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CHAPTER ONE \rHE BIRTH OF FEMINISM

·~ISM?

" NANC,,\ C c.IT

JT
T e time has rome to de:e fem;n;sm; n ;s no longer pos­
~ETING sible to ignore it," the lead editorial in the Century, a general feature
Ullion
magazine, proclaimed in the spring of 1914. 'The germ is in the blood of
,0 ·clock. P. M.
our women. The principle is in the heart of our race. The word is daily
in the pages of our newspapers. The doctrine and its corollaries are on .
o ME." every tongue." The Century hardly lagged in fixing on the term, for fem­
inism-a word unknown to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. An­
thony-had blossomed into use by writers, intellectuals, and radicals
HREN just a year or so before. Feminism was "something so new that it isn't in
\N BENEDICT the dictionaries yet," a 1913 proponent announced, something revolu­
N tionary that aimed "to alter radically the mental attitudes of men and
women." 'We need an appropriate word which will register this fact ...
that women are changing," declared Marie Jenny Howe, an acknowl­
edged leader among New York City women ebulliently fostering such
change. "The term feminism ... foisted upon us," she wrote, "wiU do as
VIEETING well as any other word to express woman's effort toward development."
r Union Only a rare quirk prior to 1910, usage offeminism became frequent by
1913 and almost unremarkable a few years later.l Both men and women
lock, P. M. brought it into common parlance. In 1913, when a caustic male reviewer
\N RACE." for the political journal the Nation was criticizing nine books by and
about women under the heading "The Feminist Mind," Floyd Dell, a
Greenwich Village cultural radical recently become coeditor of a brash
new serial called the Masses, published a small volume championing
Women as World Builders, subtitled Studies in Modem Feminism. Hen­
rietta Rodman, a schoolteacher who had bobbed her hair and was leading
a fight against the New York school system for its policy of dismissing
women teachers who married, founded a group called the Feminist Al­
liance in 1914. In short order, "vamp" star of the silent screen Theda
Bara declaimed "I am in effect a feministe"; Republican presidential can­
didate Charles Evans Hughes in 1916 worried about a "distinct feminist
movement constantly perfecting its organization to the subversion of
.

-
normal political issues," and the Missouri Anti-Suffrage League warned
that "Feminism advocates non-motherhood, free love, easy divorce, eco­
NO COUECTION. nomic independence for all women, and other demoralizing and destruc­
tive theories."2
What did use of the new term feminism signify? In its early uses­
Feminist Mass Meeting. 1914 usually capitalized-the word had shock value and an encompassing yet

13
THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM

unspecified referentiality. All who used it felt they had to define it to tier, a socialist who wou
some extent and yet, curiously, assumed their listeners would know what in France. (Pelletier-Uk_
they were talking about. One writer in the lively Harper's Weekly; noting tween class oppression an
at the end of 1913 that "within a year the Feminist Movement has bf'­ link the two.) Tying the L
come of interest to everyone," saw it as "the stir of new life, the palpable cept of an ism, and yet al:
awakening ofconscience." Well-known public figures who were favorably language usages, the ten
disposed toward Feminism tended to be general when called on for a States: was this an ideolog
definition: thus the usually voluble theoretician Charlotte Perkins Gil­ onistic politics for women I
man declared it to be "the social awakening of the women of all the inization? A very curious f
world," and Carrie Chapman Catt, the organization woman soon to lead fragette, a serial briefly p
the National American Woman Suffrage Association to victory, defined pioneering new tactics. Th
Feminism in 1914 as a "world-wide revolt against all artificial barriers trine in a short piece of I
which laws and customs interpose between women and human free­ nism," which began, "the I
dom"-"an evolution, like enlightenment and democracy" with "no lead­ the sexes nor on animosi~
ers no organization," and local variation in its specific objects.:I refuge in any perverse thl

S
rior uses of the word gave little solid guidance. Feminism came into women who. . . wish to fo
English from the French feminisme, first used in the 1880s by a deter­ the reader that suffragists,
mined advocate of political rights for women, Hubertine Auclert, sexes, but willing coopera1
'-fuunder of the first woman suffrage society in France. When republish­ fare."4
ing in 1907 a letter she had written twenty-five years earlier in which she Feminism burst into cle
had used feminisme and feministe, Auclert thought the terms original a need to represent in lanl
enough to italicize both and to take credit for having coined them. Dur­ just cohering, a new mom_
ing the 18g0S feminisme began to be used more regularly in the titles of rights and freedoms. In p;
French women's groups and publications, but moderate advocates of les ism. "We have grown aCCl
droites des femmes felt it necessary to insist they were more feminine the Woman Movement. Tl
than feministe. It required a decade or more for a broad spectrum of tossed off. "But Feminism
French suffragists to find the term generally acceptable. The term femi­ established order of wome
nism migrated to England in the 1890s, when detractors more than ad­ ing canvas labeled 'Femin
vocates used it-usually surrounded by quotation marks-to refer more effort to exceed the houng
often to unwanted Continental doctrines than to English developments. the rising advocacy of wor
The authoritative Oxford English Dictionary finds none but depreciating not all suffragists are fern
remarks with which to document early usages: for instance a notice from she went on, the vote w~
the Daily News of 1897 that Goldwin Smith had "alluded ... somewhat social revolution": freedOI
disparagingly to that phase of feminism which is so curious a feature of elimination of an: structura
the present day," and an account in the 1908 Daily Chronicle, "in Ger­ ifum1c tndependenceJIDJ
many feminism is openly socialistic." release from constraining 1
In the United States, the first references pointed to Europe. Perhaps everycivic and professioJ
the earliest journalistic use was in the title "Feminism in Some European very rapid and intense gra
Countries," appearing in 1906 in the New York offshoot of the London suggests that it was not IT
Review of Reviews. The article dealt principally with Madeleine Pelle- thinking about ~omen's e

I
BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM 15

y had to define it to tier, a socialist who would shortly initiate "militant" suffrage tactics
.ers would know what in France. (Pelletier-like Hubertine Auclert-drew comparisons be­
zrper's Weekly, noting tween class oppression and sex oppression but went beyond Auclert to
.t Movement has be­ link the two.) Tying the Latin root femina (woman) to the modern con­
:lew life, the palpable cept of an ism, and yet also connected with socialism in early English­
lS who were favorably
language usages, the term initially inspired confusion in the United
when called on for a States; was this an ideology that men could join or a separate and antag­
:harlotte Perkins Gil­ onistic politics for women only, perhaps even threatening men with fem­
he women of all the inization? A very curious early reference appeared in the American Suf­
1 woman soon to lead
fragette, a serial briefly published in New York by suffrage enthusiasts
m to victory, defined pioneering new tactics. There, an essayist distanced the mysterious doc­
t all artificial barriers trine in a short piece of December 1909 called "Suffragism Not Femi­
len and human free­ nism," which began, "the right to vote is not based on contrasts between
ocracy" with "no-Iead­ the sexes nor on animosity of one sex against the other, nor do we take
ific objects. 3 refuge in any perverse theories." Characterizing feminists as "men and
. Feminism came into women who. . . wish to force womanly attributes on the man," it assured
the 1880s by a deter- the reader that suffragists, in contrast, wished "no animosity between the
Hubertine Auclert, sexes, but willing cooperation on the common ground-the Public Wel­
lce. When republish­ fare."4
rs earlier in which she Feminism burst into clear view a few years later because it answered
:ht the terms original i
a need to represent in language a series of intentions and a constituency
ng coined them. Dur­ just cohering, a new moment in the long history of struggles for women's
:gularly in the titles of rights au'd freedoms. In part it was a semantic claim to female modern­
lerate advocates of les ism. "We have grown accustomed ... to something or other known as
, were more feminine the Woman Movement. That has an old sound-it is old," one proponent
. a broad spectrum of tossed off. "But Feminism!" she exulted. "A troop of departures from the
ltable. The term femi­ established order of women's lives" all marched under "one great spread­
:ractors more than ad­ ing canvas labeled 'Feminism.'" In part it was an explicit and semantic
marks-to refer more effort to exceed the hounds of t~insist on goals more profound tban­ f
~nglish developments. The rising advocacy of woman suffra e. 'i\ll feminists are suffragists, but f
none but depreciating not all s agists are feminists," explained a participant. To Feminists, 1
instance a notice from
illuded . . . somewhat
so curious a feature of
she went on, the vote was only a tool. I;,he real goal was a "complete
social revolution"; freedom for all forms of women's active ex ression, ,
e iminahon 0 structural and psycholo .cal handica s to women's eco­ f
ly Chronicle, "in Ger­ 'n~nc l~<lepeIlC!~n~e, an en to the double standard of sexual moral!!)"
~.

reeaseom constraining sexual stereotypes, and opportunity to shine in


,d to Europe. Perhaps eve-ryervic and profeSSional capacity. 5 Despite the early muddle, the f
ism in Some European very rapid and intense gravitation toward the term Feminism about 1913
Iffshoot of the London suggests that it was not merely convenient but ~arked a new phase in f
with Madeleine Pelle- thinking about women's emancipation~ut as muth as proponents felt
t
I
,,

f
THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMI

Feminism diverged from the generations in the woman movement who all humans underlay.
had come before, and the suffrage movement in the midst of which it "arbitrarily" designat,
was born, it was greatly indebted to both.
gender differences, ~
equal to men's. Anotl
The nineteenth-century woman movement-the rubric used at the time· social assertions was I
to indicate women's strivings to improve their status in and usefulness to insisted on customar)
society-handed on a complex legacy to women of the twentieth cen­ gious order and strov
tury. Nineteenth-century women of various kinds, times, and places had scribed benevolence,
perceptively analyzed the circumstances of their sex. As individuals and women's moral chara
in groups they had sought diverse means and ends to assert their share the nineteenth centUl
in directing the world's public as well as private destinies. They had superior to men and
sought to gain access to the rights and prerogatives men had, and to their own contributio
reevaluate and re-value women's nature and abilities. In the woman varieties of Protesta-;;-;
movement three arenas o~rtcan be distinguished, although within ,
I of all human beings bt
each variations abounded. One, egun very early in the century, lay in I powerful nineteenth-.
service and social action, mo Ivated variously by noblesse oblige or by I I doms. The third maj(
neighborly or altruistic intent; this included benevolent, charitable, so­ lay in ~ialist critique
cial welfare, and (eventually) civic refonn efforts in which women, seeing
I•
organized on a compe
a special mandate for themselves because of their gender' vered
new strengths in collectivity and forms for self-assertion. other m- I tori cal mater"iaIism an.
visions of Henri St. SiJ
I
prised more overtly self-interested, more focused campaigns or "wom­ j , ideas for a cooperative
an's rights"-rights equivalent to those~en enjoyed on legal, polit­ J the Civil War, and th
ical, economic, and civic grounds. Th third i luded more amorphous r .
Edward Bellamy's Nat:
and broad-ranging pronouncements and ac vity toward women's self­ of alternative social (
determination via "emancipation" from structures, conventions, and at­ States. The communit
titudes enforced by law and custom. These three arenas displayed not who wanted to make t
simply smaller and larger visions of the same thing-although they often private household to
overlapped-but also potentially conflicting visions, the first more, the change rather than res
se d less loyal to the existing social order, the third not loyal at all. To Taking up "the cam
put it most simply, benevolent women's activities sought ameliorative extent going back on,
measures to preserve, women's rights advocates sought to reform by three traditions, hOWE
making more sexually egalitarian (nonetheless to "join") the existing or­ liberal political discour
der, whereas proponents of women's emancipation sought to unseat or at prehended Protestant
least to radically transform it. 6 by most ministers; anc
Participants in these efforts, while linked by their attempts to revise poses. Leaders' and SI
~ /'~ \..b gender relations, drew on more than one intell~ctual, phil?sophicaI, an? subject to more than 0
. )(Jfl_. political tradition. 7 The tradition that most obVIOusly nounshed woman s
lection of mentors and
.It gil rights advocates was Enlightenment rationalism, its n' eteenth-centu
erations of leaders, thl
~ ~~\ 1 political Ie ac libera ism, an its SOCI representa~ion bouT~eO~S~j.n9i-
J:.
.
than once. PartiCipants
1 ~-<\~ vidualism. That tra i Ion 0 I eas a out the natural nghts and hbertIes of cation, employment, It

~*-
BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM

oman movement who all humans underlay women's demands for the removal of social barriers
the midst of which it "arbitrarily" designated by sex, provoked environmentalist analyses of
gender differences, and justified claims to liberties and opportunities r.;:.:')\
equal to men's. Another important generator and legitimator of women's ~
ubric used at the time social assertions was Protestant faith. As much as orthodox Protestantism
IS in and usefulness to insisted on customary gender differences as a bedrock of social and reli­
of the twentieth cen­ gious order and strove to limit woman's proper role to a certain circum­
times, and places had scribed benevolence, the proselytizing churches elevated and endor~ed
ex. As individuals and women's moral character and social role. Evangelical Protestantism in
s to assert their share the nineteenth centu sup orted the notion that women were morall
~ destinies. They had superior to men and thus encoura ed women to v ue themselves a !
t eir own contribution to social lif~ Quakerism and more antinomian
ves men had, and to
Jities. In the woman varieties of Protestant belief, with their stress on the equal importance I
I
,hed, although within \
I
of all human beings before God, inspired some of the most eloquent and I
in the century, lay in
noblesse oblige or by
Ii
j
powerful nineteenth-century spokeswomen for equal rights and free-

doms. The third major intellectual seedbed for the woman movement
lay in ~ialist critiques of the inequities inherent in industrial capitalism ~
r: _ ~
l
volent, charitable, so­
which women, seeing . ,
organized on a competitive and individualist basis. Less Karl Marx'shis­

