasions when the workingwomen had stood by the men
in their labor struggles, and at the end there was a burst of
fiery eloquence.

"We cannot wait for our vote as can the women who live
sheltered lives and walk placid paths. Our need is now, our
help must come quick. To raise all our women to the status
of voting citizens, to lift them out of the position of a dis-
franchised class which is always either legislated against or
ignored, is to put at once into their hands not only a tool but
also one of the most effective ones that can be used to bring
about better conditions. Since we have helped you many
times, with bur money, our strength and our work, to win
your labor fights, we ask you now to help us by voting for the
suffrage amendment and thus bring to women in thousands
of factories and sweatshops the Great Hope of democracy
and freedom."

Though her mind was stirred uncomfortably, Mrs. Beverly
haughtily refrained from joining in the spontaneous ajid


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enthusiastic applause that came at the end of Josephine
Cassidy's fiery and eloquent appeal. And she resented
having to stand aside and wait, while the men crowded
about the speaker and bombarded her with compliments,
arguments, greetings, suggestions, promises of help and
invitations to speak at other union meetings. Her sigh of
relief was quite audible when at length it was all over, and
the two women, escorted down the long flight of stairs by a
delegation of enthusiastic workmen, reached the car and after
many good-nights were whirled away toward the most
aristocratic section of the city.

"Home, Brackett," she said peremptorily. "And quickly.
It is late."

Josephine Cassidy, quietly consulting a modest timepiece,
smiled, and then relapsed into a silence that her hostess made
no attempt to end. "Home" was more imposing than pleas-
ing to Josephine when a few moments later she followed
"Madden, the Housekeeper" past a number of elegantly
decorated and brilliantly lighted rooms, through whose
silken-draped doors glimpses could be caught of rich-hued
paintings, chaste white statuary, hothouse flowers, and a
profusion of bric-a-brac, rugs and furniture. She was glad
that her own quarters were softly illumined and more
modestly equipped with necessities and luxuries.

"I hope you will be comfortable," said Madden. "Mrs.
Beverly thought that this room would do, but if you need
anything, why let us know, Miss." And she left with a
compassionate look at the guest's pale face.

For a while the newcomer rested, but then the need of
sending a brief report of her activities for the past few days
to headquarters roused her to search her suit-case for the
necessary writing materials and made her pen a hasty


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**This ought to go the first thing in the morning/' thought
Josephine. "Of course I can send someone but a breath of
fresh air would make me sleep better and there must be a
letter-box near."

So quietly, almcst stealthily, she slipped through the
halls and let herself out of the front door. The box was
easily found, the letter deposited, and, breathing deep
breaths of the night air, Josephine took a short constitutional
^around the block. Upon her return to the house, she was about
to ring the bell, when Madden suddenly opened the door.

"Oh my. Miss, you gave me quite a turn," she said. *T
was just going to see if the stars were out — ^we got a special
reason for wanting it clear to-morrow — and I thought you
were safe upstairs."

Josephine Cassidy explained the situation and saying good-
night started for her room.

The words were not loud but they made her pause at the
foot of the stairs.

"But Mrs. Barton, I think I have done my duty and more
— ^I am not accustomed to associating with the lower classes,
and to have one as guest in the house is rather upsetting.
I must ask you to have her removed to-morrow. I have
guests coming and I do not know how they would take the
enforced association with her. I am glad you stopped in to
see about this woman, although you look ready to drop
with exhaustion. It is so foolish of you to overexert yourself
in any cause. Women lose more than they gain when they lose
their bloom. We get more from men, don't you think, when
we go to them with sparkling eyes, rosy cheeks, looking fit?"

It was Mrs. Beverly's voice and it came from the library
where she evidently had a visitor. A deeper voice answered :

"We shall never get the vote by simply using our phy^cal
charms to affect men. There is good, hard work to be done.


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organizing, speaking, writing and distributing literature,
making demonstrations that will nfiake people think, getting
aD kinds of people to speak for suffrage to their own groups.
It is hard, grilling work. And I did hope, Mrs. Beverly, that
you were getting interested, and would really help. This is
the first thing you have done for the campaign."

"Well, you ask impossible things of me, Mrs. Barton.
I cannot help with the distribution of literature. I have
never stood in a public place and made myself conspicuous
by handing out things. I've told you nmny times, I know
my friends would not like it if I gave their names to have
things, sent them. As for taking part in a local parade,
no indeed — ^I must decline — one loses caste instantly trudg-
ing through the dust. I might sometimes act as a patroness
at a dance. I will think that over. But I can't understand
why you have to get up so many things. What does take
such a lot of money? Postage and printing, and hall rent,
and organizers, and speakers, and posters, and headquarters?
Oh, I suppose they all count up. I am afraid I can't do any
more just now, I am really quite busy, what with one thingand
another. And really, Mrs. Barton, when I look at you and see
how you have gone off siftce the campaign started, it makes me
shudder, and vow that I will steer clear of what isaffectingyou."

