This work is split into three parts: the preface and introduction are a separate piece of writing, most likely written after the Women’s Centennial Congress and meant for possible publication. The third part is the speech itself from 1940.
Woman’s Centennial Congress
The Woman’s Centennial Congress has just been held in New York, November 25, 26, 27, 1940. It was held to memorialize the end of the Woman’s Century, 1840-1940.
One hundred years ago, eight disappointed women, refused seats in the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention at London because they were women and their presence held an insult to the Almighty if found sitting in a convention with men, determined that why they should return to the United States they would do something about it. They agreed that women working alone could not remove the discriminations which custom and law united to enforce upon them, but that collectively they might be able to do so. The first idea of organization as a means of improving their condition appeared then and there. So it happened that these women, led by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, called the first women’s convention in the world and held it at Seneca Falls, New York, June 19 and 20, 1848. They wrote and presented to that convention a Declaration of Sentiments which was adopted and became the platform of the more advanced women’s organizations in the United States and all other nations in the world.
The eighteen grievances composing the Declaration, much abridged, are as follows:
ABRIDGED DECLARATION OF SENTIMENTS ADOPTED AT THE FIRST WOMEN’S CONVENTION IN THE WORLD HELD AT SENECA FALLS, NEW YORK, JULY 19 AND 20, 1848.
The Married Woman 1. Cannot make a will. 2. Can inherit property by record but cannot control it. 3. Cannot collect or use the emoluments of her own property. (Any property she may have owned as a single woman, including wedding presents and other personal items, such as hair pins, engagement and wedding rings, passed to her husband with the marriage ceremony.) 4. Cannot collect nor use her own wages. (If she were capable of producing saleable writings, the royalties belonged to her husband.) 5. Cannot make a contract. 6. Cannot testify in court. 7. Cannot service as guardian of her children. (Her husband can will away his children, even an unborn child.) 8. Cannot disobey her husband. 9. Can be punished by her husband by imprisonment in his house or by whipping. (The ducking stool was passing, but the laws permitting its use had not all been repealed.) 10. Was regarded as the property of the husband by the English Common Law and that interpretation was adopted by the United States. (As one man put it and many men believed, “Husband and wife are one and that one is me.”) The Unmarried Woman 11. Was denied entrance into the three chief professions, medicine, law and theology. 12. Was denied admission into high schools and colleges. 13. Was denied admission to all well-paid occupations. 14. Was controlled by the law and the custom which destroyed confidence in her own powers, lessened her self-respect and made her willing to lead a dependent life. All Women 15. Were denied a voice in affairs of most of the churches. 16. Were denied a voice in affairs of the State. 17. Were denied the right to hold public office. 18. In fact, the law and the custom of the land, established by men, had “usurped the prerogative of Jehovah himself” and had assigned all women of the nation to a sphere of action and a destiny in the choice of which they were allowed no voice or liberty.
With no experience, no example to follow, no pattern for organization, no outline of an officer’s duty, the women set to work, determined to remove these eighteen grievances. There were truly great women in many states who pushed, pulled and drove forward until the laws were more or less corrected.
3 states granted property rights in the Fifties or before;
10 states in the Sixties;
16 “ “ “ Seventies;
Territories come later.
The most difficult law to change was the right of a married woman to collect and use her own wages.
3 states granted it in the Fifties;
5 “ “ “ “ “ Sixties;
15 “ “ “ “ “ Seventies;
12 “ “ “ “ “ Eighties;
and the rest in the Nineties.
The Negro question plunged the nation into a Civil War and emerged as the chief point in reconstruction, closing with the Fifteenth Amendment. After several years of bitter contest and the easing of many laws which had enthralled women, the entire Woman Movement turned its attention to the franchise with a realization that the vote could right all wrongs yet remaining.
In 1878, Senator Sargent of California introduced the Woman Suffrage Amendment. On June 4, 1919, forty-one years later, Congress submitted the amendment in the form as first written, and it was proclaimed as ratified on August 26, 1920. Never in the world’s history had so much human progress for a class of citizens been crowded into a century.