I
ir gender . overed torical materialism and model of class conflict than the utopian socialist t
;ertion. nother m-
campaigns or "wom­
I! visions of Henri St, Simon and Charles Fourier early in the century, the
ideas for a cooperative commonwealth held by the Knights of Labor after
I
njoyed on legal, polit­
lded more amorphous
the Civil War, and the effortlessly harmonious corporatist proposals of
Edward Bellamy's Nationalism at the end of the century supplied models
II
toward women's self- of alternative social organization taken up by women in the United !
conventions, and at­ States. The communitarian socialist tradition was a resource for women
: arenas displayed not who wanted to make the sexual division of labor and the relation of the
-although they often private household to the rest of society matters for examination and
1S, the first more, the change rather than resigned acceptance.
lird not loyal at all. To Taking up "the cause of woman" meant differing from and to some
s sought ameliorative extent going back on, or beyond, intellectual kin and mentors from all
sought to reform by three traditions, however. Women railed against the insufficiencies of
'join") the existing or­ liberal political discourse even as they seized it for themselves; they ap­
sought to unseat or at prehended Protestant teachings at a different angle from that intended
by most ministers; and they adapted socialist models to their own pur­
.eir attempts to revise poses. Leaders' and spokeswomen's own loyalties zigzagged and were
lal, philosophical, and subject to more than one interpretation. They were eclectic in their se­
,Iy nourished woman's lection of mentors and resources, and due to historical change and gen­
ts nineteenth-cent!!!Y erations of leaders, the gravity of the woman movement shifted more
tation bourgeois)~~i­ than once. Participants operated on a number of fronts, including edu­
I rightsandfiberties of cation, employment, legal and civic rights, social reform, personal be-
18 THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMI

havior. They invented and supported women's institutions: homes for ligence went white aJ
widows and orphans, normal schools and colleges, health institutes and whim of the dominru
medical schools, mothers' organizations, clubs of all sorts, wage-earners' the whole weight of
protective leagues, settlement houses. They tirelessly made speeches who became suffragis
and published books and pamphlets, petitioned and lobbied state au­ revealed a common tl
thorities, brought cases before courts, occasionally even dared direct the arbitrariness of IT
action techniques and civil disobedien€e. The process brought forward tives even when-pe'
eloquent speakers and leaders and theoreticians of tremendous insight Nineteenth-centul')
who in tum educated others. futing it in their actic
Any attempt to sum up the meanings and accomplishments of the women's human chara
nineteenth-century woman movement inevitably betrays the several of women's unique 1
strands of interests and approaches and convictions, as well as conflicts, Women voiced these 1
within it. Even within the groups most clearly identifiable and best doc­ The underlYing theme
umented-that is, the national and state associations formed to pursue were, had the same hl
the specific goal of woman suffrage-changing composition, shifting .and therefore deserve
priorities, and fateful alliances can easily be pointed out. The issues of develop themselves,
whether to ally-and if so with whom-perpetually recurred. The post­ voiced it before the N
Civil War rift between Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony gentlemen, is our diff
and their colleagues in abolition and women's rights Lucy Stone and makers and savants oj
Henry Blackwell, over the relative priority of black male suffrage and men and women are
woman suffrage, is well known. The change over time from Stanton's and yourselves in the pro,
Anthony's fiery leadership in the late 1860s to the NAWSA leadership in cast anchor beside PI,
1900, indebted to temperence and social purity advocates, is now often rights of every huma~
stressed in histories of the woman suffrage movement. 8 These represent hand, Stanton and oth
only a fraction of the controversies and tensions, the different emphases male: whether througl
in ideology, means, and alliances among constituents of the aggregate or training, human fe
woman movement. sophically disintereste

@
much as nineteenth-century participants and observers oversimpli­ belligerent, and self-ir
fied by speaking of the woman movement, however, that language spoke ton's, wrote in the re£
a substantial truth. The rubric acknowledged that discussion and de­ instinctive femininity,
mands and actions raised by women constituted an integral spectrum counter-act the excess
crosscutting other political and intellectual views, even when indebted our unjust and unequa
to them. The individuals and intents involved, although analytically dis­ anhood that both sexes
tinguishable, also intertwined and overlapped. They shared and for­ to education, work, an
warded the perception that the gender hierarchy of male dominance and balance society with th
female submission was not natural but arbitrary. Author Mary Austin By the close of the '
remembered the confidences shared by women along the suffrage trail: movement had a see-s~
"'Well, it was seeing what my mother had to go through that started me'; sex-specific limitations;
or 'It was being sacrificed to the boys in the family that set me going'; or quash the qualities an
'My father was one of the old-fashioned kind: ... women of high intel- women had already def
IE BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM 19

institutions: homes for ligence went white and sick telling how, in their own families, the mere
lS, health institutes and whim of the dominant male member ... had been allowed to assume
. all sorts, wage-earners' the whole weight of moral significance." Such recollections of women
'elessly made speeches who became suffragists during the latter half of the nineteenth century
I and lobbied state au­ revealed a common thread of rage at the injustice of male dominance and
lally even dared direct the arbitrariness of male privilege, and some jealousy of male preroga­
rocess brought forward tives even when-perhaps because-they affirmed female character. 9
of tremendous insight Nineteenth-century women protesting against male dominance or re­
futing it in their actions did not choose to argue simply on the basis of
ccomplishments of the women's human character (that is, likeness to men) or simply on the basis
ly betrays the several of women's unique sexual character (that is, difference from men).
Ins, as well as conflicts, Women voiced these two kinds of arguments in almost the same breath.
entifiable and best doc­ The underlying theme that women were variable human beings as men
tions fonned to pursue were, had the same human intellectual and spiritual endowment as men,
: composition, shifting and therefore deserved the same opportunities and rights to advance and
lted out. The issues of develop themselves, perSistently surfaced. Elizabeth Cady Stanton
lly recurred. The post­ voiced it before the New York state legislature in the mid-18sos; "Here,
and Susan B. Anthony gentlemen, is our difficulty: When we plead our cause before the law­
ights Lucy Stone and makers and savants of the republic, they can not take in the idea that
lack male suffrage and men and women are alike; . . . we ask for all that you have asked for
ime from Stanton's and yourselves in the progress of your development, since the Mayflower
e NAWSA leadership in cast anchor beside Plymouth rock; and simply on the ground that the
.dvocates, is now often rights of every human being are the same and identical." On the other
lent. 8 These represent hand, Stanton and other women argued that their sex differed from the
:he different emphases male: whether through natural endowment, environment, deprivation,
lents of the aggregate or training, human females were moral, nurturant, pacific, and philo­
sophically disinterested, where males were competitive, aggrandizing,
. observers oversimpli­ belligerent, and self-interested. Jane Frohock, a contemporary of Stan­
lr, that language spoke ton's, wrote in the reform journal Lily, "It is woman's womanhood, her
,at discussion and de­ instinctive femininity, her highest morality that society now needs to
an integral spectrum counter-act the excess of masculinity that is everywhere to be found in
, even when indebted our unjust and unequal laws." It followed from that articulation of wom­
hough analytically dis­ anhood that both sexes would benefit if women were to gain equal access
They shared and for­ to education, work, and citizenship, so as to represent themselves and
f male dominance and balance society with their characteristic contribution. 10
Author Mary Austin By the close of the century the spectrum of ideology in the woman
long the suffrage trail: movement had a see-saw quality: at one end, the intention to eliminate
'Ough that started me'; sex-specific limitations; at the other, the desire to recognize rather than
that set me going'; or quash the qualities and habits called female, to protect the interests
women of high intel- women had already defined as theirs and give those much greater public
20 THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMIN

scope. A tension stretched between emphasis on the rights that women image. Suffragist HarJ
(like men) deserved and emphasis on the particular duties or services soned on behalf of the
( that women (unlike men) could offer society, as also between the claim they deserved the sal
that women had to act for their own advantage or for the benefit of oth­ ought to represent the
L ers. No collective resolution of these tensions occurred and seldom even to the agenda of Progr
did individuals permanently resolve them in their own minds. Although of the see-saw stressinl
shifts in emphasis over time can be discerned, the woman movement as need to protect their
a whole maintained a functional ambiguity-rather than a debilitating services to be offered 1
tension, it was a stereographic or double-lensed view, bringing reality on natural rights had I,
into three-dimensional focus. As phrased at the founding of the Interna­ sionary barriers in edu
tional Council of Women in 1888 by Zerelda Wallace (an ardent temper­ of married women, ha
ance worker whose sense of frustration in that cause led her to demand other hand, the renew!
full political rights), women had organized in order "to plead for freedom sentation in Progressiv!

~
o emselves in the name of and for the good of humanity." 11 interests in the muckra
Nineteenth-century feminists could (and did) argue on egalitarian of women seeking char
grounds for equal opportunity in education and employment and for suffragist applauded a r
equal rights in property, law, and political representation, while also one of the "few Americ
maintaining that women would bring special benefits to public life by problem of human righ

L virtue of their particular interests and capacities. In part the duality was
tactical. Advocacy in the woman movement was always in dialogue with
~ostile to its aims. Attacked for "unsexing" women, activists might
The woman moveml
groundswells of change
heterogeneity among w
stress enduring female virtues. Ridiculed on the basis of women's incom­ trial capitalism in the la
petencies, they might stress their indubitably human endowment. Ex­ and agitated the visible
cluded from arenas designated as male or accused of proposing strong­ ropean immigration, IT
minded women's ascendency over men, they might argue the injustice rapid urban growth hl
of excluding humans who happened to be female or emphasize the ben­ poverty but also multil
efits to society of women's contributions. Mary Austin's retrospect on broader ranges of educal
small-town America's expectations in the 1880s illuminated the motiva­ occupational distinction.
tion women had to battle on every front, to adopt (lawyerlike) every of resources, through VI
possible relevant defense. "There was a human norm," she recalled, "and States was asserting itse
it was the average man. Whatever in woman differed from this norm was hemisphere and the we
a female weakness, of intelligence, of character, of physique." 12 But there built, almost two-thirds

~
re deeper than tactical roots to the varying emphases on women's spe­ farm but found their oc
cial strengths and on their full human endowment. "Woman's sphere" factories or trades, in sl
was both the point of oppression and the point of departure for nine­ braries, government ran
teenth-century feminists. "Womanhood" was their hallmark, and they the "tertiary" sector-tl
:.---insisted it should be a human norm, too. the land nor created som
managed, corresponded,
The nineteenth century woman movement thus deeded to its successors than products-was as a]
a Janus face. Many early twentieth-century activists embraced the whole business entity. Through
rHE BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM 21

)n the rights that women image. Suffragist Harriet Burton Laidlaw, for instance, succinctly rea­
ticular duties or services soned on behalfof the ballot in 1912 that insofar as women were like men
s also between the claim they deserved the same rights, and insofar as they differed, women
or for the benefit of oth­ ought to represent themselves. Advocates who conjoined women's rights
:!Curred and seldom even to the agenda of Progressive social reform frequently weighted the end
eir own minds. Although of the see-saw stressing women's gender differences from men, women's
the woman movement as need to protect their established interests, women's duties owed and
lther than a debilitating services to be offered to society. Arguments for women's advance based
~d view, bringing reality on natural rights had less purchase by that time, in part because exclu­
founding of the Interna­ sionary barriers in education and employment, and the legal disabilities
Jlace (an ardent temper­ of married women, had already been successfully challenged. On the
:ause led her to demand other hand, the renewed rhetoric of social justice and democratic repre­
ler "to plead for freedom sentation in Progressive politics and the assault on entrenched oligarchic
lfhumanity."ll interests in the muckraking journalism of the time infused the discourse
d) argue on egalitarian of women seeking change on their own behalf. Thus a New Hampshire
ld employment and for suffragist applauded a recent college-age recruit in 1907 because she was
)resentation, while also one of the "few American college girls who care to understand the great
enefits to public life by problem of human rights as applied to an unpopular cause." 13
. In part the duality was The woman movement at the tum of the century was manifesting
always in dialogue with groundswells of change resulting from the increasing differentiation and
women, activists might heterogeneity among women in America. As the consolidation of indus­
basis of women'" incom­ trial capitalism in the late nineteenth century had widened the distance
.uman endowment. Ex­ and agitated the visible conflict between capital and labor, waves of Eu­
ed of proposing strong­ ropean immigration, migration from farms to cities, and consequent
ight argue the injustice rapid urban growth had not only revealed extremes of wealth and
! or emphasize the ben­ poverty but also multiplied religious and cultural variety and created
Austin's retrospect on broader ranges ofeducational sophistication, cosmopolitan privilege, and
lluminated the motiva­ occupational distinction. Through growth in population and exploitation
lopt (lawyerlike) every of resources, through war, diplomacy, and economic force the United
lrm," she recalled, "and States was asserting itself as a national power to be reckoned with in the
red from this norm was hemisphere and the world. The industrial infrastructure of the nation
~ physique." 12 But there built, almost two-thirds of Americans at work no longer labored on the
)hases on women's spe­ farm but fuund their occupations on railroads or construction sites, in
~nt. "Woman's sphere" factories or trades, in shops, offices, or banks, in hospitals, schools, li­
of departure for nine­ braries, government ranks, or more innovative institutions. The rise of
lir hallmark, and they the "tertiary" sector-those people who neither grew something from
the land nor created something with their hands nor owned property but
managed, corresponded, communicated, serving among people rather
eeded to its successors than products-was as apparent as was the corporation as the ascendant
ts embraced the whole business entity. Through recent mergers and consolidation the control of
22 THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMINI

almost all major industries rested in a handful of companies. The inno­ tional federations, in tI
vations of electricity, gas lighting, telegraph, photograph, and telephone consolidation of institu
belonged to the nineteenth century; the twentieth qUickly introduced the more frequent invo
the automobile, airplane, wireless, moving picture, electric railway, and the home. The two COIl
even radioactivity. Science applied its force to technology and industrial in 1890 into the Nati<
management; its mystique reigned in philosophy and literature. Individ­ though the most vigor,
uals' attempts to grasp hold of their changed world broke through the the local level. Women'
surface of time-worn expectations in assertions of the value of the eration in 1892. The N;
"new.·· 14 the color line drawn b,
These were important years for women's educational, occupational, en's clubs together in1.
and profeSSional advance. Obvious to all were the growing numbers of educate and organize c
women wage-earners in urban industries and services (their ranks of workers, formed in
swelled by waves of immigration from Europe), and the inchoate army women college gradual
of white-collar workers, from telephone operators to shop-girls in shirt­ migrant quarters, becOl
waists, who went to and from stores and offices every day. By 1905, de­ neighbors and aides at t
spite sex segregation in the labor market, those who publicly objected to and trade unionists cre,
women's wage-earning as often envisioned competition between women to urge women workers
and men for jobs as they feared destruction of womanliness in the work needs.
world. Female college graduates gained proportion on male graduates, The gathering mome
and some male bastions of graduate and profeSSional training were most vividly in the labc
opened to women. College graduates invented careers for themselves by selves reciprocally infll
founding social settlement houses and evolVing social work practice. As City, Philadelphia, Chic
the twentieth century opened, one could find women doctors and law­ sand women in the ne
yers, women public health officers and social investigators, women ar­ demanding for themseb
chitects and planners, newspaperwomen as well as women novelists, and class women to suppor
women teachers not only in the grammar schools but on the faculties of Wage-earning women­
research universities. 15 More than one generation now collided, those filled the streets of ci
who had been brought up in "woman's sphere" (of varying cultural tra­ marched in parades, as}
ditions) and those whose experience was just as much shaped by factory gaining, for an end to dE
or office, coeducational schooling, urban social life, municipal reform ef­ some hours of leisure. ~
forts, or political action in clubs, unions, temperance or socialist associa­ ers, wage-earning worn!
tions. ls The growing frequency of women's new experiences in public, couraged by AFL-affilial
organizational, and occupational life marked one of the ways in which women in industrial OCt
the outlines of twentieth-century America were already taking shape. the twentieth eentury. I
The noticeable growth of single women's employment outside the skilling through rapid m
home, the diversification ofliving patterns and family relationships that chiefly insofar as they v
, , implied, and the emergence to social concern of a new type of woman Employers used the full
leader, educated in college and perhaps graduate school and trained to from unionizing, from
analyze social problems, set the stage for a new era in the woman move­ schemes to spies and bt
ment. Local women's associations multiplied and joined in state and na- among employees, disn
E BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM 23

