What Governments Say to Women

- 1874-1942

(The law compels a married woman to take the nationality of her husband.)

I.

In Time of War

Help us. Your country needs you;
   Show that you love her,
Give her your men to fight,
   Ay, even to fall;
The fair, free land of your birth,
   Set nothing above her,
Not husband nor son,
   She must come first of all.

II.

In Time of Peace

What’s this? You’ve wed an alien,
   Yet you ask for legislation
To guard your nationality?
   We’re shocked at your demand.
A woman when she marries
   Takes her husband’s name and nation:
She should love her husband only.
   What’s a woman’s native land?
 

The Revolt of Mother

(“Every true woman feels——”—Speech of almost any Congressman.)

I am old-fashioned, and I think it right
   That man should know, by Nature’s laws eternal,
The proper way to rule, to earn, to fight,
   And exercise those functions called paternal;
But even I a little bit rebel
At finding that he knows my job as well.

At least he’s always ready to expound it,
   Especially in legislative hall,
The joys, the cares, the halos that surround it,
   “How women feel”—he knows that best of all.
In fact his thesis is that no one can
Know what is womanly except a man.

I am old-fashioned, and I am content
   When he explains the world of art and science
And government—to him divinely sent—
   I drink it in with ladylike compliance.
But cannot listen—no, I’m only human—
While he instructs me how to be a woman.

Sonnet

(“Three bills known as the Thompson-Bewley cannery bills have been advanced to third reading in the Senate and Assembly at Albany. One permits the canners to work their employés seven days a week, a second allows them to work women after 9 p.m. and a third removes every restriction upon the hours of labor of women and minors.”—Zenas L. Potter, former chief cannery investigator for New York State Factory Investigating Commission.)

Let us not to an unrestricted day
Impediments admit. Work is not work
To our employés, but a merry play;
They do not ask the law’s excuse to shirk.
Ah, no, the canning season is at hand,
When summer scents are on the air distilled,
When golden fruits are ripening in the land,
And silvery tins are gaping to be filled.
Now to the cannery with jocund mien
Before the dawn come women, girls and boys,
Whose weekly hours (a hundred and nineteen)
Seem all too short for their industrious joys.
If this be error and be proved, alas
The Thompson-Bewley bills may fail to pass!

Male Philosophy

Men are very brave, you know,
That was settled long ago;
Ask, however, if you doubt it,
Any man you meet about it;
He will say, I think, like me,
Men are brave as they can be.

Women think they’re brave, you say?
Do they really? Well, they may,
But such biased attestation
Is not worth consideration,
For a legal judgment shelves
What they say about themselves.