The word “male” had not been in the Constitution until it was put there by the 15th Amendment which enfranchised the Negro, March 30, 1870. “To get the word male in effect out of the constitution cost the women of the country fifty-two years of ceaseless campaign thereafter. During that time they were forced to conduct fifty-six campaigns of referenda to male voters; 48- campaigns to persuade Legislatures to submit suffrage amendments to voters; 47 campaigns to persuade State Constitutional Conventions to write woman suffrage into State Constitutions; 277 campaigns to persuade State party conventions to include woman suffrage planks; 30 campaigns to persuade presidential party conventions to adopt woman suffrage planks in party platforms, and 19 campaigns with 19 successive Congresses. Millions of dollars were raised, mainly in small sums, and expended with economic care. Hundreds of women gave the accumulated possibilities of an entire lifetime, thousands gave years of their lives, hundreds of thousands gave constant interest and such aid as they could. It was a continuous, seemingly endless, chain of activity. Young suffragists who helped forge the last links of that chain were not born when it began. Old suffragists who forged the first links were dead when it ended.
The Presidential Suffrage vote was first passed by Illinois in 1913, but its possibility had long been known. Twenty years before, a Standing Committee on this subject gave its report (Mr. H. B. Blackwell, Chairman) in 1893 and was heard each year thereafter, but women were more interested in a vote for Legislatures and Congress which had the power to change the laws and, therefore, gave little enthusiasm to the presidential vote. Yet, Illinois astounded the nation with the adoption of this form of suffrage and many other states quickly followed her example. Doubtless, without this help, there would have been a considerable further delay in the passage of the Federal Amendment. By the year 1919, fifteen states had adopted amendments to their constitutions, granting women the vote. Thirteen other states had granted the presidential vote to women by legislative enactment and two Southern states had granted primary suffrage, carrying the same effect. Thus women could vote for two-thirds of the electors in the coming presidential election of 1920 and Congress therefore submitted the Federal Amendment.
The Woman’s Centennial Congress was called in 1940 by the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the lineal descendent of the women who had first conceived of organization of women as the method for the correction of women’s wrongs. Its work was now done or unfinished tasks assigned to younger organizations. Many of these ably assisted the plans for the Congress. Its aim was to review the achievements of the Woman’s Century, to discuss the status of women in 1940, and to suggest aims for women’s organizations in the next century.
Miss Josephine Schain served ably as Administration Chairman. She had had much experience in suffrage, settlement, peace and other reform movements. An excellent speaker, a rare executive, and a trained parliamentarian, she successfully directed the Congress.
When the Congress was proposed, women of many nations had gained liberties and privileges undreamed of a quarter of a century before. When the Congress was held, however, a cruel war was raging, many liberties had been lost and others threatened, and the time was difficult.
Miss Henrietta Roelofs, trained by many years in varied branches of the Young Women’s Christian Association, took charge of the program. She was familiar with work of women in education, religion, physical training, labor, philanthropy and organization, and thus was well equipped with knowledge and understanding of broad fields of women’s work. Five Program Commissions were appointed, composed of members representing many organizations. A considerable number of pamphlets found herein resulted from the studies of these Commissions describing the progress made during the last century and the present status of women.
The Findings of the Congress will also be found herein.
If any woman reads these lines at the close of the century ending 2040, we beg her to entreat women in that day to call the Second Women’s Centennial Congress, to review therein what women have achieved in the last century, 1940-2040, and what aims they hope women may espouse for the next century, 2040-2140. What will women do about War in the century to come? What will men do?
Carrie Chapman Catt
National American Woman Suffrage Association
REASONS FOR CALLING THE WOMEN’S CENTENNIAL CONGRESS
Probably no important social trend moving in the direction of progress has had a definite time, place and cause of beginning. Ideas moving forward do not suddenly spring into existence; they grow by slow degrees and gradually become a movement.
Many writers with much evidence to support their claims contend that in the earliest days of the human race, women occupied a status of equality with men. Later, when written history dawned, the position assigned to women among peoples most rapidly advancing was one of enormous although scantily recognized economic importance to home and nation, yet civil and social rights were much restricted. Century followed century; civil law, church dogma, traditional custom, combined to rigidly enforce the belief that males possessed the inalienable right to govern home, church and state, and that females owed to men the duty to obey, to submit, to be silent, and to ask humbly when and if they desired aught.
It was inevitable that women would one day rebel and struggle to regain their former more rational status. The first definite movement in that direction apparently arose in Greece and lasted for more than two centuries. The revolt sprung up again in Rome and although it still made the quest of learning its chief aim, it took on a bolder and more political character.