. companies. The inno­ tional federations, in their form manifesting the larger scale and typical
ograph, and telephone consolidation of institutional life of the era, in their purposes reHecting
lth quickly introduced the more frequent involvement of women in the economic arena outside
e, electric railway, and the home. The two competing national suf&age associations consolidated
:hnology and industrial in IBgO into the National American Woman Suffrage Association, al­
md literature. Individ­ though the most vigorous suffragist activity continued to take place at
rid broke through the the local level. Women's clubs across the nation joined in a General Fed­
: of the value of the eration in IBg2. The National Association of Colored Women, reHecting
the color line drawn by the "General" Federation, brought black wom­
::ational, occupational, en's clubs together in 1896. The National Consumers' League, aiming to
e growing numbers of educate and organize consumers to oppose manufacturers' exploitation
services (their ranks of workers, formed in IBgg from a base in New York. In major cities
md the inchoate army women college graduates founded settlement houses in sprawling im­
. to shop-girls in shirt­ migrant quarters, becoming resident social researchers and sympathetic
lery day. By 1905, de­ neighbors and aides at the same time. In 1903, settlement house workers
10 publicly objected to and trade unionists created the National Women's Trade Union League
jtion between women to urge women workers into unions and to inform the public about their
manliness in the work needs.
m on male graduates, The gathering momentum of change in women's lives displayed itself
ssional training were most vividly in the labor movement and the suf&age movement, them­
~ers for themselves by selves reciprocally inHuential. Between 1905 and 1915, in New York
cial work practice. As City, Philadelphia, Chicago, and lesser cities, more than a hundred thou­
men doctors and law­ sand women in the needle and garment trades walked off their jobs,
estigators, women ar­ demanding for themselves "Bread and Roses!" and appealing to middle­
women novelists, and class women to support their protest and "Make Sisterhood a Fact!"
but on the faculties of Wage-earning women-most of them Jewish and Catholic immigrants­
1 now collided, those filled the streets of cities on picket lines, packed union halls, and
f varying cultural tra­ marched in parades, asking for economic justice through collective bar­
llch shaped by factory gaining, for an end to deadly sweatshop conditions, for decent wages and
municipal reform ef­ some hours of leisure. Young, unskilled, and putatively transient work­
ce or socialist associa­ ers, wage-earning women were generally overlooked if not actively dis­
xperiences in public, couraged by AFL-affiliated male craft unionists; only a tiny fraction of
of the ways in which women in industrial occupations were unionized in the first decade of
eady taking shape. the twentieth century. Hired into industrial occupations at a time of de­
,loyment outside the skilling through rapid mechanization, women were valued by employers
lily relationships that chieHy insofar as they were unorganized and would accept low wages.
l new type of woman Employers used the full range of techniques to prevent women workers
school and trained to from unionizing, from employee associations and corporate welfare
in the woman move­ schemes to spies and blacklists, promotion of ethnic and racial conflicts
dned in state and na­ among employees, disruption of meetings, and police intimidation and
THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMINIS~

violence. Nonetheless, the strike wave that began among shirtwaist mak­ enfranchisement of woml
ers in New York and Philadelphia in 1909 and jumped to Chicago, Mil­ suffrage organization, th
waukee, Cleveland, Kalamazoo, Lawrence, and Rochester over the next From an initial meeting
five years not only announced to the world women's wage-earning pres­ League within a year an'
ence but also proved their militance on behalf of unionization. 17 bers, including division!
It was time to insist that "women were permanent factors in industry, Union, and the Inter-B(
permanent producers of the world's wealth, and ... must hereafter be listed leading women trll
considered as independent human beings and citizens rather than ad­ Schneiderman and the
juncts to men and to society," as journalist Rheta Childe Dorr, who took Leonora O'Reilly, both !
it upon herself to investigate various lines of women's industrial work, supporting women wen
put it. 18 The link between women's economic roles outside the home and radicals passionately eng
their civic and all other rights was thenceforward inescapable. A chief eluding lawyers and soci
beneficiary of women's effOrts to be recognized as "permanent produc­ Jessie Ashley, and nurse
ers" was the movement for woman suffrage. At the time Dorr wrote, House. Under Blatch's II
settlement house workers and WTUL members who were also ardent suf­ for trade-union women if
fragists were urging the NAWSA to include in its cirele the immigrant and behalf of full woman sufI
wage-earning population. "These women of the trade unions who have Suffrage Association wru
already learned to think and vote in them would be a great addition and ballot for women). At th
a great strength to this movement," Gertrude Barnum, Hull House res­ protested that the state,
ident and WTUL organizer, proposed at the 1906 NAWSA convention. In the lesson of female inft
1907 the WTUL itself established a Suffrage Department. To the new struggle for justice in in(
generation of leaders in the suffrage movement, such as Harriot Stanton prejudice against us," sh,
Blatch, daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the connection between In the spring of 1908 ,
women's economic roles in society and their justification and need for "suffragette," Anne Cob
the ballot was crucial. Taking up activity in the New York state suffrage Women's Social and Pol
campaign in the mid-1Bgos after two decades of married life in England, Emmeline and Christa
Blatch stressed that women's productive labor of all sorts, their contri­ women in the U. S. suffr
bution to social life and well-being, required a political voice. A college and Europe reached a {:
graduate, she expected that education, expertise, and professional at­ trated by the founding (
tainment, rather than wealth or gentility, would fit women for political 190 4 and its subsequent
leadership. She veered away from her mother's reliance on natural rights war broke out. Woman!
arguments for the ballot by emphasizing that economic and political ob­ in all the industrialized,
ligations and prerogatives were reciprocal. "It is with woman as a worker Finland in 1906 becarr
that the suffrage has to do. It is because she is the worker the state unrestricted suffrage, c~
should have the value of her thought," she reasoned. their endeavors. Sociali:
Joining the WTUL in New York in 1905 sparked a new current in Suffrage Alliance servec
Blatch's woman suffrage work. There, her acquaintance with wage­ the Second Internatiom
earning women of earnest trade-union spirit and their independent­ to undertake campaigns
minded, independently wealthy or self-supporting allies cemented in British suffragettes w{
her mind the connection between the organized power of labor and the hursts' Women's Social,
BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM

tmong shirtwaist mak­ enfranchisement of women and inspired her to found early in 1907 a new
Iped to Chicago, Mil­ suffrage organization, the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women.
!Chester over the next From an initial meeting attended by two hundred women the Equality
I'S wage-earning pres­ League within a year and a half claimed almost twenty thousand mem­
nionization. 17 bers, including divisions from the Typographical Union, Bookbinders'
nt factors in industry, Union, and the Inter-Borough Association of Women Teachers. It en­
. . must hereafter be listed leading women trade unionists such as the Jewish capmaker Rose
izens rather than ad­ Schneiderman and the Irish former collarmaker and garment worker
:hilde Dorr, who took Leonora O'Reilly, both strong presences in the WTUL. Among its self­
oen's industrial work, supporting women were socialist intellectuals and Greenwich Village
outside the home and radicals passionately engaged in challenging the world around them, in­
. inescapable. A chief cluding lawyers and social investigators Madeleine Doty, Ida Rauh, and
; "permanent produc­ Jessie Ashley, and nurse Lavinia Dock of the Henry Street Settlement
:he time Dorr wrote, House. Under Blatch's leadership the new group immediately arranged
) were also ardent suf­ for trade-union women to testify before the New York state legislature on
de the immigrant and behalf of full woman suffrage (while the long-standing New York Woman
'ade unions who have Suffrage Association was still championing a property-based municipal
e a great addition and ballot for women). At the session, garment-union organizer Clara Silver
lUm, Hull House res­ protested that the state, by holding forth to bosses and male unionists
lAWSA convention. In the lesson of female inferiority, was countermanding working women's
artment. To the new struggle for justice in industry. "To be left out by the State just sets up a
lch as Harriot Stanton prejudice against us," she said. 19
connection between
In the spring of 1908, the Equality League brought across an English
16cation and need for
"suffragette," Anne Cobden-Sanderson, to speak of the exploits of the
3W York state suffrage
Women's Social and Political Union, soon to be made world-famous by
rrried life in England,
Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst. Reciprocal influence between
all sorts, their contri­
women in the U. S. suffrage movement and their counterparts in Britain
itical voice. A college
and Europe reached a peak in the decade before World War I, as illus­
, and professional at­
trated by the founding of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance in
it women for political
1904 and its subsequent biennial conventions in European capitals until
lance on natural rights
war broke out. Woman suffrage was indeed an international movement,
omic and political ob­
in all the industrialized countries, especially the Protestant ones. When
th woman as a worker
Finland in 1906 became the 6rst European nation to grant women
the worker the state
unrestricted suffrage, campaigners in surrounding countries intensi6ed
d. their endeavors. Socialist networks as well as the International Woman
:ed a new current in Suffrage Alliance served as international couriers after the Congress of
laintance with wage­ the Second International in 1907 issued a directive for member parties
d their independent­ to undertake campaigns for universal- suffrage. 20
19 allies cemented in British suffragettes were the great newsmakers of the time. The Pank­
,ower of labor and the hursts' Women's Social and Political Union had its origins in 1903 among
26 THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMIN

Lancashire working-class women. It was of those beginnings, and the Chapman Catt, a lead
working-class leader Annie Kenney, that Cobden-Sanderson spoke in not converted. A sign
New York's Cooper Union in 1908. 21 Like the contemporaneous arousal become principals in t
of woman suffrage activity in the United States, the English innovations tional Woman's Party­
relied on women's roles as economic producers supporting their claims mont, Inez Haynes Ir
to political freedom. The tactics of the wSPU included street demonstra­ nessed or joined the
tions, mass marches, and disruption of male politicians' meetings, which Pankhurst undertook ~
led to explosive clashes with police. In 1906 the Pankhursts moved to ing which she ignited
London, where their "shocking outrages" catapulted them-the "mili­ erine Houghton Hepb
tant women"-to international headlines. They led public demonstra­ Perhaps there was a gl
tions in the mud and rain, thrust banners from the gallery in Parliament, pageantry in the Amf
addressed passersby on street corners (and were arrested for obstruc­ meetings in the open ~
tion), sent deputations to see the Prime Minister, and heckled members accommodate large cre
of Parliament. Intensifying their moral pressure to physical violence in one step further. New:
1909, members of the wSPU smashed windows and assaulted guards at Blatch) were bold and
No. 10 Downing Street and other government buildings. Sent to jail, seeking news media. 23
they refused to eat. Hunger-striking became their regular practice when As "girl strikers" in 1
they were imprisoned in consequence of their renewed onslaught of the contradiction betWt
property destruction. The Pankhursts' autocratic command lost them the harsh conditions of
most of their followers, however, who formed the Women's Freedom became militant relied
League in 1907 and took a path they called "constitutional militance"­ assaulting predictable
tax protests, census boycotts, and other creative forms of civil disobedi­ Woman Suffrage in Nf
ence short of physical violence. 22 1908), prided itself on
The staging of sensational events, the use of nonviolent civil disobedi­ women found such put
ence, and the disruption of government as usual that came to be called necessity, in the "divin
militance in the woman suffrage movement were tactics adopted from an spiraling effect within t
inventory available in working-class, socialist, and nationalist politics. side it. Such action in
The Pankhursts said they had learned their most extreme militance­ Partakers in norm-defyi
destruction of property, arson, and physical assault-from Irish nation­ box to a mixed audienc€
alists. (Those tactics were shunned by virtually all other suffragists.) The awareness and forced t(
class origin of militant tactics was illustrated by the international fact that tated by gender. Then,
few middle- and upper-class suffragists partook beyond the level of ap­ ically, because of its 0
pearing on the street, that itself being a significant affront to respectabil­ biased toward the elite;
ity. Among German suffragists, even mass parades never caught on. like she was supposed t
In the United States, however, because of the example of the British the norm.
suffragettes and women workers on strike, and the contributions of So­ Suffragists searching
cialist women, woman suffrage activity after 1907 blossomed with tech­ established new ones, a
niques planted by the political left. European and American delegates adelphia, the Boston :E
attending the IWSA meeting in London in 1909 came face to face Franchise League, the
with militance, which caused a slight but noticeable ripple effect. Carrie Francisco Wage Earner!
: BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM

. beginnings, and the Chapman Catt, a leader in the International group, was impressed but i
I-Sanderson spoke in not converted. A significant handful of American suffragists who would
:emporaneous arousal become principals in the Congressional Union and its successor, the Na­
e English innovations
pporting their claims
tional Woman's Party-including Alice Paul and Lucy Bums, Alva Bel­
mont, Inez Haynes Irwin, Rheta Childe Dorr, and Anne Martin-wit­
I
led street demonstra­ nessed or joined the English actions between 1906 and 1911. Mrs.
ans' meetings, which Pankhurst undertook a speaking tour to the United States in 1909, dur­
Pankhursts moved to ing which she ignited followers and inspired new leaders, such as Kath­
ed them-the "mili­ erine Houghton Hepburn and Emily Pierson in Hartford, Connecticut.
\
d public demonstra­ Perhaps there was a greater taste for what could be called "democratic"
;allery in Parliament, pageantry in the American republic; at any rate, once speeches and
rrrested for obstruc­ meetings in the open air were begun, they proved necessary in order to
ld heckled members accommodate large crowds. Prepared outdoor demonstrations went just
physical violence in one step further. New leaders advocating attention-getting methods (like
assaulted guards at Blatch) were bold and persuasive, helped by the interest of sensation­
ldings. Sent to jail, seeking news media. 23
:gular practice when As "girl strikers" in the garment trades milked for publicity purposes
lewed onslaught of the contradiction between the standard image of gentle womanhood and
ommand lost them the harsh conditions of the assembly line and picket line, suffragists who
Women's Freedom became militant relied for attention on their tactics confronting or even
ltional militance"­ assaulting predictable models of femininity. The Progressive Union for
ns of civil disoberu­ Woman Suffrage in New York, the first to attempt a street parade (in
1908), prided itself on being theatrical, although its leader insisted that
)lent civil disoberu­ women found such public tactics "distasteful" and only took them up by
t came to be called necessity, in the "divine spirit of self-sacrifice."24 The new tactics had a
cs adopted from an spiraling effect within the suffrage movement and also made waves out­
[lationalist politics. side it. Such action in a common cause increased women's solidarity.
treme militance­ Partakers in norm-defying behavior (such as speaking outdoors on a soap­
-from Irish nation­ box to a mixed audience, subject to men's jeers) were kept at razor's edge
er suffragists.) The awareness and forced to reconsider internal and external constraints dic­
ernational fact that tated by gender. Then, if one norm were crossed, why not another? Iron­
Id the level of ap­ ically, because of its origins, the usefulness of suffrage militance was
ont to respectabil­ biased toward the elite; the wealthier its proponent was-the more lady­
'er caught on. like she was supposed to be-the greater the effect of her subversion of
Iple of the British the norm .
.ntributions of So­ Suffragists searching for new constituents invigorated old groups or
:somed with tech­ established new ones, among them the Political Equality League in Phil­
nerican delegates adelphia, the Boston Equal Suffrage Association, the Hartford Equal
Ime face to face Franchise League, the Chicago Political Equality League, and the San
)ple effect. Carrie Francisco Wage Earners' Suffrage League. Within a year or two not only
28 THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMINI5

in New York but also in Baltimore, Boston, San Francisco-even in excellence harmony &(
Boone, Iowa-suffragists showed new imagination and urgency, making makes me vomit." By
up or adapting from British examples such publicity-generating practices changes that reAected tt
as vigils, parades, trolley-car and auto speaking tours.25 These were con­ the open-air meeting w
sciously modern stunts, relying on and taking advantage of the existence zation, previously held
of mass media. Adopting the view of government as a broker of interests the political parties of tt
among which women's points of view had to be consulted, local suffrage By the 1910S woman
groups secured wider audiences with their new methods of publicity. In and organizations couIe
New York, under Carrie Chapman Catl's leadership, the Woman Suf­ teenth-century view of
frage Party got under way early in 1910, purposely mimicking Tammany dividual had been joine
Hall in its organization of the whole city into precincts and districts for group interests. City an
effective oversight. Aiming for a statewide municipal suffrage bill in the message that votes e
1909, the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association ran a Suffrage Special train answered or their intent
from Chicago to the state legislative session in Springfield, where tion, industrialization an
twenty-five women each gave three-minute speeches from varying to reenvision the state
points of view. might be calculated an<
In California, many local groups (some specialized for college women, forms in the 1910S to a<
temperance workers, wage-earners, or socialists) worked together in the zation, immigration, anI
successful state referendum campaign of 1911. They canvassed door-to­ the Progressive Party, a:
door and held street meetings in cities and towns, took auto trips to rural cialist Party made unpa
areas to put on skits and songs, posted billboards and held high school seen as the forum in wh
essay contests. The California Equal Suffrage Association in the north ethnic, and regional grOl
reported issuing three million pages of literature, and the California Po­ tion on concrete reforn
litical Equality Association in the south reported more than a million their particular identitie
leaHets and pamphlets. That victory, on the heels of one in Washington more pressing need for
the year before, touched off rising expectations nationwide. "Best of all," the vote as a concrete go
California suffragist Katherine Phillips Edson reAected upon the 1911 male and female reform(
success, "something has happened within woman herself-an increased government investigatio
self-respect-a feeling of honor for herself and for her sex. She is no and community health l
longer treated as a dependent person, but ... [is] to think her own conditions bridged the cl
thoughts-right or wrong-in the policy of her state."26 conventional realm of th
The new vigor was expressed in multiple, sometimes rival suffrage the proposal of female e
organizations at the grassroots, formed around neighborhoods, colleges, ology of woman's sphere
trades, profeSSions and clubs. The energy was sprouting up from below. in order to ensure dome
At that very time a NAWSA officer admitted to members of her board, part of women's duties ~
"In large places, the National is now hardly known to exist. The local By that time, suffragists'
suffragists are absorbed in local work and care only for such work." In­ vote because of their sex
tense internal conAicts over leadership, finances, and tactics racked the efits to bring and inten
top levels of NA WSA; the Reverend Olympia Brown, who had been a women deserved the vot
suffragist since Civil War days, pronounced the "shallow false talk of love Because the vote was I
r
IE BIRTH OF FEMINISM
THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM 29

an Francisco-even in excellence harmony &c" amidst the ongoing warfare "so false that it
III and urgency, making makes me vomit." By 1912, however, NAWSA made two major policy
tty-generating practices changes that reflected the influence of the grassroots suffrage movement:
JUrs.25 These were con­ the open-air meeting was accepted as policy, and officers of the organi­
'antage of the existence zation, previously held to strict nonpartisanship, were freed to work for
as a broker of interests the political parties of their choice. 21
lnsulted, local suffrage By the 1910S woman suffrage was a platform on which diverse people
lethods of publicity. In and organizations could comfortably, if temporarily, stand. The nine­
ship, the Woman Suf­ teenth-century view of the ballot as representing the self-possessed in­
y mimicking Tammany dividual had been joined by new emphasis on the ballot as the tool of
cincts and districts for group interests. City and state machine politics unmistakably conveyed
licipal suffrage bill in the message that votes enabled self-identified groups to have their needs
. Suffrage Special train answered or their intents manipulated. Population growth and immigra­
n Springfield, where tion, industrialization and the rise of great cities were compelling people
.eeches from varying to reenvision the state as the arena in which differing group interests
might be calculated and conciliated. Americans turned to political re­
~d for college women, forms in the 1910S to address the conditions brought on by industriali­
lorked together in the zation, immigration, and urbanization: dissident Republicans produced
ey canvassed door-to­ the Progressive Party, and the Democrats the "New Freedom"; the So­
:ook auto trips to rural cialist Party made unparalleled electoral gains. The political arena was
and held high school seen as the forum in which the competing wants of differing economic,
ociation in the north ethnic, and regional groups might be accommodated, in which coopera­
md the California Po- tion on concrete reforms could be engineered without groups losing
more than a million their particular identities. In synchronous parallel, voting appeared as a
Df one in Washington more pressing need for women, and diverse kinds of women could see
.onwide. "Best of all," the vote as a concrete goal around which to form a coalition. 28 Since both
~cted upon the Igl1 male and female reformers had been pushing for more than a decade for
lerself-an increased government investigation and regulation of housing, factory conditions,
r her sex. She is no and community health and safety, suffragists could argue that modem
is] to think her own conditions bridged the chasm between the realm of politics and woman's
e."26 conventional realm of the home. Where in the mid-nineteenth century
::times rival suffrage the proposal of female enfranchisement profoundly threatened the ide­
h.borhoods, colleges, ology of woman's sphere, by the 1910S the need as well as right to vote
lting up from below. in order to ensure domestic welfare could be persuasively presented as
mbers of her board, part of women's duties as wives, mothers, and community members. 29
1 to exist. The local
By that time, suffragists were as likely to argue that women deserved t~e
. for such work." In­ vote because of their sex-because women as a group had relevant ben­
ld tactics racked the efits to bring and interests to defend in the polity-as to argue that
n, who had been a women deserved the vote despite their sex.
low false talk of love Because ~te was recognized ~ a tool of group interests as we~
THE BIRTH OF FEMIJ
30 THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM

movement. In Provic
a symbol of equal access of citizens to self-government, the demand for
"declared war agains
~quaJ sii1fiage could be brought into accord with tnenotion that wom~~
force their collective 1
differed from me!!; In fact, the more that women'sp~ar interests
were not receiving ")
were stressed-so long as the premise of equal access was sustained­
hemian women edit{
the better the argument for woman suffrage. Thus, when Carrie Chap­
forcefully for womar
man Catt summed up "Why Women Want to Vote" early in 1915, she
working women. Jus
gave two kinds of reasons. The first had to do with justice, rights, wom­
Seattle Union Recore
en's sameness to men, and democracy: since women are people and in
its Woman's Departr
America the people are supposed to rule, she wrote, the vote is woman's
Magazine Section co
right, and disenfranchisement on the basis of sex is unjust. Her second,
ternational events. It
equally emphatic line of reasoning had to do with women's duties, tal­
at-home" wives to tl
ents, and difference from men: the vote was woman's duty because the
ported on wage-earn
United States government, competent in areas where men shone (such
eight-hour day, highl
as business, commerce, and the development of natural resources), was
formerly male OCCU)
inadequate in areas where mothers' skills were needed, such as school­
women besting me)
ing, caring for criminals, or dealing with unemployment.
League, a formerly r
fThe vote harmonized the two strands in foregoing woman's rights ad­
Central Labor Com:
I vocacy: it was an equal rights goal that enabled women to make special
I contributions; it sought to give women the same capacity as men so they
movement as well a:
tional leaders in th{
! could express their differences; it was a just end in itself, but it was also gaining the ballot, 1
I an expedient means to other ends. "Sameness" and "difference" argu­ protect their econon
'--ments, "equal rights" and "special contributions" arguments, "justice"
must use the ballot,'
and "expediency" arguments existed side by side. Although the gender
York State Senate in
differences marked out were conventional-defining women as mothers,
women employed at
__ h~sekeepers, and caregivers-turning these stereotypes to serve goals
and crushing of Oul
of equal access and equal rights minimized their constraints. Not simply
workers-saleswo m
accommodationist or conservative in its willingness to point out the need
ample-also joined
for political representation of women's differences from men, the suffrage
in which I worked
movement of the 1910S encompassed the broadest spectrum of ideas and
., former clerical work
participants in the history of the movement.3()
That was the only decade in which woman suffrage commanded a mass t vote was nearly unh
Black leaders anc
movement, in which working-class women, black women, women on the
suffrage in increasi:
radical left, the young, and the upper class joined in force; rich and poor,
black women would
socialist and capitalist, occasionally even black and white could be seen
chisement of black
I taking the same platform. Socialist Party members concentrated on rous­
movement had nev(
~. ing working-class support for woman suffrage, taking vigorous and effi­
tors, black women's
cacious parts in the western state campaigns and in New York. In 1910
national organizatio
not only workplace organizers and union militants but working-class
National FederatiOl
women of many sorts were demonstrating new audacity and forms for
Federation of ColO!
cooperation, which were strengthened by and further fueled the suffrage
THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM 31

)vernment, the demand for movement. In Providence, Rhode Island, Jewish immigrant housewives
¥lththen~n that w~;~n "declared war against the kosher butchers," picketing the shops to en­
'omen's partic;-;}'a"'J.interests force their collective boycott, because prices rose too high and customers
ual access was sustained- were not receiving "respectable treatment." In Chicago, a group of Bo­
Thus, when Carrie Chap­ hemian women edited and printed their own newspaper, campaigning
o Vote" early in 1915, she forcefully for woman suffrage and aiming to broaden the horizons of
with justice, rights, wom­ working women. Just after woman suffrage passed in Washington, the
women are people and in Seattle Union Record, the city's principal labor newspaper, transformed
wrote, the vote is woman's its Woman's Department from a page on food, home, and fashion to a
sex is unjust. Her second Magazine Section covering suffrage victories and other national and in­
with women's duties, tal~ ternational events. Its new woman editor connected the position of "stay­
voman's duty because the at-home" wives to that of their employed sisters. The new section re­
s where men shone (such ported on wage-earning women's strikes and struggles to organize for the
)f natural resources), was eight-hour day, highlighted women's advances into professions and other
~ needed, such as school­ formerly male occupations, and leavened the loaf with anecdotes of
)loyment. women besting men at various jobs. The Women's Card and Label
going woman's rights ad- League, a formerly halting union auxiliary organized through the Seattle
women to make special
Central Labor Council, pronounced itself a contributor to the woman
~ capacity as men so they
movement as well as the labor movement, and began to flourish. 31 Na­
! in itself, but it was also
tional leaders in the wrUL turned their interests more intensively to
, and "difference" argu­
gaining the ballot, believing that women had to be able to assert and
IS" arguments, "justice"
protect their economic interests in the political arena. "Working women
e. Although the gender
must use the ballot," cried a garment maker, testifying before the New
ling women as mothers,
York State Senate in the wake of the disastrous fire that killed over 140
!reotypes to serve goals
women employed at the Triangle factory, "in order to abolish the burning
constraints. Not simply
and crushing of our bodies for the profit of a very few." White-collar
is to point out the need
workers-saleswomen at Filene's department store in Boston, for ex­
from men, the suffrage
ample-also joined the movement. Before 1909 "the girls in the offices
t spectrum of ideas and
in which I worked . . . were nearly all opposed to women suffrage," a
former clerical worker recalled, but within a few years "the desire for the
.ge commanded a mass
vote was nearly universal with them."32
vomen, women on the
Black leaders and black women's organizations spoke up for woman
n force; rich and poor,
suffrage in increasing numbers, claiming that the enfranchisement of
I white could be seen
black women would address and help to redress the forcible disenfran­
concentrated on rous­
chisement of black men in the South. Although the woman suffrage
ing vigorous and effi­
movement had never been without some black contributors and innova­
n New York. In 1910
tors, black women's participation intensified during the 191OS. The major
itS but working-class
national organizations, the National Association of Colored Women, the
dacity and forms for
National Federation of Afro-American Women, and the Northeastern
~r fueled the suffrage
Federation of Colored Women's Clubs, threw themselves actively into
THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM
THE BIRTH OF FEMl

