The Women in the Alliance Movement
by Annie L. Diggs
The women prominent in the great farmer manifesto of this present time were long preparing for their part; not consciously, not by any manner of means even divining that there would be a part to play. In the many thousands of isolated farm homes the early morning, the noonday and the evening-time work went on with a dreary monotony which resulted in that startling report of the physicians that American farms were recruiting stations from whence more women went to insane asylums than from any other walk in life.
Farm life for women is a treadmill. The eternal climb must be kept -up though the altitude never heightens. For more than a quarter of a century these churning, washing, ironing, baking, darning, sewing, cooking. scrubbing, drudging women, whose toilsome, dreary lives were unrelieved by the slight incident or by-play of town life, felt that their treadmills slipped cogs. Climb as they would, they slipped – down two steps while they climbed one. They were not keeping pace with the women of the towns and cities. The industry which once led in the. march toward independence and prosperity, was steadily falling behind as to remuneration. Something was wrong.
The Grange came on – a most noble order, of untold service and solace to erstwhile cheerless lives. Pathetic the heart-hunger for the beauty side of life. The Grange blossomed forth in "Floras" and "Pomonas." There was a season of sociability, with much good cookery, enchanting Jellies, ethereal angel cakes, and flower-decked tables. There was much burnishing of bright-witted women – not always listeners, often essayists. Sometimes, indeed, leaders of discussion and earnest talk about middlemen, the home market, the railroad problem, and such other matters as would have shed light on the cause of the farmer's declining prosperity had not wary politicians sniffed danger, and, under specious pretence of "keeping out politics lest it kill the Grange," tabooed free speech and thus adroitly injected. the fatalest of policies. The Grange is dead. Long live the, Grange born again – the Alliance! this time not to be frightened out of politics or' choked of utterance; born this time to do far more than talk – to vote.
The Granger sisters through the intervening years, climbing laboriously, patiently, felt their treadmill cogs a slipping three steps down to one step up. Reincarnate in the Alliance the whilom Floras and Pomonas became secretaries and lecturers. The worn and weary treadmillers are anxious, troubled. They have no heart for poetry or play. Life is work unremitting. There is no time for ransacking of heathen mythologies for fashions with which to trig out modern goddesses. Instead of mythologic lore, they read "Seven Financial' Conspiracies," Looking Backward," "Progress and Poverty." Alas ! of this last word they know much and fear more -- fear for their children’s future. These once frolicking Floras and playful Pomonas turn with all the fierceness of the primal mother--nature to protect their younglings from devouring, devastating plutocracy.
Politics for the farmer had been recreation, relaxation, or even exhilaration, according to the varying degree of his interest, or of honor flatteringly bestowed by town committeemen upon a "solid yeoman" at caucus or convention. The flush of pride over being selected to make a nominating speech, or the sense of importance consequent upon being placed on a resolution committee to acquiesce in the prepared document conveniently at hand – these high honors lightened much muddy plowing and hot harvest work.
But the farmers' wives participated in no such ecstacies. Hence for them no blinding party ties. And therefore when investigation turned on the light, the women spoke right out in meeting, demanding explanation for the non-appearance of the home market for the farm products, which their good husbands had been prophesying and promising would follow the upbuilding of protected industries. These women in the Alliance, grown apt in keeping close accounts from long economy, cast eyes over the long account of promises of officials managing public business, and said, "Promise and performance do not balance." "of what value are convention honors, or even elected eloquence in national Capitol, if homelessness must be our children's heritage?"
Carlyle's Menads, hungrier than American women are as yet, penetrated the French Assembly "to the shamefulest interruption of public speaking" with cries of, "Du pain! pas tant de longs discours! " Our Alliance women spake the same in English: "Bread ! not so much discoursing ! "less eloquence and more justice!"
Strangely enough, the women of the South, where women, and men's thought about women, are most conservative, were first to go into the Alliance, and in many instances were most clear of thought and vigorous of speech. Though never venturing upon the platform, they contributed much to the inspiration and tenacity of the Alliance.
In several states, notably Texas, Georgia, Michigan, California, Colorado, and Nebraska, women have been useful and prominent in the farmer movement, which indeed is now widened and blended with the cause of labor other than that of the farm.
Kansas, however, furnished by far the largest quota of Active, aggressive women, inasmuch as Kansas was the theatre where the initial act of the great labor drama was played. This drama, which, please God, must not grow into tragedy, is fully set on the world stage, and the curtain will never ring down nor the lights be turned off, until there be ushered in the eternal era of justice to the men and women who toil.