Twice, before the coming of Christ, women, in protest against the injustices to their sex, gathered in great numbers within the Forum and blocked all its approaches, much to the consternation of the consuls. In both cases, they won their cause and in the later incident, called forth a famed oration of reproval from Cato, the Elder.
Christianity came into the world and overspread Europe. It accepted the preceding opinion about women and contributed the interesting additional view that their subjection was by order of God’s will and since Eve had brought sin into the world, women must continue to do penance.
Despite this new and thunderously voiced opposition, the woman movement arose again as a part of the Italian Renaissance in the 13th and 14th centuries. That the land of Mussolini should have given birth to the modern woman movement may sound odd, but facts support the claim. The movement never disappeared after this date. The Renaissance departed but the woman movement kept steadily on. During darks periods of war and religious intolerance, the woman movement was often forced to “dig itself in, but it never failed to peep out and to give a short at its enemies whenever the political weather permitted.
The Renaissance and the woman movement flourished in Italy, Southern France, Spain, and Portugal. Developments were similar in all these countries. As learning was the main plea of the woman movement and was also the chief spirit of the Renaissance, the doors of education seemed to have swung open without much ado. There were women students in classrooms and women professors in the faculties of universities in Italy, France, and Spain. In all of these countries there were women scholars and notable authors and poets. Many queens were distinguished for their intellectuality and many women were pronounced prodigies of learning. There were women doctors in all these countries. Modern science is scornful of European medicine at this dare, but, at least, it may be said that women lost no more patients than did men. Women lawyers also appeared and from Italy came the real or fancied Portia.
Throughout the Latin countries an increased number of convents with attached schools for girls were founded and a widespread belief that if girls might not learn everything, they should learn something, became a permanent result of that woman movement.
In time, Church power became actively hostile to the woman movement. As early as 1377, the faculty of the University of Bologna, where women had taught and studied, led the way with the following decree: “And, whereas, woman is the foundation of sin, the weapon of the devil, the cause of man’s banishment from Paradise, and whereas, for these reasons all association with her is to be diligently avoided, Therefore do we interdict and expressly forbid that anyone presume to introduce in the said college any woman whatsoever, however honorable she may be and if any one should perpetrate such an act, he shall be severely punished.” Eventually, all the universities closed their doors to women. Yet, on the great door of the University of Bologna is still inscribed the epitaph of Clotilde Tembroni, the first renouned Greek scholar and professor in that University in Italy and on the great stairway at Padua stands the statue of Elena Cornaro, professor of six languages in that University.
Martin Luther (1483-1546) and the Reformation differed from the Catholic leaders in many things, but they held common views about a personal devil and both agreed that women were on much more intimate terms with him than were men.
Thus the theory that men were divinely appointed to rule and women to obey had been accentuated by both Catholic and Protestant churches. These churches largely controlled European governments and governments made and enforced law; therefore, the woman movement was driven to struggle against a seemingly impregnable barrier.
The Renaissance was ablaze in all Western Europe when Columbus discovered the American continent with the aid of the jewels of a Renaissance Queen, Isabella of Castile. The woman movement had passed away from the South, but, in the North, it became a permanent conflict in Great Britain and France and was actively in evidence when the American Revolution took place.
Many books about women appeared in the Middle Ages by no means all in opposition. In 1509, Cornelius Aggrippa defended the Excellence of Women. In England, Anthony Gibson, in 1859, wrote a book with the title “A Woman’s Worth defended against all the Men in the World, proving to be more perfect, Excellent and absolute in all Virtuous Actions than any man of What Quality soever” Women, too, put their opinion into books, but most important of them all was Mary Wollstonecraft’s “Vindication of the Rights of Women” written in 1792. It was based upon the highest morality and most unanswerable logic. It would now be called conservative, yet author and book were condemned and vilified. Henry Walpole, noted writer, saw no violation of decency in pronouncing her a “she-hyena.”
The American and French Revolutions had aroused much discussion over the Rights of Man with incidental claims for the Rights of Woman and Mary Wollstonecraft, apparently, was inspired by this controversy. The book was republished, again and again, in England and America; it was translated into many languages and became the acknowledged primer of the Woman Movement. Many Wollstonecraft, herself, died at the age of thirty-six and during her brief life was cruelly persecuted. By 1940, the privilege she had hoped for women had become established facts in the chief countries of the world. The vilifications heaped upon her while she lived present an illustration of how public opinion usually moves. When Miss Wollstonecraft’s book came to America, the epithet “she-hyena,” came with it and was plentifully applied whenever discussions over women’s rights arose. There were no hyenas in America; few persons had seen one and the public did not know what it implied. At first, women and their families suffered under these meaningless attacks but, in time, the woman reformer who had not been called a “she-hyena” felt that she was being regarded as an inferior worker for her cause.