the movement despite the color line drawn by many of their white coun­
lined the aisles for ,
terparts. At the local level black women's clubs, like the Alpha Club
topic. College wome
established by Ida Wells-Barnett in Chicago, worked effectively in state
joined the political .
campaigns. They mobilized to promote not only gender justice but also
united college grouJ::
race progress, while aware of Southern white suffragists' contentions that
its own organizers to
white women's votes would outnumber the votes of all blacks. Southern
the news that wome
white women had become visible in the national suffrage movement in
men or losing invital
the 1BgoS but their participation too did not burgeon until after 1910.
upper-class women­
Atlanta, for instance, harbored two white woman suffrage groups in 1910
newly entered the 51
and eighty-one in 1917. as it had never befor
Interestingly, both black supporters and white opponents maintained
permitted: in New Y,
that enfranchised black women would somehow resist the Southern
of both Vanderbilt a
Democratic treachery that had deprived black men of their votes. Within wife of the founder
two years of its founding in 1910, W. E. B. DuBois's journal the Crisis
their own suffrage Sl
carried a symposium of black spokesmen and women endorsing woman Chicago Women's CI
suffrage, and it published a second in 1915. Throughout these years der to exert their le~
DuBois kept up a running commentary on the progress of the move­
dies mingling with fr
ment-including egregious affronts by white women to black-while re­ of the slums," was t
maining a vociferous supporter. Black women argued for the ballot on
Vorse breezily chara
the basis of both rights and duties, as did white women. Adelia Hunt
Woman Suffrage Pari
Logan of the Tuskegee Woman's Club deftly put it, "Women who see that
An important insp
they need the vote see also that the vote needs them." Black women
this period, and for t
often argued that the ballot would bring within their reach long-sought
that wage-earners (e
and not conventionally political aims: it would enable them to preserve pendent womanhoo(
their interests as workers, improve their chances for education, rally
seeking validation of
against black male disfranchisement, and also protect themselves against
despite the exploitat
the bane of sexual exploitation by white men. "She needs the ballot, to
sen ted not simply vi(
reckon with men who place no value upon her virtue, and to mould
Thus suffragist Hard
healthy sentiment in favor of her own protection," wrote Nannie Helen
Leonora O'Reilly, wl
Burroughs, an educator of black girls and promoter of domestic science.
class blindness of her
Instrumental as this reasoning was, it underscored the point that Kath­
you, we who are not!
erine Edson had made in a different way, that the ballot in this era sym­
do you not know that
bolized private self-respect and public dignity for women. 33
had evocatively attri1
Women at both ends of the economic spectrum had new appetite for
ments" to her own a
political organization. Suffrage groups found ready recruits not only
sense of living life at
among wage-earners but also among prosperous women formerly indif­
times, such longing I
ferent or opposed. Perhaps the best index was the swing in club women's
with vital things was
attention. Before 1904 the GFWC maintained a "nonpartisan" position on
in reactionary as weI
suffrage, seeing its theater in benevolence rather than politics; but that
particular it was an e"
year's convention gave space to a NAWSA speaker, and by 1910 members
teel world conventior
!: BIRTH OF FEMINISM
THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM 33

ny of their white coun­


, like the Alpha Club lined the aisles for a convention debate on suffrage, gripped with the
ked effectively in state topic. College women formerly devoted to social uplift or social life now
~ender justice but also
joined the political movement. The College Equal Suffrage League
19ists' contentions that united college groups from fifteen states in 1908 and began dispatching
of all blacks. Southern its own organizers to campuses. One wrote home from Nebraska in 1909
suffrage movement in the ne'ws that women students were now "not afraid of antagonising the
men or losing invitations to parties by being suffragists." In large cities,
geon until after 1910.
upper-class women-"society" women of great names and fortunes­
uffrage groups in 1910
newly entered the suffrage movement, thereby making it "fashionable"
:>pponents maintained as it had never before been. They entered at the top, as their resources
, resist the Southern permitted: in New York in 19lQAlva (Mrs. O. H. P.) Belmont, inheritor
l of their votes. Within
of both Vanderbilt and Belmont fortunes, and Mrs. Clarence MacKay,
lis's journal the Crisis wife of the founder of International Telephone and Telegraph, headed
their own suffrage societies; in Chicago the upper-class women of the
\len endorsing woman
roughout these years Chicago Women's Club established the Political Equality League in or­
)rogress of the move­ der to exert their leadership in the movement. "Polite up-town rich la­
:m to black-while re­ dies mingling with free and democratic spirits with us poor wage slaves
of the slums," was the way labor radical and journalist Mary Heaton
~ed for the ballot on
women. AdelIa Hunt Vorse breezily characterized her publicity committee of the New York
"Women who see that Woman Suffrage Party in 1915. 34 .

them." Black women An important inspiration for privileged women's political actiVism~.n
leir reach long-sought this period, and for their search for cross-class alliances, was their sense
that wage-earners (especially trade unionists) were exemplars of inde­
tble them to preserve
s for education, rally pendent womanhood. To a self-selected minority of educated women
lct themselves against seeking validation of their own social usefulness, women wage-earners­ \1
e needs the ballot, to despite the exploitative conditions under which they labored-repre­
virtue, and to mould sented not simply victims to be assisted but a vanguard to be emulated'-1
wrote Nannie Helen Thus suffragist Harriet Burton Laidlaw sought to mollify WfUL leader
r of domestic science. Leonora O'Reilly, whose temper sometimes lashed out scornfully at the
I the point that Kath­ class blindness of her wealthy "allies": "surely if we who can do less than
ballot in this era sym­ you, we who are not so close to vital things, can learn anything from you,
do you not know that we are teachable?" As far back as 1890 Jane Addams
vomen. 33
had new appetite for had evocatively attributed "The Subjective Necessity for Social Settle­
dy recruits not only ments" to her own and similarly privileged young women's disquieting
'omen formerly indif­ sense of living life at a remove. Not an infrequent temperament of the
wing in club women's times, such longing of the pampered or the intellectual to be in touch
Ipartisan" position on with vital things was found among men as well as women and expressed
han politics; but that in reactionary as well as rebellious politics, but for educated women~
nd by 1910 members particular it was an expressiQn of their alienation from the restricted genJ
teel world conventionally allowed them.
34 THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FE:
T
By 1910 more than a few educated and prosperous women intensified
t They are of cou
i
their search for real "life and labor"-the name chosen in 1910 by the ,
t
enjoy the advent
WTUL for its journal-by aligning themselves with wage-earning women they go about m~
who were visibly manifesting insurgent spirit. For instance, Maud splendid sort of I
Younger, born to wealthy parents in San Francisco, educated in private which they clain
schools, and sent to Europe, began a stint at the College Settlement in name for those v
New York in 1901, on an impulse. "I went to see it Monday, and Tuesday nine pettinesses
went to stay. I went for a week but stayed five years." There she was there is left stuff
converted to trade unionism, woman suffrage, and protective labor leg­ and understandil
islation. Later in life, when Alice Paul (who had done similar work) crit­
icized the relationship between settlement house residents and the tene­ Thus a perceptive
ment community-calling it "artificial" because the residents formed a public essayist Ran
"favored class"-Younger had to assent, but at the time she simply saw women who lived i:
herself as united to working women's struggle for justice. She joined the intellectuals in Ne'
WTUL'S efforts in 1904 and signed up with the Waitresses Union in 1907 the rebellious "out
when she took a wage-earning job herself (and wrote about it for Mc­ as a hunchbacked c
Clure's Magazine). Returning to San Francisco in 1908, she led in form­ The women wh(
ing a Waitresses Union there. In the California campaign for woman suf­ already welcomed t
frage, she organized the Wage Earners' Equal Suffrage League, which movement, art, or
she represented on the five-member state Central Campaign Committee class analysis for M:
while she was the delegate of the Waitresses Union on the Central Trades the political spectn
and Labor Council. Effective in the successful contemporary effort to advocacy of sociali5
obtain an eight-hour law for women workers in California, when she nonetheless identif
came back East in 1912 she picketed with the White Goods strikers in the elimination of (
New York and lobbied with the WTUL for protective labor legislation in ocratically controlle
the nation's capital. 35 Between suffragists' demonstrations and working gressives leaning to
women's self-assertions, a reciprocally influential escalation was taking population, a tolera
place. All across the country, women seemed determined to extend the der hierarchy in a
boundaries and raise the stakes of the woman movement. them in part becau
because of seeming
In that percolating environment Feminism, the revolution of rising ex­ ses of group oppre
pectations, came forth. Here were its envoys: New Review, a joun
White Ovington (V\
They are all social workers, or magazine writers in a small way. They
founders of the NA
are decidedly emancipated and advanced, and so thoroughly healthy
"the two greatest m
and zestful, or at least it seems so to my unsophisticated masculine
A powerful mode
sense. They shock you constantly. . . .They have an amazing com­
itants, with whom
bination of wisdom and youthfulness, of humor and ability, and in­
NAWSA leadership :
nocence and self-reliance, which absolutely belies everything you
situation in titles SI
will read in the story-books or any other description of womankind.
Should Be Done VI
~ BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM 35

)us women intensified They are of course all self-supporting and independent, and they
:hosen in 1910 by the enjoy the adventure of life; the full, reliant, audacious way in which
wage-earning women they go about makes you wonder if the new woman isn't to be a very
For instance, Maud splendid sort ofperson....They talk much about the "Human Sex,"
), educated in private which they claim to have invented, and which is simply a generic
:ollege Settlement in name for those whose masculine brutalities and egotisms and femi­
Monday, and Tuesday nine pettinesses and stupidities have been purged away so that
'ears." There she was there is left stuff for a genuine comradeship and healthy frank regard
protective labor leg­ and understanding. .
·ne similar work) crit­
:sidents and the tene­ Thus a perceptive young Columbia University graduate, the New Re­
e residents formed a public essayist Randolph Bourne, described a feminist "salon" of young
time she simply saw women who lived in Greenwich Village. One of the cohort of progressive
Istice. She joined the intellectuals in New York, Bourne perhaps more readily identified with
resses Union in 1907 the rebellious "outsider" status women felt because his physical stature
'ote about it for Mc­ as a hunchbacked dwarf put him outside the male norm. 36
~8, she led in form­ The women who lifted the banner of Feminism had, by and large,
paign for woman suf­ already welcomed the idea of radical and irreverent behavior in the labor
rage League, which movement, art, or politics. Although it was a worrisome diversion from
ampaign Committee class analysis for Marxists, Feminism was born ideologically on the left of
n the Central Trades the political spectrum, first espoused by women who were familiar with
ltemporary effort to advocacy of socialism and who, advantaged by bourgeois backgrounds,
:alifornia, when she nonetheless identified more with labor than with capital and hoped for
te Goods strikers in the elimination of exploitation by capital and the intervention of a dem­
: labor legislation in ocratically controlled state. They considered themselves socialists or pro­
'ations and working gressives leaning toward socialism and had, unlike most of the American
icalation was taking population, a tolerance for "isms." They embedded their critique of gen­
nined to extend the der hierarchy in a critique of the social system. Feminism appealed to
lent. them in part because of their awareness of contemporary socialism, and
because of seeming analogies between feminism's and socialism's analy­
)Iution of rising ex- ses of group oppression and proposals of social transformation. In the
New Review, a journal of socialist intellectuals just starting in 1914, Mary
White Ovington (who five years earlier had been one of the white co­
Ismall way. They
founders of the NAACP) paired Feminism with Socialism, caning them
oroughly healthy
"the two greatest movements of today. "37
icated masculine
A powerful model of disruption was also provided by the English mil­
m amazing com­
itants, with whom feminists welcomed identification as much as the
l ability, and in-
NAWSA leadership feared it. Staid U.S. journals reflected the English
everything you
situation in titles such as "How to Repress the Suffragettes" or "What
1 of womankind.
Should Be Done with the Wild Women," but when Emmeline Pank­

,
THE BIRTH OF FEJ\
THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM

hurst, just out of prison, crossed the Atlantic to raise money for her achieve self-determ
cause, her detention at Ellis Island at the British government's request nism was a revolt "
drove U.S. suffragists to furious empathy. Once she was released, she capitalized imperso:
received an overwhelming reception, Harriot Stanton Blatch recalled. than the male"-n.
Edna Kenton saw the English "militant women" as a symbol of the "spir­ formal shibboleth­
itual militancy" developing more widely in women, "a highly significant and blood and brair
part of the general unrest that is burrowing beneath old codes, under­ men, all the great
mining old values and ideals, and tossing them up into unsteady moun­ porter and avid sufi
tains of broken sepulchers and moldy rubbish." Mary Heaton Vorse the Feminist: "Hen
cheered their violence, writing to a friend, "I cannot imagine anything chains off, crown ofl
that would affect better the moral health of any country than something As a movement 0]
which would blast the greatest number of that indecent, immoral insti­ ideas of submission
tution-the perfect lady-out of doors and set them smashing and riot­ the suffrage movem
.
mg. "38 sion with imaginatic
Feminism partook of the free-ranging spirit of rebellion of the time, and the communica
which exploded in many forms, from the Ashcan School of painting to movement. With nc
the "one big union" idea of the Industrial Workers of the World. The not a movement wi
joyfully self-important motive to flout convention, epater fes bourgeois, spread from New Yc
belonged to Feminism as well as to other contemporaneous forms of cul­ activists grasped the
tural blasphemy. Feminism severed the ties the woman movement had ings not expressed i
to Christianity and conventional respectability. ''Am I the Christian inism's changing of (
gentlewoman my mother slaved to make me? No indeed," Genevieve struggle, the suffrag
Taggard catechized herself while a student at the University of California depending on their 1
at Berkeley in the 191OS, already a socialist familiar with the literary the connections Fen
radicals in San Francisco; "I am a poet, a wine-bibber, a radical; a non­ ical transformation (
numbers, and Femi
church-goer who will no longer sing in the church choir or lead prayer
ping and reciprocal
meeting with a testimonial." As a joke, on the suffrage campaign trail,
movement broaden.
the young Nebraskan Doris Stevens wrote to her Oregon friend Sara
them a platform.
Bard Field-who had divorced her husband, a minister, against his re­
sistance-inquiring if she believed in prayer and if so would she invoke ~
a deity ("to follow the conventional habit of men") at an upcoming suf­ woman movement it
A "restless woman" \
fragist convention. Field responded that she had "quit the prayer­
business some years ago" and "had no speaking acquaintance with any but just as important
_dei!:y and hence could not supplicate him her or it." 39 ever had before." V
woman's duties, Fe!
"\ Like the radicalism of contemporary male intellectuals, Feminism in­
They took as a ment
\ fused p,olitical cl~ims with ~ul~~r~ meaning and vice-versa. Feminism
revered her for her r
i was a revolt agamst formahsm (m the phrase of a historian of contem­
of the rights of wome:
I porary intellectual trends): a refusal to heed the abstraction of woman­
all social, political, e
! hood as it had been handed down, a refusal intrinsic to the "conscious
upon sex, and the av
! attempt"-as radical Edna Kenton put it-"to realize Personality," to
THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM 37