There was much weariness in the tired voice that asked.

"Are you really a suffragist, Mrs. Beverly? Sometimes I

"Why of course I am, Mrs. Barton. I hope that I am as
much up-to-date as anyone. I count myself as good a
suffragist as you, in my thoughts, but I'm not so foolish as to
let it darken my whole life."

For a moment or two, Josephine, frankly listening, lost
the words, for she suddenly remembered an extract from a
letter that she had recently received:


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"Mrs. Barton, the suifrage chainnan here, is killing herself.
She does the work of ten. She speaks and writes for the
cause, helps with the organizing, does executive work;
nothing is too big or too menial for her; she toils with a holy
zeal, with absolute self-abnegation, and with an enthusiasm
that never flags. She is a wonder, but sometimes I feel that
our victory will be won over the dead bodies of some of our
best. When I see her pallid face and heavy eyes, at times
there seems to fall across her the shadow of a cross, a cemetery
cross, and it makes my heart ache."

As she remembered, Josephine Cassidy's spirit leaped up
in her breast as fiery and courageous as when she was in the

When her mind came back to the dialogue in the library
Mrs. Beverly was sajdng:

"It might be just as well, Mrs. Barton, for you to tell her
yourself that this is only a temporary arrangement. She
can go to the Young Women's or to a lodging house or some-
where surely. Of course, you say that everything is packed
owing to the two conventions meeting here, but there must
be some place. In fact, what we could do is to exchange.
I will take the two women delegates you are entertaining
and you could take this person. You do not seem to mind
as I do. That is a good idea. I will send for her."

"There is no need to send," said Josephine Cassidy, quietly-
stepping into the room. "I shall be glad to meet yotir
hospitable wishes as quickly as possible."

Mrs. Beverly was a trifle taken aback.

"You heard," she said. "I thought you were in yotir
room. Well, perhaps it is a good thing."

"You must not mind, dear," said Mrs. Barton, and she
rose and put a gentle hand on her arm.

For a second, Josephine Cassidy contrasted the two wonaen,
the one rosy and rested, attired in a house dress that was the

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last word in elegance, complacently shallow, an obvious
member of the order of dollar princesses; the other thin and
worn, but with the beauty of the spirit irradiating her face
and making it infinitely lovely to the discerning eye.

**Yes, I am glad to understand," said Josephine Cassidy
tersely, answering Mrs. Beverly. "Because I may be able
to make you understand also."

She laid a compelling hand on Mrs. Beverly's silken arm,
and turned her toward the light, holding her at rigid atten-
tion, and looking her over with a merciless scrutiny.

"You are beautiful," she said. "You have everything —
even a brain. But you are stallfed, soft in mind, body, and
soul, stufifed to repletion with luxuries, dying slowly because
the canker of idleness and silliness is eating at your heart.
How dare you take a great cause for a fad, to dally with it
as you would with a poodle? How dare you enter the holy
order of those who, like this other woman, fight, and sacrifice
and agonize that freedom and justice may be given to women?
How dare you cast a shadow over the rocky path along
which the workingwomen of the world are stumbling toward
the goal of emancipation? Stallfed — a pampered, worthless
animal. It is such as you who make people jeer at the cause,
who rouse them to doubt, suspicion of motives, disbelief in
its gravity. I am one of the lower orders you despise, and
you despise me because you are stupid. Democracy lies
at the very bottom of suffrage for women. It is permeated
with a spirit of kindness, of charitableness, of an understand-
ing of all classes and kinds. It levels rank, ignores condi-
tions, places the soul above all material things. And you —
what do you know of such things? The vision is too big for
you. No one can be a suffragist who is not first a democrat.
And you, who will not work or sacrifice, stand aside and leave
the cause alone. You are not good enough to give out papers


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at a public meeting, nor to march with real htmians, nor to
do the most menial of toil. You are of the lowest order of
the spirit. Stallfed — ^fattening upon the spiritual garbage
of life. Bah, you are disgusting.'*

And with a gesture of infinite disdain, Josephine Cassidy
left the room, while behind her a woman white and shaken
with passion yet borne down by the force and tense sincerity
of her words stood in a stunned attention.

A little later, suit-case in hand, Josephine Cassidy left the
Beverly mansion and sought the street, where she found Mrs.
Barton in a modest car awaiting her.