The last fling of this appellation came in a Kansas newspaper in 1894, just one hundred and two years after its first appearance. A campaign was in progress and Anna Howard Shaw, the great orator the woman movement ever had, was the woman attacked. It is an interesting indication of the length of time required to change the public mind. There is more curious philosophy in this study than a casual reader may discover.
From 1798 to 1840, books and pamphlets, published on behalf of the woman’s cause, continued and several large books in opposition appeared in our own country. All were founded upon Genesis, but their contents were not confined to the story in the Bible, but were much enlarged and their source unquoted. Eve, it was recorded, at of the forbidden fruit and then coaxed, teased, and applied a big stick to Adam with such vigor that he was reduced to a state of such subservience that he weakly yielded and tasted the fruit. Before that date, we are informed in more than one of these books, the snake had walked on legs and talked like a man. Now, as part of the penalty imposed by Eve’s sin, he lost his legs and his power of speech and ever ever he crawled upon his belly. Also, it was stated that Adam and Eve were the only human upon the earth, yet the interpretations declare that before the sin of Eve, all men were free from sickness and pain, had no temptations to lie, murder, steal, and cheat; food was plentiful whenever wanted and no labor was necessary. All these pleasant liberties were taken away from man through Eve’s sole responsibility. Her only especial punishment was painful childbirth.
It is to be remembered that the modern Woman Movement, with plans for organization began in 1840. In 1847, a young Scotch physician, James Simpson, who afterwards became famous, introduced the use of anaesthetic in obstetrical cases and immediately met with a storm of protest. This hostility flowed from an ancient but true tale; a Scotch lady of rank, being charged with the aid of a midwife for the relief of pain at the time of the birth of her two sons, had actually been burned alive on Castle Hill, Edinburgh, in 1591, and this old tradition had persisted even to the middle of the nineteenth century. From pulpit to pulpit Stimson’s use of chloroform was denounced as impious because its use “was to avoid one part of the primeval curse upon women.” Doctor Simpson, himself, said that no case was ever won by so absurd a weapon as he used. “Nevertheless” he said, “My opponents forget the twenty-first verse of the second chapter of Genesis: it is a record of the first surgical operation ever performed and that text proves that the Maker of the Universe, before he took a rib from Adam’s side for the creation of Eve, cause a deep sleep to fall upon Adam.” This was a stunning blow, but the opposition came forward with an answer which seemed efficient. “The Sleep of Adam” they said, “took place before the introduction of pain into the world – when it was still in a state of innocence and before Eve had performed her sin.” This story of Genesis and its false interpretations seems to have been, during this early period, the chief controlling motive of public opinion. The clergymen, with few exceptions believed it implicitly, applied it strenuously and, in consequence, organized many a plan of opposition.”
Meanwhile, however, private schools for the education of girls had grown in number in England and America and girls and their mothers were growing wiser. In 1840, the Friends, who had led boldly and courageously a movement of uplift for women, now turned with vigor against slavery. Organizations were formed and women were members, and these Quaker ladies induced many others to join them in membership. In the year 1840, interested men in Great Britain, called the first World Anti-Slavery Convention to meet in London. They issued an earnest appeal to “all friends of the slaves” the world around to send delegates to this convention. Several of the groups in America sent delegates and eight women were so elected. They were not all Friends. The most outstanding was probably Lucretia Mott, a Friend, and the second was Mrs. Wendell Phillips, who was not a Friend. When they arrived in London, they found the great City agog over the surprising information that women had come with the intention of sitting in the convention as delegates. No more exciting debate ever took place in the history of the world than that which followed immediately upon the opening of the convention. Eloquent words were spoken in defense of the woman, but those representing the opposition were wild and hysterical. The women were refused their seats in the convention, but were given places in the balcony behind the curtain where they might listen to what was being said. One woman, not a delegate, had come on her wedding trip and she sat with the women in the balcony. Her name was Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The nine women did much talking among themselves and decided that when they returned to America, they would hold a convention of their own and discuss the proper status for women in the world. No proposal, apparently, was ever made before this moment for the organization of women to work together for their own salvation. The convention was not called until 1848. It issued a platform at that time which became the guide thereafter for all the women in the world seeking to raise their sex from its humiliating status. Owing to Genesis and its interpretation, the Church and the clergymen were nearly everywhere in opposition and as this was an organized group with a voice and a platform, no opponents could have been more powerful.
