Helen Hamilton Gardener

Statement before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee - March 3, 1914

Helen Hamilton Gardener
March 03, 1914— Washington, D.C.
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Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the Judiciary Committee, in a published statement yesterday the Secretary of State, over his own signature, used these simple, .direct, easily understood words:

All believers in a republic accept the doctrine that the government must derive its just powers from the consent of the governed, and the President gives every legitimate encouragement to those who represent this idea of government, while he discourages those who attempt to overthrow or ignore the principle of popular government.

I am sure that all of us who know the Secretary of State—and I have known him personally and watched his career ever since he came here a young Congressman—I am sure that all of us hope and want to believe that this latest pronouncement of his, given out officially as from the leading Cabinet officer, was intended to be accepted at home as well as abroad as literally and absolutely true, and not as a mere bit of spectacular oratory.

But if it is true, then not one of you gentlemen who has it in his heart to oppose woman suffrage is a believer in our form of government. Not one of you is loyal to the flag. Not one of you is a true American.

For, gentlemen, you do not allow us women to give our consent, yet we are governed.

You are not sitting in Congress justly, and Mr. Bryan and the President do not believe that you are—none of you except those who are from woman-suffrage States—or else those official statements, made only yesterday, are mere oratory for foreign consumption.

He says that the President discourages those who attempt to overthrow or even to "ignore" this principle of popular government.

We are more than glad lo believe that Mr. Bryan is correct in this plain statement, for then we will know that a number of you gentlemen have received and will receive a good deal of "discouragement" at the hands of the President, and that those of you who stand with us and vote for us will receive some sure reward from him, in that "every legitimate encouragement" will be yours, and also, incidentally, ours.

We need it. We think it is overdue.

Up to the present time we have not felt that either the President or the Secretary of State quite fully realized that there is a good deal of belated encouragement due those who try " to overthrow or ignore" all semblance of a belief in the right of women to give their consent to their own government.

I am glad to have so high an authority that the good time is not only coming, but that it has at last arrived—and from the Democratic Party.

Again, in this simple, plain, seemingly frank statement of the Secretary of State, he says:

He [the President] is not concerned as to the personnel of the Government. All he desires is that the people shall have such officers as they desire.

Could anything be plainer, more explicit, than that? The " personnel " of our officers at present is purely masculine, and we women do not have a chance to say what " officers we desire " even among those.

It is true that Mr. Bryan was writing about our " foreign " policy, but to cover that case, to connect his statement up with our case, I have only to quote another line of the same article, which says:

Nothing will be encouraged away from home that is forbidden here.

Yet, away from home, he says that the fixed foreign policy is that "the people shall have such officers as they desire," and that these officer must have "the consent of the governed."

That is precisely what we women demand. Are the Mexican peons more to our Government than are the women of America?

If the Mexican officials must be disciplined, unless they are ready to admit that " the consent of the governed must be obtained " before there can be a legitimate government which we can recognize, how is it possible for you and for the President and the State Department to absolutely ignore or refuse the same ethical and political principle here at home for one-half of all the people, who form what you call and hold up to the world as republic?

No one who lives, no one who ever lived, no one who ever will live understands or really accepts and believes in a republic which denies women the right of consent by their ballots to that government and to have and exercise an equal voice in its development.

Such a position is unthinkable, and the time has come when an aristocracy of sex must give place to a real republic or the absurdity of the position as it exists will make us the laughingstock of the world.

Let us either stop our pretense before the nations of the earth of being a republic and of " quality before the law " or else let us become the Republic that we pretend to be. Which shall we do?

Hearings on the Committee of the Judiciary