BIRTH OF FEMINISM
achieve self-determination through life, growth, and experience. Femi-/'
nism was a revolt "as much against Woman as Man-both of those are
raise money for her capitalized impersonalities!" Not the "source of all evil," not "more dead!y'"
Jvernmenfs request than the male"-not, indeed, summarizable in any such abstract and
e was released, she formal shibboleth-women must be acknowledged to be "people of flesh
:on Blatch recalled, and blood and brain, feeling, seeing, judging and directing equally with
symbol of the "spir­ men, all the great social forces," Mary Ritter Beard, trade-union sup­
'a highly significant porter and avid suffragist, insisted. Charlotte Perkins Gilman described
old codes, under­ the Feminist: "Here she comes, running, out of prison and off pedestal;
to unsteady moun­ chains off, crown off, halo off, just a live woman."40
ary Heaton Vorse As a movement of consciousness, Feminism intended to transform the
imagine anything ideas of submission and femininity that had been inculcated in women;
cy than something the suffrage movement provided a ready vehicle for propagating this vi­ i

nt, immoral insti­ sion with imagination and ingenuity. Feminism relied on the existence
mashing and riot- and the communications networks of the suffrage agitation to become a
movement. With nothing specific to sign, nothing specific to join, it was
\
lion of the time not a movement whose numbers are easily recoverable, but it quickly \i
'01 of painting t~
the World. The
spread from New York to other urban locales wherever intellectuals and
activists grasped the term to name their uncharted assertions and yearn­
,
?r ies bourgeois,
ings not expressed in palpable goals such as the suffrage. So far as Fem­
forms of cuI­ inism's changing of consciousness depended on creating a community of
JUS
movement had

: the Christian

struggle, the suffrage movement provided a ready community-though


depending on their predilections, suffragists of different sorts took or left
I
:d," Genevieve
the connections Feminists drew between woman suffrage and more rad­
ty of California
ical transformation of women's status. The suffrage movement, larger in
th the literary
numbers, and Feminism, larger in intents, were separable yet overlap­
radical; a non­
ping and reciprocally influential. Feminists' presence in the suffrage
or lead prayer
movement broadened its margins, while the suffrage campaign gave
:l.mpaign trail,
them a platform.
n friend Sara
Yet to some ext 'nism w~action against an emp~~~.in_Jh~
(gainst his re­
woman movement itself, the stress on nurturant service and moral uplift.
Id she invoke
A "restless woman" WOuldbrag that she w~ "d~-;;gth~ world some good"
pcoming suf­ but just as important, "having a better time than any woman in the world
the prayer­
ever had before." When the woman movement of the 1910S stressed
Ice with any
woman's duties, Feminists reinvigorated demands for women's rights.
They took as a mentor the democratic theorist Mary Wollstonecrafl: and
eminism in­ revered her for her norm-defying sexual life as well as for her vindication 1
. Feminism of the rights of women. Feminists forthrightly demanded "the removal of
of contem­ all social, political, economic and other discriminations which are based II
of woman­ upon sex, and the award of all rights and duties in all fields on the basis
"conscious
Jnality," to
THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM
THE BIRTH OF FE

I of individual capacity alone," in the language of the Feminist Alliance led from 1912 to 1917,
~ by Henrietta Rodman. 41 Under their witty treatment the conception of urday meetings, tl
woman's rights underwent luxuriant growth. At a feminist mass meeting members learned
in New York in 1914, on a program entitled "Breaking into the Human "twilight sleep" dUJ
Race," Rheta Childe Dorr spoke on the right to work; Beatrice Forbes­ choanalysis, or a I
Robertson Hale, author of the 1914 book What Women Want: An Inter­ women. A conscio
pretation of the Feminist Movement, on the right of a mother to follow Heterodoxy illustn
her profession; actress Mary Shaw on the right to one's convictions; Fola as an ideology of
LaFollette (also an actress, the daughter of Wisconsin's Senator Robert looking and indivi(
LaFollette) on the right to keep one's name; Rose Schneiderman on the social action in the
right to organize; Charlotte Perkins Gilman on the right to specialize in aim, reiterating a [
home industries; and Nina Wilcox Putnam on the right to ignore fashion. tion. From Elizabe
That mass meeting was a project of a group of women gathered under thought" in the 18;:
the leadership of Marie Jenny Howe, who named their circle Hetero­ itude of Self' in tht
doxy because it "only ... demanded of a member that she should not women's individual
be orthodox in her opinions," as one recalled. Beginning with twenty­ by family role, as a
five women in 1912, Heterodoxy epitomized the Feminism of the time. vidualism-in the:
Howe, a middle-aged nonpracticing minister and the wife of noted Pro­ nounced in the Fen
gressive municipal reformer Frederic C. Howe, started the group into the Human Ra
shortly after she moved to New York from Cleveland. Authors Dorr and "We intend simp]
Inez Haynes Gillmore were both early members, and so were journalist female selves, but I
Mary Heaton Vorse, psychologist Leta Stetter Hollingworth, anthropol­ century it was a (
ogist Elsie Clews Parsons, socialist trade unionist Rose Pastor Stokes, development as cor
lawyer Elinor Byrns, and many other equally spirited souls. The first Individualism for v
"feminist mass meeting" called by Heterodoxy had featured school­ conditions of wage:
teacher Rodman, who spoke on her cooperative living scheme to solve significant minority
the problem of professional women's housework; Frances Perkins (later women, to assert in
secretary oflabor under FDR), at that time an industrial investigator who and habit of dress ;
had kept her "maiden" name when she married, like many Village Fem­ themselves. Elsie (
inists; and Crystal Eastman, a lawyer, social investigator, and political 191'4 volume on fel
and cultural radical. Several men sympathetic to Feminism also spoke, Woman's Museum'
including Floyd Dell, his coeditor at the Masses Max Eastman (who was the first law briefor
Crystal Eastman's brother and the husband of Ida Rauh), publicist posterity that once'
George Creel, dramatist George Middleton (husband of Fola La­ however, the suffra:
Follette), and nationally known newspaper columnist Will Irwin (who stitute a distinct
would marry Inez Haynes Gillmore). Heterodoxy provided "a glimpse of Proclaimed Femini~
the women of the future, big spirited, intellectually alert, devoid of the political and social i
old 'femininity,'" said member Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a socialist and tree-willed, self-will
organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World. who called themsel'
"We thought we discussed the whole field," Dorr reHected on the years ever fell among,"-I
THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM 39

.the Feminist Alliance led from 1912 to 1917, "but we really discussed ourselves."42 At regular Sat­
atment the conception of urday meetings, through speakers and raging discussions, Heterodoxy
t a feminist mass meeting members learned about cultural, political, and scientific innovations­
Breaking into the Human "twilight sleep" during childbirth, the progress of the Socialist Party, psy­
:0 work; Beatrice Forbes­ choanalysis, or a new play-and assessed how these affected them as
t Women Want: An I nter­ women. A consciousness-raising group before the term was invented, '\
ght of a mother to follow Heterodoxy illustrated how far Feminism, born in an era of social tumult !
to one's convictions; Fola as an ideology of women's social awakening, was nonetheless inward- I
isconsin's Senator Robert looking and individualistic. Together with Feminism's manifestations in i
)se Schneiderman on the social action in the 1910S individual psychic freedom stood as its central !
the right to specialize in aim, reiterating a principle of long standing in the women's rights tradi- 1
le right to ignore fashion. tion. From Elizabeth Oakes Smith's emphasis on women's "singleness of"
,f women gathered under thought" in the 1850S to Elizabeth Cady Stanton's evocation of "The Sol­
med their circle Hetero­ itude of Self' in the 188os, nineteenth-century spokeswomen had voiced
nber that she should not women's individuality of temperament, unpredetermined by gender or
Beginning with twenty­ by family role, as at least a minor and sometimes a major theme. 43 Indi­
le Feminism of the time. vidualism-in the sense of self-development-became much more pro­
ld the wife of noted Pro­ nounced in the Feminism of the 191OS, as the Heterodoxy title "Breaking
)we, started the group into the Human Race" implied.
eland. Authors Dorr and "We intend simply to be ourselves," Howe declared, "not just our little
's, and so were journalist female selves, but our whole big human selves." By the early twentieth
iollingworth, anthropoI­ century it ~.!.JLQQ!!!!!!I2nplace that the JI{~ww WomanstooaTor self­
nist Rose Pastor Stokes, aeve~t as cont~~J2.~~!f=sw~crHice orsubmergence in the family.
spirited souls. The first Indi~dualism for women had come of age., .soJo speak. The material
'y had featured school­ conditionSof wag;;earning an(C';rb~~ settlement made it feasible for a
e living scheme to solve significant minority of women to distinguish themselves from the lot of
k; Frances Perkins (later women, to assert individual choice in livelihood, personal relationships,
lustriaI investigator who and habit of dress and living. None did this more fully than Feminists
, like many Village Fem­ themselves. Elsie Clews Parsons even drolly foresaw the day when her
lvestigator, and political 1914 volume on female customs and taboo would be gathered up in a
:0 Feminism also spoke, Woman's Museum with "specimens of women's industries and arts ...
Max Eastman (who was the first law briefor the first novel written by her," to show "to a doubting
of Ida Rauh), publicist posterity that once women were a distinct social class." For the moment,
(husband of Fola La­ however, the suffrage agitation clearly marked how far women did col!.~
umnist Will Irwin (who stitute a distinct social class, a disfranchised political class. Self­
y provided "a glimpse of proctaiffie<I Feminists held individualism in d amic tension with their
lally alert, devoid of the political an social identi cation as women. "What a Unity this group of
y Flynn, a socialist and free-willed, self-willed women has become," the Heterodoxy members­
1.
who called themselves "the most unruly and individualistic females you
rr reflected on the years
ever fell among,"-reflected on their own paradox. 44 They moved toward
THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMINU

a definition of women's common political task and consciousness that re­ work regardless of sex a
lied less on that staple of the nineteenth-century woman movement, the Feminists.TheIr most iT
uniting theme of motherhood, than on the themes of deprivations and kins Gilman (herself a H
rebellions felt in common by women of various sorts. fornia to the East Coast
Even in the turbulent political environment of the prewar years, the Gilman had been conv€
profound ambitions and ambiguities of Feminism required an excep­ tion that she saw bindin;
tional wrench from the status quo that only a minority could conceivably sex-specific characteristi
--rr;ake: "Despite the economic changes that had brought women into the Gilman elevated into a
paid labor force, despite the improving rates of women's entry into spicacious women saw :
higher education and the professions, and despite the collective and po­ move in the direction al
litical strengths women had shown through voluntary organization, the specialized home occup~
vast majority of the population understood women not as existential sub­ dustry and professions, a
jects, but as dutiful daughters, wives, and mothers. The effort to find ful work of all sorts. SI
LJelease from the "family claim," which settlement leader Jane Addams remaining home employ
had eloquently described in the 188os, was being painfully repeated dec­ that housecleaning and c
ade after decade. Even a college graduate struggling to establish an in­ ized paid employees th~
dependent life and work for herself might have to record ruefully, as suited and not paid for t}
Hilda Smith did, that "our families make us feel like murderers instead Gilman's themes were
of joyous adventurers." 45 South African novelist re
Feminism, as the Heterodoxy membership and interests made clear, lished her magnum opm
was the province first of all ofwomen highly-educated, either formally in England in 1911. "We t
colleges and grad~hools or informally in the labor or socialist move­ claimed. In compelling a:
ment, women busy with worldly, not domestic, occupations. The strong only unique gains in unic
presence of women who had been to college and even graduate or dominated professions­
professional school among early Feminists-as among the new genera­ denotation of women's e(
tion of leaders in the suffrage movement, especially those who endorsed She dignified women's s
I militance-was remarkable in an era in which only a tiny proportion of their chosen work, and }
L. women or men had higher education. The proportion of eighteen- to States. In Seattle, when t
twenty-one-year olds in the United States enrolled as undergraduates in Label League announced
degree programs was on the increase, from under 4 percent of all in 1900 selves," they cited Schrei
to nearly 8 percent in Ig20. Women comprised a growing proportion of their horizons beyond tl
these students-40 percent in IglO, almost half in 192O. This small pro­ "training school for wome
portion did not come from the highest levels of wealth-upper-class ings.
women did not go to college-but were a self-selected minority of those Schreiner was also a pr

just below and into the solid middle class. Going to college in this period in England in the 1880s sl

was certainly a badge of class privilege and yet for women it was also a of sex, were intimates, sl

badge of aspiration beyond the ordinary horizons of one's sex. 46 were no less than men'S.