"Come," said Mrs. Barton calmly. "I shall find some little
nook or comer for you in my house, but it will be an emer-
gency arrangement and I hope for your patient endurance."

Josephine, sensing the simple cordiality that lay beneath
the words, accepted the invitation without an expostulation.
Neither woman spoke of the scene they had just left, until
having arrived at the Barton house, they were about to part
for the night.

"I may have been severe," said Josephine suddenly,
"But I spoke the gospel truth — and it was time somebody
did it."

And the fact that Mrs. Barton was not too saintly to sup-
press a smile, and, in fact, was human enough to press her
hand in S3Tnpathetic understanding, made Josephine her de-
voted henchwoman during the two weeks she spent in the up-
state city, carrjring her suffrage message to thousands of her
working brothers.

That any good would come from her indignant arraign-
ment of Mrs. Beverly never entered her thoughts. And,
when two years later, a second suffrage campaign carried her
to the same city on a mission similar to the one she had had
before, she never expected to even hear the name of her


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inhospitable hostess mentioned. But on the very first night
that she struck town, she was lured to attend a talk at head-
quarters to new recruits. And she found there Mrs. Barton
looking down earnestly into some hundreds of eager faces.

"You will be asked to give out leaflets by the thousands,
standing sometimes in the rain, sometimes on dull street
comers, sometimes before the closed doors of meeting places.
You will be asked to pass the ba^ets at meetings, to take up
collections, to act as ushers, to fold leaflets until your fingers
ache, to spend hours stamping and addressing envelopes,
to carry posters about town and place them in shop windows,
to canvass from house to house, to give our voiceless speeches
Standing in store windows and turning the cards in silence.
You will be asked to do all the trivial, the menial, the un-
interesting things that in ttemselves seem so unimportant,
and yet when done on a large scale spell for us the word
Victory. Before you pledge yourselves to do these things,
I want to introduce to you one who has done and is doing
them all, constantly, devotedly, wholeheartedly, showing
daily that unselfishness that is going to make us win the fight. "

And while many hands applauded the woman who hesi-
tatingly came forward, Josephine,stunned with astonishment,
hung helplessly to the edge of a desk. For in the person
described by Mrs. Barton she beheld the tall and elegant
Mrs. Beverly. That the recognition was mutual she saw
by the expression on the latter's face which was at once
proudly averted. But though it remained averted as far
as Josephine was concerned for weeks during the suffrage
campaign, it was a pity. For if Mrs. Beverly had once looked
at the fiery speaker whom she feared, she would have seen
in her eyes a remorse and an admiration that would have
compensated her for much that an awakened spirit goaded
her to perform.


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MiRRA VoLSHEN sat down wearily on the top step of a
flight of tenement house stairs and leaned against the wall.
In the faint light cast by a gas jet, she could see indistinctly
the worn oil doth on the floor, the faded paper on the waUs,
and the cheaply painted woodwork. Through a door a slight
distance away, she could hear voices and the scraping of a
chair across the floor.

For three hotirs, Mirra had toiled up and down tenement
house stairs and interviewed the people whose languages
she spoke — ^Russian, Yiddish, Polish, German, French,
English, — ^her index card at headquarters reading, ''Speaks
six languages fairly well. Valuable for East Side work."

Mirra herself felt far from valuable at the present moment.
Did it pay, she thought wearily and a bit morosely, this
toiling up and down stairs, till one was a mass of aches;
headache, backache, footache and yes, sometimes heartache?
For how many, oh how many people knew nothing and cared
nothing about the Beloved Cause.

The first days of her suflErage calls rose in her mind. She
remembered her oft-repeated question, **Do you believe in
woman suffrage?'* and the answers she had received. The
face of a woman came before her, an old woman who had
asked in reply, "What's that lady? Is it green trading
stamps?" And a man's voice rang in her ears:

"I can't vote for Suffrage 'cause I've alius been a good
Democrat. Who's this feller Suffrage anyhow?"



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She remembered how after these experiences she had
substituted "votes for women" for the less comprehensible
"suffrage," only to meet misunderstanding again.

"Want votes for women, hey?" one man had cried. "Vot-
ing fur men's good enough fur me."

"Votes fur women," added another. "Is this here a
Journal contest, lady?"

And then, when it was all explained with simple and pains-
taking care, upon what slow and narrow minds her message
so often fell, upon spirits imresponsive to the higher chords
of life. Men and women alike, all had brought with them
to the free air of America the old world idea of woman as
the Breeder, the Household Drudge, the Chattel, the
Inferior, whose wants were the last in importance in the family
scale. Tired, patient faces, dulled from much physical pain
and toil, the women lifted to her and many smiled vaguely
at her enthusiasm or sadly shook their heads in a resigned
negation. 'Roughly or gently, the men showed their mascu-
line arrogance and the tmconscious selfishness that had been
bred in them by feminine submission.