The woman movement had come to the New World with the Colonists. Scarcely had they erected their log cabins and planted their gardens, before the Colonists were lined up on opposing sides for the first battle known as – “Schools for Shes.” The taxpayers were nearly a unit against it. The girls won, but the last surrender was two hundred years later. Meanwhile, an overlapping battle of words began which lasted for one hundred years, the theme being: “Shall girls study geography?” Another and more terrible battle followed sharp on the surrender of the opposition in the geography war, - “Shall girls be permitted to study that indelicate, indecent, immoral thing called physiology?” The conflict so violently shook the foundation of the Republic that the Fathers fairly suffered with mal de mer. In the midst of it, Boston yielded to the demand of the higher education for girls and in 1826, opened, amid a veritable storm of disapproval, the first high school for girls in the United States, - probably in the world. Boston had led the movement for educational opportunity and from 1789 to 1842, girls were allowed to attend the public schools during summer months when boys vacated seats to work on the farms. The timid Boston School Board, however, yielded after eighteen months and closed the high school for girls, (1828), not because it had been a failure, but rather because it had been too great a success. No other high school was opened for girls until 1952. The opposition firmly contended that girls were incapable of learning, but were afraid to put their theory to the test.
The convention at Seneca Falls, New York, held in June 1848, was an important landmark and a triumph toward which the trend of human society had been definitely moving for three thousand years. The timid, yet bold women rebels, meeting there, presented a “Declaration of Sentiments” containing eighteen grievances against society and demanded that these discriminations be removed. These may be found in the Preface.
The century which lies between 1840 and 1940, we call the Woman’s Century. At no time in history has so much liberty and opportunity been achieved or so many wrongs been removed for any class. Therefore, we called the Woman’s Centennial Congress to mark the close of the century.
When the century began, no girl in the world had graduated from a college. Probably no high school was open to girls in any land. All that a woman owned, as a single woman, passed, at marriage, to the complete possession and control of her husband. Seven occupations only were opened to women and even the pitiful wages thus earned could not be collected or used by a wife. Many provisions of the Common Law, which gave husbands the privilege of punishing their wives for disobedience or displeasure, had not been repealed. Married women were denied guardianship over their children and had no legal claim over an unborn child. There were few women’s organizations and those few had no resolute aims. No woman had presided over a public meeting and a woman, speaking to an audience containing men, was disapproved and such occasions were rare in consequence.
The account of the changes made in the Woman’s Century, how and when, may be found in the six volumes of “The History of Woman Suffrage,” in the chief libraries of the nation. Details of the suffrage campaign may be found in “Woman Suffrage and Politics” and in “Victory – How Women Won It,” a book published by the National American Woman Suffrage Association as a part of the commemoration of the close of the Woman’s Century.
The struggle for the Rights of Women was as hard fought in England as in the United States. In 1902, the attempt to form an International Woman’s Rights group was made at a convention in Washington, D.C. The International Woman Suffrage Alliance, so begun, went bravely forward with the result that groups from thirty-four nations had become auxiliaries. Women had won the vote in the United States, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Checho-Slovakia, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and partial suffrage in Spain, Portugal, Rumania, Belgium, India, China, Burma, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico.
At this date, in early 1941, a cruel anti-democratic war is being wage on three continents. One by one, the small nations have fallen before the so-called Axis-powers. At present, all things democratic, such as the vote, free speech, free press, and individual liberty are suppressed. Neither the Rights of Woman nor the Rights of Man movement has come to an end. The future lies before us.
WOMAN’S CENTENNIAL CONGRESS
November 25, 1940
Carrie Chapman Catt
MADAM CHAIRMAN: WOMEN OF THE WORLD:
I have no mandate to speak for American women and I make no pretense to do so.