r-The education or training of these early Feminists was one very signa­ 1feedor;-went h~~
I icant measure of their unusual status; the independent livelihoods they Schreiner saw the free pia
Lere pursuing was another. The ~rincipl~._?!_~~~d()~_to~_c.h()os~ one'~ a stimulus rather than a I
'HE BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM 41

nd consciousness that re­ ~~~..~nd regardless of mar~~~e was a central tenet for
y woman movement, the Feminists. Their most influential mentor in this effort was Charlotte Per­
~mes of deprivations and kins Gilman (herself a Heterodoxy member). Since the 1890s, from Cali­
fornia to the East Coast, as a soul-stirring speaker and a prolific writer,
sorts.
of the prewar years, the Gilman had been conveying her critique of the "sexuo-economic" rela­
nism required an excep­ tion that she saw binding women to men, molding women to exaggerate
:inority could conceivably sex-specific characteristics and to rely on men as economic providers.
brought women into the Gilman elevated into a theory of social evolution the changes that per­
s of women's entry into spicacious women saw happening around them; she urged women to
lite the collective and po­ move in the direction already pointed out, by leaving their ancient un­
,luntary organization, the specialized home occupation, following the path marked by modem in­
nen not as existential sub­ dustry and professions, and exercising their full human capacities in use­
)thers. The effort to find ful work of all sorts. She proposed, furthermore, the socialization of
nent leader Jane Addams remaining home employments such as cooking and laundry and argued
ng painfully repeated dec­ that housecleaning and childcare would be better performed by special­
Iggling to establish an in­ ized paid employees than by housewives and mothers not necessarily
lve to record ruefully, as suited and not paid for the tasks. 47
~ellike murderers instead Gilman's themes were reinvigorated when Olive Schreiner, a white
South African novelist renowned for her Story of an African Fann, pub­
and interests made clear, lished her magnum opus, Woman and Labor, in the United States and
lucated, either formally in England in 1911. "We take all labor for our province!" Schreiner de­
he labor or socialist move­ claimed. In compelling and timely prose-for in 1910S women made not
~, occupations. The strong only unique gains in unionization but also unique inroads into the male­
ge and even graduate or dominated professions-Schreiner lambasted female "parasitism," her
IS among the new genera­
denotation of women's economic subordination to and reliance on men.
dally those who endorsed She dignified women's self-expression and social contribution through
1 only a tiny proportion of
their chosen work, and her focus found many adherents in the United
)roportion of eighteen- to States. In Seattle, when the formerly cautious members of the Card and
olled as undergraduates in Label League announced that they were "commencing to think for them­
der 4 percent ofall in 1900 selves," they cited Schreiner's critique of parasitism. Deciding to widen
ld a growing proportion of their horizons beyond the household, they turned the league into a
llf in 1920. This small pro­ "training school for women" and barred men from their afternoon meet­
!ls of wealth-upper-class ings.
-selected minority of those Schreiner was also a prophetess of women's sexual release. As youths
ng to college in this period in England in the 1880s she and Havelock Ellis, the budding philosopher
et for women it was also a of sex, were intimates, sharing the belief that women's sexual passions
ons of one's sex. 46 were ~_less than m~,n~Jn Schreiner-;g Women and Labm;economlC
ninists was one very signif­ freedom went hand in glove with heterosexual attraction and intimacy.
lependent livelihoods they Schreiner saw the free play of women's talents and intellectual powers as
f freedom to choose one's a stimulus rather than a burden to love between the sexes. More em­
THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM

phatically than Gilman (who also foresaw finer marriages once women I was being sapped,
shook off the sexuo-economic bond), Schreiner promised that economic civilization. A man camt
independence would bring a "closer, more permanent, more emotionally me freedom and the li~
and inteHectually complete relation between the individual man and was my soul's salvation.
woman." 48 Social Revolution, the I
r--That vision combining equality of economic choice with heterosexual . standing, slander and he
\ intimacy was essential to Feminism in the 191OS. Severing the ties the when I was most bound
1 woman movement had to Christianity, Feminism also abandoned the get free. I had to take it ,
1 stance of moral superiority, which was tied to sexual "purity," and evoked by the horrible, sugar-cl
! instead women's sexuality. Again redefining rights, Feminism asserted which I lived. Besides, .
--"'sex rights on the part ofwomen"-as Inez Milholland, recent graduate shown me this awful tn
of Vassar and law school and a dazzling and adventurous suffragist, put happiness he could find i
it. The younger women who claimed the name of Feminists marched off If the man who gave n
the path long trod by women critics of the double standard. Unlike me; if he were to leave r
a long line of Anglo-American evangelical women, who insisted that personal relations with h
men adhere to the same canon of sexual respectability that governed am doing. . . . The world
women-and unlike Christabel Pankhurst, whose demand for a single demnation must be my pl
standard of morality was epitomized in her notorious slogan "Votes for
Women and Chastity fur Men"-they urged a single standard balanced De Ford may have been g
in.lhe direction of heterosexual freedom for women. Feminists were de­ offered a more casual view
termined to be "frank" about sex, which meant (to them) to acknowledge riage in an anthropolOgical
openly that sexual drives were as constitutive of women's nature as of Among the Early Heteroditt
men's. They reformulated in terms of principle the loosening of sexual observed, practiced by thos
behavior that had preceded them not among purposive women reform­ tists, and resistants," it reCOl
ers (except for a handful of late nineteenth-century "free lovers") but young and by pressure of hal
among working-class adolescents, bohemians, and entertainers. 49 The varietists have never bet
Sex outside of marriage in the 1910S was outlawry befitting Feminist Succession of matings. The r.
aims to explode the understructure of conventional society. It involved a resistants are rare. As virgil
transvaluation of values, erasing the boundaries between the "pure" and varietists assume an outward
the "fallen" woman. It was a personal form of direct action as risky, as cleverly concealed 18 varietic
thrilling, as full of a paradoxical sense of play and deadly responsibility economic status depended up
as throwing a bomb. Philadelphian Miriam Allen de Ford, a college grad­ "marriage union label," Sang
uate and suffragist, composed an "Apologia" to mark her sexual initiation parodic deSCriptions. 51

at age twenty-six:
Yet Feminists did not makt
sex rights beyond the basic ;
Why am I writing this? The world of conservatives will never under­ might be said by 1912 to be
stand it; the world of radicals needs no explanation. To the world at (Even a Nation reviewer that y
large I am an outcast, and it is true I have deliberately excommuni­ to a frank enjoyment of the !
cated myself.... sensible person now disputes 1
If I have any justification, it is this:­ the right to make it a subje
THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM 43

ler marriages once women I was being sapped, strangled, exploited, blinded by a decaying
ler promised that economic civilization. A man came, and tore the bindings from me and showed
,rmanent, more emotionally me freedom and the light of day. No matter what happened, that
m the individual man and was my sours salvation. I have taken it and embraced it all-the
Social Revolution, the life of rebellion, the certainty of misunder­
ic choice with heterosexual . standing, slander and heartbreak. Fate made my chance come just
.9 1OS • Severing the ties the when I was most bound to the old and had to break most bonds to
ninism also abandoned the get free. I had to take it when I could get it, or else be stifled forever
I sexual "purity," and evoked
by the horrible, sugar-coated world of reform and philanthropy in
'rights Feminism asserted which I lived. Besides, lowed a certain debt to the man who had
Milholl~d, recent graduate shown me this awful truth, not to keep from him any longer the
adventurous suffragist, put happiness he could find in me ....
ne of Feminists marched off If the man who gave me this vision had no love-connection with
le double standard. Unlike me; if he were to leave me tomorrow; if the whole question of my
women, who insisted that personal relations with him were eliminated; I should do just as I
'espectability that governed am doing.... The world's honor is my degradation; the world's con­
whose demand for a single demnation must be my pride and victory. 50
. notorious slogan "Votes for
f a single standard balanced De Ford may have been given to self-dramatization. Another Feminist
women. Feminists were de­ offered a more casual view of women's sexual adventures outside mar­
:tnt (to them) to acknowledge riage in an anthropological spoof called "Marriage Customs and Taboo
rive of women's nature as of Among the Early Heterodites." "Three types of sex relationships may be
ciple the loosening of sexual observed, practiced by those who call themselves monotonists, vane­
19 purposive women reform­ tists, and resistants," it recorded. "Most of the monotonists were mated
h-century "free lovers") but young and by pressure of habit and circumstance have remained mated.
1S, and entertainers. 49 The varietists have never been ceremonially mated but have preferred a
; outlawry befitting Feminist succession of matings. The resistants have not mated at all. (Note: True
entional society. It involved a resistants are rare. As virginity is an asset outside of monotony many
mes between the "pure" and varietists assume an outward resistancy. I recall one resistant who had
n of direct action as risky, as cleverly concealed 18 varieties of mating, because as she confessed her
lay and deadly responsibility economic status depended upon her virginity.)" And so on, regarding the
Allen de Ford, a college grad­ "marriage union label," Sangerism, deceptive ring wearing, and other
. to mark her sexual initiation parodic descriptions. 51
Yet Feminists did not make very clear what were meant by women's
sex rights beyond the basic acknowledgement of erotic drives, which
,ervatives will never under­ might be said by 1912 to be a staple of sophisticated urban discourse.
,xplanation. To the world at (Even a Nation reviewer that year maintained, 'AS for the right of women
'e deliberately excommuni- to a frank enjoyment of the sensuous side of the sex-relation . . . no
sensible person now disputes that right, but only, as in the case of men,
the right to make it a subject of common conversation.") They did
44 THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM
THE BIRTH OF FEMINIS
"

not make clear how sex rights related to marriage, or monogamy, or dora's box. In the very )
homosexual as well as heterosexual relationships. Certainly their aims the thrill and the fear fe
stemmed from a generally critical attitude toward the failings of bour­ was translated into mas~
geois marriage, not only for harboring male tyranny but for dull predict­ Theda Bara. She reigne<
ability and emotional barrenness. Louise Bryant, a Portland, Oregon, atic of the simultaneous;
radical, reported scornfully to Sara Bard Field in 1916 that the town was the female erotic. In Ba
full of gossip about herself and John Reed, "discussing our most intimate tiveness unseating male
affairs and saying, 'Of course Jack won't marry her.' As if TfUlrriage, that said, "because they see j
most diabolic law of all laws-could purify anything!" She described their unavenged wrongs.
their relationship, in contrast, as "so free"; "We don't interfere with each Feminists assigned m(
other at all, we just sort of supplement, and life is very lovely to us-we heterosexual attachment
""":sT'1<'loIl e children who will never grow up." As Bryant implied, their drift
them. Seeing sexual desi
was less to destroy monogamy than to restore it to value, based in egali­ women could meet men
tarian companionability and mutual desire, whether blessed by the state on the terrain of politic:;
r church or not. But even the most restless women at this time found authenticity seemed a gI
the theory of nonmarital sex easier to swallow than the continued prac­ neers of heterosexual frel
tice of it. Feminists who found male partners did marry (and divorce and publicly the potential for.
remarry), often keeping their maiden names, trying for egalitarian rela­ sonality in heterosexual k
tionships. "I am trying for nothing so hard in my own personal life as how ual exploitation of womeJ
not to be respectable when married," was Mary Heaton Vorse's compro­ tional sexual restraint. In
mise. 52 ideal. "I am sure the ema
Not only was there no consensus on these questions but feminist suf­ and eternal aspiration," 1:
fragists more or less agreed that experimentation involving these issues blinding moment of truth.
should be kept separate from the campaign for suffrage, so, although one counterpOint and sometim
heard about sexual freedom "on all sides," as Mary Austin recalled, "one The liberatory value that
heard about it in connection with prominent suffragettes, but not di­ prevent them from valuir
rectly. There was a disposition to keep such matters to one's self." Older ships with women. The m
suffragists hastened to disavow any connection between the vote for bisexual, and lesbian won
women and sexual promiscuity, for free love was a bogey that anti­ respect for each others' cI
suffragists had been warning about for decades. Indeed, anti-suffrage trail spoke passionately of
writers of the early 1910S very quickly discerned that Feminism was of their heterosexual invoh
even more alarming than suffragism because of its combined emphasis to them. Doris Stevens al
on women's economic independence and sex rights along with the vote. deeply involved with men
To opponents of women's self-assertion, the vision of women deploying her lover's being "devotion
their own sexuality appeared just as aggressive as their claim to support life whom I love without re
themselves, and just as threatening to men as insistence on male chastity yours." Both perceived the
was. Regardless of Feminists' pursuit of heterosexual adventures and ing men. Field, despite hel
their promises that men would have more fun, they were accused of "he covers me as a man can
"sex-antagonism." By ancient cultural tradition, the loosing of women's me quite sad for I know it'!
sexual desire from men's control released the fiendish contents of Pan- in so that it is he or no one.
THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM 45

arriage, or monogamy, or dora's box. In the very years that feminists were articulating this threat,
hips. Certainly their aims the thrill and the fear female sexual assertiveness posed to male control
)ward the failings of bour­ was translated into mass culture by the vamp star of the silent screen,
'ranny but for dull predict­ Theda Bara. She reigned supreme from 1913 to 1916, her role emblem­
yant, a Portland, Oregon, atic of the simultaneous allure and threat to the social order contained in
I in 1916 that the town was the female erotic. In Bara's own view, her role expressed female asser­
scussing our most intimate tiveness unseating male hegemony. "Women are my greatest fans," she
y her: As if marriage, that said, "because they see in my vampire the impersonal vengeance oLall
anything!" She described their unavenged wrongs .... I am in effect a feministe."53
le don't interfere with each Feminists assigned more liberatory meaning and value to passionate
ife is very lovely to us-we heterosexual attachment than did any woman's rights advocates before
, Bryant implied, their drift them. Seeing sexual desire as healthy and joyful, they assumed that free
~ it to value, based in egali­ women could meet men as equals on the terrain of sexual desire just as
hether blessed by the state on the terrain of political representation or professional expertise. In­
women at this time found authenticity seemed a greater danger than sexual exploitation. As pio­
N than the continued prac­ neers of heterosexual freedom, Feminists were far from acknowledging
did marry (and divorce and publicly the potential for submergence of women's individuality and per­
. trying for egalitarian rela­ sonality in heterosexual love relationships, or the potential for men's sex­
ny own personal life as how ual exploitation of women who purposely broke the bounds of conven­
l.ry Heaton Vorse's compro­ tional sexual restraint. In private they saw, inevitably, travesties of their
ideal. "I am sure the emancipated man is a myth sprung from our hope
questions but feminist suf­ and eternal aspiration," Doris Stevens admitted to Sara Bard Field in a
ition involving these issues blinding moment of truth. Relationships with women were the consoling
Ir suffrage, so, although one counterpoint and sometimes the replacement for relationships with men.
Mary Austin recalled, "one The liberatory value that they assigned to heterosexual affairs did not
nt suffragettes, but not di­ prevent them from valuing as much or more their emotional relation­
matters to one's self." Older ships with women. The members of Heterodoxy included heterosexu~
,tion between the vote for bisexual, and lesbian women, who coexisted harmoniously in apparent
,ve was a bogey that anti­ respect for each others' choices. The letters of women on the suffrage
ades. Indeed, anti-suffrage trail spoke passionately of their appreciation for one another, regardless
cerned that Feminism was of their heterosexual involvements and sometimes in explicit comparison
; of its combined emphasis to them. Doris Stevens and Sara Bard Field, for example, both were
: rights along with the vote. deeply involved with men and yet Stevens wrote to Field that despite
vision of women deploying her lover's being "devotion personified," Sara was "the only human in my
ve as their claim to support life whom I love without reservation"; "my love for Dudley doesn't touch
i insistence on male chastity yours." Both perceived the omnipresent potential for domination in lov­
~terosexual adventures and ing men. Field, despite her fervent devotion to her lover, conceded that
fun, they were accused of "he covers me as a man can love," and Stevens responded that this "made
ion, the loosing of women's me quite sad for I know it's true. Even dear unselfish Dudley hems me
le fiendish contents of Pan- in so that it is he or no one."54
THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMJ

The difficulties that sexuality brought to the Feminist agenda were endowment" by whic
highlighted in the influential work of Ellen Key, a Swedish writer. In porating many of Ke
1912 Key was regarded as a "tremendous radical," and "everybody who form, founded in 19
used to read Charlotte Perkins Gilman was now reading [her]," Rheta equalize the legal rig
Childe Dorr remembered, although her "very name was anathema to to bring state SUppor
most suffragists." Key was one of many European theorists to whom advance beyond Ke)
American rebels looked for justifications of changing sex morality. Have­ generated both trem,
lock Ellis, one of the English New Moralists, who had assaulted the Vic­ rality espoused by M
torian notion that women were sexually anesthetic and given new scien­ German women's mo
tific attention and spiritual relevance to sex, was read avidly in the leaders, Adele Schrei
United States at the tum of the century. Ellis was the mentor sought out patriarchal family for
by birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger in 1913 when she traveled to port and acknowledgl
England to escape U.S. prosecution. By that time Sigmund Freud's rev­ child rearing. In Scam
olutionary ideas about sexuality and the unconscious were burning a path cial policies pushed tl
among vanguard intellectuals in Greenwich Village. Key magnetized of 1915, for example,
women in particular, however, because she was a woman and she wrote for the unwed mother
all about femnle sexual fulfillment. Key's Century of the Child was trans­ Some American wO]
lated and published in the United States in 1910, her Love and Mar­ German women's effo
riage-which Harper's Weekly editor Norman Hapgood judged "prob­ tal than the aim for po
ably had a profounder influence in this field than any other book since change not only law
John Stuart Mill's Subjection of Women" -in 1911, The Womnn Move­ towards marriage," Sl
ment in 1912, and Renaissance of Motherhood in 1914.55 Sturges Dummer thm
Like Ellis (who wrote the introductions to the American editions of ite and the author of
her books), Key romanticized female eroticism and, like most apostles of mothers, agreed that·
sexual liberation of the time, linked erotic life to bodily health and spiri­ of volitional motherh(
tual harmony. She claimed that women's true fulfillment was sex-specific, Anthony researched a:
intrinsically bound to the nurturance expressed in maternity-just as many and Scandinavi
nineteenth-century conventions had it-but she broke through the Vic­ clear of the property
torian separation between motherhood and female eroticism and linked women to express thei
"motherliness" to heterosexual desire, itself sacred and self-validating. Key's ideas posed pro
She argued that women should be free to form love relationships and specific destiny for wor
should be able to end marriages which did not bring them sexual satis­ sentimental and anti-p
faction. Only those marriage that consummated and enshrined sexual ing value of motherhc
love were valid, in her view. satisfaction of heterosc
Refusing to bow to respectability or to legal or patriarchal authority for Katherine Anthony ca
women's sexual activity, Key was a radical. She repudiated the concept much "dross" in her "gc
of illegitimate birth and championed unwed mothers. A socialist opposed feminists for attemptiJ
in principle to the economic dependence of women on men, she argued servant of old gender
that marriage when joined was an economic partnership in which the judged Key a "reactiolll
wife/mother earned and should own half of her husband's wages or as­ of sexual morality. 56
sets. For single mothers she advocated state subsidy or "motherhood Many women, howe\
THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM 47

the Feminist agenda were endowment" by which the state would recognize maternal labor. Incor­
Key, a Swedish writer. In porating many of Key's ideas, the Bund fUr Mutterschutz und Sexualre­
Heal," and "everybody who form, founded in 1904 in Leipzig (with Key in attendance), aimed to
now reading [her}," Rheta equalize the legal rights of husband and wife, to legitimize "free unions,"
lry name was anathema to to bring state support to unmarried mothers, and (in a significant policy
,ropean theorists to whom advance beyond Key) to make birth control legal and available. As it
langing sex morality. Have­ generated both tremendous resistance and eager support, the New Mo­
who had assaulted the Vic­ rality espoused by Mutterschutz proponents was the central issue in the
thetic and given new sci en­ German women's movement in the early twentieth century. Its political
:x, was read avidly in the leaders, Adele Schreiber and Helene Stocker, vigorously challenged the
:was the mentor sought out patriarchal family for subjugating women and the state for failing to sup­
19 13 when she traveled to port and acknowledge mothers' (including unmarried mothers) work of
time Sigmund Freud's rev­ child rearing. In Scandinavia, too, Key's ideas were reformulated into so­
nscious were burning a path cial policies pushed through by women reformers. Norwegian legislation
b. Village. Key magnetized of 1915, for example, regularized the status of and allowed state support
.vas a woman and she wrote for the unwed mother's child .
.tury ofthe Child was trans­ Some American women were deeply impressed with Scandinavian and
1 1910, her Love and Mar­ German women's efforts of this sort and saw them as far more fundamen­
Ian Hapgood judged "prob­ tal than the aim for political rights, far more radical because they "would
I than any other book since change not only law but custom, would reverse the attitude of mind
,n 1911, The Woman Move­ towards marriage," so Chicago philanthropist and philosopher Ethel
Sturges Dummer thought. Her friend Katherine Anthony, a Heterodox­
Jd in 19 1 4. 55
to the American editions of ite and the author of a social investigation of employed working-class
im and, like most apostles of mothers, agreed that the European women's emphasis on the "triumph
fe to bodily health and spiri­ of volitional motherhood over sex slavery" was essential to feminism.
l fulfillment was sex-specific, Anthony researched and published in 1915 a book on Feminism in Ger­
essed in maternity-just as many and Scandinavia. In her view, those movements aimed to steer
t she broke through the Vic­ clear of the property relations of patriarchal marriage, while enabling
female eroticism and linked women to express their sexuality in "possessionless sex."
f sacred and self-validating. Key's ideas posed problems to Feminists because she envisioned a sex­
form love relationships and specific destiny for women, where they looked for the "human sex." Anti­
not bring them sexual satis­ sentimental and anti-patriarchal, Key nonetheless glorified the redeem­
nated and enshrined sexual ing value of motherhood and believed that women who achieved the
satisfaction of heterosexual love should fulfill themselves as mothers.
al or patriarchal authority for
Katherine Anthony called Key a "wise fool," admitting that there was
She repudiated the concept
much "dross" in her "genius" but continuing to admire the Mutterschutz
mothers. A socialist opposed
feminists for attempting a "new science of womanhood" neither ob­
: women on men, she argued
servant of old gender constraints nor emulative of men. Dorr baldly
lic partnership in which the
judged Key a "reactionary" except for her assault on the double standard
f her husband's wages or as­
of sexual morality. 56
ate subsidy or "motherhood
Many women, however, seem to have taken what they wanted to hear
THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM
THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM

from Key's message, making her principally an apostle of women's sexual


quite divergent in spirit,
liberation and secondarily a voice urging women not to adopt the male
Female Feminists (like KE
as a model. Of Feminist spokeswomen of the 191OS, birth control agitator
ment of life; that the main
Margaret Sanger most wholly incorporated Key's ideas. When she
do with sex, and that wh
founded her law-defying newspaper, the Woman Rebel, in the spring of
human characteristics. The
1914, Sanger located the "basis of Feminism" less in "masculine-domi­
lying or covering all phases
nated" concerns such as employment than in "the right to be a mother
fuller exercise, developmE
regardless of church or state." Not only her contempt for marriage law
eluded her assessment of 1
but also her view of erotic desire as sacred and her championing of a
and however it expresses i
"feminine element" or "absolute, elemental, inner urge of womanhood"
strikes deeper, aims higher
bespoke Key's and Ellis's influence. The birth control movement in the
As Katherine Anthony Sl
Ig1OS, however, appealed to Feminists on many counts and was the most
, had two "dominating ideas'
obvious political form their ideas on sexuality took. Stirred up by anar­
man-being and as a sex-bei;
chist and labor leaders such as Emma Goldman, the birth control move­
someone who "believes in 1
ment challenged conventional respectability both by speaking of sex and
equal opportunities with mf
by linking sex oppression to class oppression. It spoke for women's exer­
divergent emphases did no
cise of their sexuality and control of their reproductive capacity free of
time. Rather, the simultane(
state interference. Neither the economic independence nor the hetero­
Femi,nism's characteristic c:i
sexual freedom on the Feminist agenda were possible without birth con­
women's human rights and v
trol. Acknowledging the range of opinion within Feminism, Crystal East­
inists ;anted, soundly enou!
man insisted, "Birth Control is an elementary essential in all aspects of
some respects to be like me]
feminism. Whether we are the special followers of Alice Paul, or Ruth
cany to their own sex; to hav,
Law, or Ellen Key, or Olive Schreiner, we must all be followers of Mar­
proclaImIng the vanabilitY'<
garet Sanger." 57
guished the Feminism of th,
Key argued that the American emphasis on women's right to work out­
tion, the fact that its several:
side the home was misplaced, since women's freedom and happiness
recognized as part of the san
were not to be gained through emulation of or competition with men in
assertion. None of its Singlet
the economic or political arena. (In the 18gos she had even opposed
c~izenship, nor for equaJWag
woman suffrage, though she switched to support in 1905.) Charlotte Per­
nor for psychic freedom and!
kins Gilman found Key's position the antithesis of her own. In a series of
erafion, nor for wives' indef
articles published between 1912 and Ig14, Key and Gilman sparred, in
made at some time, piecemea
the process bringing the term Feminism and the question of its defini­
cant minority ofwomen eleva.
tion to public attention. Key attacked Gilman and Schreiner by name for
intensity in combination, nam
their emphasis on women's performance in arenas dominated by men;
ing the revolutionary openenl
she labelled the consequences of mothers' working outside the home
tiOnsor-n;elr project and ma~
"socially pernicious, racially wasteful and soul-withering" and in contrast
boundaries, that potential to
boosted "motherliness" as women's personal and social contribution, the
leaaers were secular and educ
fount of altruism, unselfish ethics and social cooperation. Gilman re­
not at the full power they desi]
sponded by perceiving that "what is now so generally called Feminism is
relied on political consciousne!
not only a thing quite outside of the Suffrage question, but also a move­
to pursue an even better integJ
ment in more than one general direction." She called the two schools,
The tradition of political act
-------~.--....-------
THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM 49
lHE BIRTH OF FEMINISM

apostle of women's sexual quite divergent in spirit, the Human Feminists (like herself) and the
en not to adopt the male Female Feminists (like Key). "The one holds that sex is a minor depart­
110S, birth control agitator ment oflne; that the main lines of human development have nothing to
Key's ideas. When she do with sex, and that what women need most is the development of
an Rebel, in the spring of human characteristics. The other considers sex as paramount, as under­
less in "masculine-domi­ lying or covering all phases oflne, and that what woman needs is an even
"the right to be a mother fuller exercise, development and recognition of her sex." Gilman con­
ontempt for marriage law cluded her assessment of Key by acknowledging, "whatever it is called
md her championing of a and however it expresses itself, the Feminist movement spreads wider,
strikes deeper, aims higher, every day."58
nner urge of womanhood"
As Katherine Anthony succinctly described it, Feminism in the 1910S
\
l control movement in the f
lY counts and was the most had two "dominating ideas"; "the emancipation of woman both as a hu­ !
. took. Stirred up by anar­ man-being and as a sex-being." Another woman defined the Feminist as
tn the birth control move­
someone who "believes in her own sex, is proud of it, and claims for it
)o~h by speaking of sex and
It spoke for women's exer­
productive capacity free of
ependence nor the hetero­
equal opportunities with men in all walks ofHfe and endeavors."59 These
divergent emphases did not cause real fissures within Feminism at the
time. Rather, the simultaneous influence of Gilman and Key represented
Feminism's characteristic doubleness, its simultaneous affirmation of
I
possible without birth con­ women's human rights and women's uniq'ue needs and differences. Fem-=­
lin Feminism, Crystal East­
-y essential in all aspects of
N'ers of Alice Paul, or Ruth
lust all be followers of Mar-
inists wanted, soundly enough, to have it both wa s-to like men and in
some respects 0 e i e men, while being loyal politically and ideologi­
cally to their own sex; to have an expanded concept of womanhood while
proclaIming the vanability of individuals within the sex.-WliatdisfJ.:n­
gUlshed the Feminism of the 1910S was its very mi'.iiill'aceted constitu­
I
I women's right to work out­ tion, the fact that its several strands were all10udly voiced and mutuatly
n's freedom and happiness recognized as part of the same phenomenon of female avant-garde self­
or competition with men in assertiOn. None of its single tenets was brand new, not the claim foaull
~os she had even opposed citizenship, nor for equal wa es for e ual work, nor even for equal work,
port in 1905.) Charlotte Per­ nor or psychic freedom and spiritual autonom , nor even for sexllafIib­
!sis of her own. In a series of era lon, nor or wives independence. Each of these points had been
Key and Gilman sparred, i~ made at some time, piecemeal, by women before. In the 1910S a signifi­
ld the question of its defim­ cant minority of women elevated these demands to ·;;w flamboyance-a~d
n and Schreiner by name for intensity in combination, namin their constellation Feminism, conc~d­
l arenas dominated by men;
ing t e revo utionary openendedness and sometime internal contradic­
. working outside the home tiOns of their project and making that formlessness, that lack of cert~n
ul-withering" and in contrast boundaries, that potentiat to encompass opposites, into virtues. Their \1
1and social contribution, the leruterS were secular and educated women used to functioning=-though
~ial cooperation. Gilman re­ not at the full power they desired-in a world of women and men. They
generally called Feminism is relied on political consciousness and solidarity among women as a group
~e question, but also a move­ to pursue an even better integrated world of women and men. ­
. She called the two schools,
--"----- . -
The tradition of political action and argumentation laid down by the
--~."""
50 THE BIRTH OF FEMINISM

woman movement was crucial to Feminism's coherence in the 191OS; the


eontempomy suffrage and labot'.-Ulcwemeats-and"experrmenKin radir:al
art and politics supplied the soil 10 wnfcnif grewlike an or:ganis;n. In its
genesIs Fem1Olsmwasfiittor-double aims,joimng tIie conrepfof wom­
en's equality with men to the concept of women's sexual difference, join­
ing the aim of antinomian individual release with concerted social action,
endorsing the "human sex" while deploying political solidarity among
women. Whether these paradoxes would prove fault lines or sources of
spiraling growth, time would tell.