Charlotte Perkins Stetson Gilman
Women Do Not Want It
When the woman suffrage argument first stood upon its legs,
They answered it with cabbages, they answered it with eggs,
They answered it with ridicule, they answered it with scorn,
They thought it a monstrosity that should not have been born.
When the woman suffrage argument grew vigorous and wise,
And was not to be answered by these opposite replies,
They turned their opposition into reasoning severe
Upon the limitations of our God-appointed sphere.
We were told of disabilities–a long array of these,
Till one could think that womanhood was merely a disease;
And 'the maternal sacrifice' was added to the plan
Of the various sacrifices we have always made–to man.
Religionists and scientists, in amity and bliss,
However else they disagreed, could all agree on this,
And the gist of all their discourse, when you got down in it,
Was–we could not have the ballot because we were not fit!
They would not hear the reason, they would not fairly yield,
They would not own their arguments were beaten in the field;
But time passed on, and someway, we need not ask them how,
Whatever ails those arguments–we do not hear them now!
You may talk of suffrage now with an educated man,
And he agrees with all you say, as sweetly as he can:
'T would be better for us all, of course, if womanhood was free;
But 'the women do not want it'–and so it must not be!
'T is such a tender thoughtfulness! So exquisite a care!
Not to pile on our frail shoulders what we do not wish to bear!
But, oh, most generous brother! Let us look a little more–
Have we women always wanted what you gave to us before?
Did we ask for veils and harems in the Oriental races?
Did we beseech to be 'unclean,' shut out of sacred places?
Did we beg for scolding bridles and ducking stools to come?
And clamour for the beating stick no thicker than your thumb?
Did we ask to be forbidden from all the trades that pay?
Did we claim the lower wages for a man's full work today?
Have we petitioned for the laws wherein our shame is shown:
That not a woman's child–nor her own body–is her own?
What women want has never been a strongly acting cause,
When woman has been wronged by man in churches, customs, laws;
Why should he find this preference so largely in his way,
When he himself admits the right of what we ask today?
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(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
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