I speak only as an American woman living in a safe spot and looking outward on a crushed and toppling world. Yet I feel that I have a constituency and that it gives me authority to speak. It is composed of many women of many lands with whom I labored for half a century. They were the leaders of the woman movement on six continents. Some of them are exiled now, and some have gone on before. They were a gallant, courageous, intelligent, outstanding group. In the background, too, I hear other voices of great marvelous women whom I never saw. They began the movement and led it during its earlier generations. This multitude of women, were they here, would not only permit me to speak for them, but implore me to do so. Three things they would have me say.
1. Make a resolve that you will so live your life that you will leave this earth a better world than when you found it. To carry out this resolve, turn aside from the frivolities of life and its alluring attractions. Fix your attention upon one big problem. Select a power that is blocking human progress.
It is said
“The man who thinks is a wise man
He who cannot think is a fool
He that will not think is a bigot
He that dare not is a slave.”
The population of every land are about equally divided among these four classes. Do not be a fool, or a bigot, or a slave, nor do the things these classes do. Be a thinker if you can,
for they alone for only those who think have power to help humanity upward.
2. When you were young and inexperienced, it would have been an easier task to find the problem to which you could devote your life with satisfaction had those who had lived before listed and defined the problems which are obstacles to human progress. Therefore, do not be content with pushing forward one small cause, but join with others in a hundred years’ plan for the big problems. No large question has been solved in less than one hundred years and some damaging customs of the human race supported by fools, bigots and slaves, have required thousands of years for their removal. All down the ages, men and women have drifted, floated, hoping to escape the hard knocks which were regarded as decrees of Providence. Every reform accomplished resulted from an emotional outburst. Nothing was planned, reasoned and directed. These blessed women of 1848 did better. They put their wishful thinking behind them and made a blueprint, a plan, and a resolution. Even so, it has taken three generations, one hundred years, to complete the task and it still contains some flaws here and there. What has been done, can be done again. The Woman’s Century and the Woman’s Program is an example for all time. Each planned campaign which ends in victory will make the next one easier. Do not waste time and strength in plowing a field where you cannot see the end of the furrow. Make your plans, your blueprints, and your resolves, so logical and complete that no mental bomb throwing can knock a hole in them.
3. We could not do better than to make the aim of the next one hundred years plan the abolition of war. The present war is pivotal. It may make or break civilization for a thousand years to come. Imagine that Germany and her allies win this war, what then? A new world order is announced. A new League of Nations, they are now beginning to call it. But from no quarter has come a single hint that it will support any step of genuine progress. Totalitarianism has gone steadily backward and downward
in the scale of progress. It has dropped, one by one, so many acquisitions of human rights and human freedom that few are leftevery essential human right and freedom. Its policies now are about on the plane of those of 1498.
Suppose England should win, what then? It would be a stalemate and any peace made by either side would be impermanent. From 1840 to 1940, one hundred and twenty-eight wars were fought, some four years or more in length. The people of Europe certainly will not long endure subservience to an overlord whose method of leadership comes from the present theories of Germany, and therefore the promise of another century of wars, each one more grewsome than the last, seems clearly outlined. To rid the world of this all-destroying enemy of human progress is the most
seriousimperative undertaking before us. How can it be done?
Immanuel Kant, who died 136 years ago, said: “Something in the nature of a federation between nations for the sole purpose of doing away with war is the only rightful condition of things reconcilable with their individual freedom.” A League of Nations came one hundred years later. It was gentlemanly, dignified, somewhat timid undertaking, but when Mars was ready to strike, over it toppled. That should be a lesson to us. Before you make your plans, there are some things you must understand.
Every new war brings to the contest all the weapons used in the last. The outworn are discarded, others improved and every new device possible to secure is added.The constant stimulant in military nations is the urge to find something, invent something, steal something, that will kill more and ever more men. Therefore, every war always has been and always will be deadlier than the previous one. In July, 1917, the Crown Prince of Germany said with eloquence: “May our submarines ever float the German flag victoriously through the seven seas and teach respect for them as the last argument of kings.”
Another war is here. The German flag has gone; the Kaiser is in hiding and a bigger and better argument for might and murder is found in aircraft.
Today, the country with the most aircraft may kill the most old men, women and children and thus win a war.Tomorrow, a man in a laboratory may have discovered a newer weapon which will make the next war more ferocious and destructive than this. Unless some method is devised to change the course of events, the present war cannot possibly be the last war.