Now and then, she struck a spark from some masculine or
feminine mind which had been broadened by study or intel-
lectual association with others arid freed from old prejudices
and beliefs. Now it was the labor union that was responsible
for this wider outlook, now the radical Socialist element of the
dty or the study dass of the settlement. To-night such
minds, which she sometimes found in great numbers in certain
quarters, were like oases in a desert. In the wave of dis-
couragement and fatigue that swept over her, she forgot
many encouraging things: the fact that she really made
converts; that many, invited to her weekly meetings, came,
out of curiosity at first then drawn by interest; that priests
and ministers and rabbis, leaders of their people, obdurate


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in the first campaign which had swept the dty, were now
relenting and turning a Kstening ear.

Every once in a while something happened that was
significant, as it had last week when she had taken many
suffrage posters around to the stores and asked permission
to hang them in the windows. And at hundreds of Second
Avenue shops,most of them small, down-at-the-heel establish-
ments, the proprietors had known at once what she meant,
had held out willing hands for her green and gold picture,
so that one could have trailed her for miles by following its
flaunted beauty in the windows.

She even forgot how slowly but surely, the suffrage news
had won its way into the foreign papers so that the pdans of
the Party and the deeds and speeches of its leaders were
discussed familiarly among the men and women who read
them day by day. She forgot, too, that the name of her
"Boss," Mary Genston Hale, had become a household word
in many a family to whom American names were for the most
part alien and unfamiliar.

"A long, hard fight," said Mirra to herself, "and when will
it end, and is it worth the body weariness and the mind
fatigue — ^the sneer — the laugh?"

She shivered a little, for doubt was horrible, like a dagger
thrust through her passion for the Cause.

At that moment, the outer door opened and a man came
in with a cheerful stamping of his feet. In a swift glance,
Mirra saw that he was of her race, yotmg, well dressed and
healthy looking, with an air of prosperity. At his entrance
her surroundings seemed more dingy and faded than ever.

As the newcomer started to come up the stairs, Mirra rose,
that he might conveniently pass her. He looked at her
carelessly, then noting her blooming cheeks and liquid dark
eyes, interest dawned in his face.


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"I am looking for Isaacs. I think it is the third floor/' he
said courteously.

*'I do not know," returned Mirra helplessly. "I am a
stranger here."

"Then you are looking for someone also. It is hard to see
the names over the bells in the vestibule without a lig^t.
Unfortunately I have no matches with me so I suppose we
must xnake some inquiries to get on the right track. I will
ring here and find out about Isaacs. If you will tell me the
name you want, I will ask for that also."

"Thank you," said Mirra, "but I want no special name.
I am calling on everybody."

"Pardon me. But even if you have something to sell, it
helps to have some names. Shall I get some for you?"

"No," returned Mirra, smiling a littleat his persistence.
"What I have is not for sale. I give it. It is an idea. I
don't ask money for it, only interest and help in moulding
public opinon. When you knock here I will go in and talk
to these people."

The young man rapped sharply on the shabby door before
him, and both waited silently for a moment. Then he said

"Can I call you comrade with truth?"

"No, I am not a Socialist," returned Mirra. "I am a
feminist in the best sense of the word, and I come on a
suffrage errand."

"Votes for wcmxen," he said with high good humor. "I
would not have thought it. But then I have never met any
advocates. Nor heard what they have to say. Why, if you
don't naind, I hope you will go to the Isaacs family first and
give me a chance to listen to yx>ur talk. Mr. Isaacs is a
customer of my father's. If I approve of your idea, I might
use some of the persuasion that makes him buy our goods


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to get him to favor you. What do you say? Will you do

For a second Mirra hesitated, a little taken aback, then the
youth in her eyes answered the youth in his, and she latighed
9 little, saying, "All right," just as a stout Jewish woman
threw open the door and peered out at them. '

The Isaacses, it seemed, lived on the third floor rear. As
she followed her new acquaintance up the long stairs, the
flash of interest he had awakened died out, and her former
weariness came over her like a wave of sickness. It would
be better for her to go home and rest, than to try to talk to
people in her present frame of mind. She paused for a
moment on the stairs, undecided to go on or to go back.
But after all, she had made a promise, light though it was,

Online LibraryOreola Williams HaskellBanner bearers; tales of the suffrage campaigns → online text (page 9 of 26)