You should understand, too, that the announced causes of war are chiefly illusions. Said the Kaiser in the last World War: “I have admired five great men and I, too, have dreamed their dreams. I dream of German world empire. They failed, but I shall not.” Nevertheless, he did fail and is in hiding. But the mania of world empire goes on. The heads of Hitler and Hitlerites are agog with it. A great scientist recently said: “Paranoia seems to have become a national disease among the Germans.” And that appears to be a correct diagnosis of the present difficulty. This love of empire is common. Japan, Italy, and Germany are not exceptions. They are only extraordinary examples of it. Millions and millions of men are lying in their graves, sent there by the wicked power of men who dreamed of empire. With a conscripted army of fools, bigots, and slaves at their backs, they were all-powerful. Whatever you plan for the future, in the name of peace, remember that your work will be useless unless you provide the means for suppressing every man who dreams of empire. Perhaps what we most need is an International Mothers’ Gestapo whose business it will be to hunt out the world empire dreamers in infancy and apply, officially and with dignity, the lately invented spanking machine.
Beware of flaws in the reasoning on both sides. A favorite excuse for war is the need of more space for population. Many people felt truly sorry for the crowded Germans, so eloquent were their appeals, but, in
thea short time, they were offering prizes for the increase in the size of families and the reasoning became ridiculous. Herr Hitler now announces that the gravest problem facing the German people is to find Germans enough to fill the managerial positions necessary to keep the new world order in a proper state of respect. It was not “Lebensraum” which was wanted, but more posts for German men and more German men for posts. So the world goes on, fighting, destroying, without the pretense of a reason worthy the name for any war. War is but a relic of barbarism and its continuance is a mystery which must be solved..
When Big Ben struck eleven on the morning of the eleventh of November, 1918, firing stopped on ever battlefield. Of this we had to be reminded by the press, but none of us will ever forget that day when men and women, in many lands, fell upon their knees to thank GOD that the last war had been fought, that peace, glorious, everlasting peace would now forever reign among the children of men. When Big Ben struck eleven on the eleventh of November, 1940, the old clock had been hit by an
ugly bomb dropped by a neighbor nation and the maddest war of all time was in progress. No, war will not be stopped by the superficial efforts of what is little more than wishful hoping. There must be a plan with every flaw covered and with a unity of all-wise men and women behind it. It must be a plan to carry on, - a century if it need be, a thousand years if it must be. The human race must have its chance to live.
For myself, I would add something. Recently, a cartoonist presented a true picture setting forth the position of women in the new world order. In the corner stood a dejected looking woman. Behind her, a scrubbing pail and a mop. In one hand she held a rolling pin and on the other arm lay a baby wearing a military helmet. The title was "Go Back." There should have been in the background a college door closing with a bang and a middle common school with its doors closed and locked for these are included in the present regime of the invaders. How can one doubt that they will become a cornerstone of the new order? Slowly, but certainly, women built up a movement in every country in Europe, claiming more liberal laws, more rights for themselves, and the vote. The vote had been won through the help, apparently, of a liberal minority in most of the countries of Europe. There will be no authoritative parliamentary bodies for men and women in the new order. Women’s organizations, connected with international bodies, have all gone down under the dictatorships. The last to go in continental Europe was the gallant little group in Hungary. It has gone in Japan too. So far as I know no suffrage society is publicly known to exist. In the present war more women and children than soldiers have been killed than in any war the world ever knew before. In many a Prussian military book, may be found the justification for such a policy. I will quote only one quotation: Ludendorf said: “All the means to weaken an enemy nation are legitimate. By killing women and children, one destroys future mothers and eventual defenders of their country.” That is war, - modern war!!
Arise, awake, women of America. Make a plan, a blueprint, and a resolve, for we are not going back. We may be burned alive or buried alive, but we will not surrender. The nation agrees that we shall help Britain to the utmost and if the worst comes to worst, I suppose we shall fight too, and if that
, too, comes too late, we will still rebel. Tyrants, by whatever name called, shallmust not rule over the human race. I would as soon believe that dinosaurs, as big as a house, and extinct before men were born, could return to swish their long tails through mudholes, as to believe that tyrants have again returned to rule over men. It cannot; it must not be. We will not go back.
Catt, C. C. (1940). Carrie Chapman Catt Papers: Speech and Article File, 1892-1946; Speeches; Untitled; 1928-1944. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/mss154040425.