The, great political victory of the people of Kansas would not have been won without the help of the women of the Alliance. Women who never dreamed of becoming public speakers grew eloquent in their zeal and fervor. Farmers' wives and daughters rose earlier and worked later to gain time to cook the picnic dinners, to paint the mottoes on the banners, to practice with the glee clubs, to march in procession. Josh Billings' saying that "wimmin is everywhere," was literally true in that wonderful picnicking, speech-making Alliance summer of 1890.
Kansas politics was no longer "dirty pool." That marvelous campaign was a great thrilling crusade. It was religious to the core. Instinctively the women knew that the salvation of their homes, and more even, the salvation of the republic, depended upon the outcome of that test struggle. Every word, every thought, every act, was a prayer for victory, and for the triumph of light. Victory was compelled to come.
Narrow ignoramuses long ago stumbled upon the truth. The home is woman's sphere." Ignoramus said, "Women should cook and gossip, and rock cradles, and darn socks" – merely these and nothing more. Whereas the whole truth is, women should watch and work in all things which shape and mould the home, whether "money," "land" or "transportation." So now Alliance women look at politics and trace the swift relation to the home -- their special sphere. They say, "Our homes are threatened by the dirty pool. The pool must go."
Before this question of the salvation of the imperiled homes of the nation, all other questions, whether of "prohibition" or "suffrage," pale into relative inconsequence. For where shall temperance or high thought of franchise be taught the children, by whose breath the world is saved, if sacred hearth fires shall go out? The overtopping, all-embracing moral question of the age is this for which the Alliance came. Upon such great ethical foundation is the labor movement of to-day building itself. How could women do otherwise than be in and of it?
Easily first among the Kansas women who rose to prominence, as a platform speaker for the political party which grew out of the Alliance, is Mrs. Mary E. Lease.
An Irishwoman by birth, Mrs. Lease is typically fervid, impulsive, and heroic. All the hatred of oppression and scorn of oppressors, which every true son aud daughter of Erin feels, found vent in Mrs. Lease's public utterances as she denounced the greedy governing class which has grown rich and powerful at the expense of the impoverished and helpless multitude.
Mrs. Lease came to America when quite a little girl. Her father went into the Union army and died at Andersonville. We was educated a Catholic, but thought herself out of that communion, and is now over-weighted with reverence for the clergy of any sect. She not infrequently rouses their ire by her stinging taunts as to their divergence from the path marked out by their professed Master, whose first concern was for the poor and needy.
Mrs. Lease's home is at Wichita, Kan. Her husband is a pharmacist. Her children are exceptionally bright and lovely. Her eldest son, grown to young manhood, bids fair to follow his distinguished mother on the platform.
A most trying experience of farm life on a Western claim taught Mrs. Lease the inside story of the farmers' declining prosperity. Turning from unprofitable farming, she began the study of law, in which she was engaged when the Union Labor campaign of 1888 claimed her services as a speaker. During this campaign she only gained a local notoriety. Further study, larger opportunity, and the bugle call of the Alliance movement roused her latent powers, and in the campaign of 1890 she made speeches so full of fiery eloquence, of righteous wrath, and fierce denunciation of the oppressors and betrayers of the people, that she became the delight of the people of the new party, and the detestation of the followers of the old. Seldom, if ever, was a woman so vilified and so misrepresented by malignant newspaper attacks. A woman of other quality would have sunk under the avalanche. She was quite competent to cope with all that was visited upon her. Indeed, the abuse did her much service. The people but loved her the more for the enemies she made.
Her career on the public platform since that memorable campaign has been one of uninterrupted and unparalleled success. Her chiefest distinguishing gift is her powerful voice; deep and resonant, its effect is startling and controlling. Her speeches are philippics. She hurls sentences as Jove hurled thunderbolts. Her personal appearance upon the platform is most commanding. She is tall and stately in bearing, well meriting the title bestowed upon her at St. Louis by General Weaver, when he introduced her to a wildly welcoming audience as "Our Queen Mary." Queen of women orators she truly is. She has the characteristic combination which marks the beautiful Irishwoman, of black hair, fair complexion, and blue eyes, – sad blue eyes that seem to see and feel the weight and woe of all the world.
Her style and subject matter of discourse are distinctively hers. She is neither classifiable nor comparable. Her torrent of speech is made up of terse, strong sentences. These she launches with resistless force at the defenceless head of whatever may be the objective point of her attack. Hers a nature which compels rather than persuades.
Already the story of the wondrous part she has played in the people's struggle for justice has reached other countries than our own.
Mrs. Lease will be constantly engaged in speaking for the People's Party through the coming summer and fall.
In the to-be-written history of this great epoch, Mrs. Mary E. Lease will have a most conspicuous place.
MRS. S. E. V. EMERY.
Placid, lovable, loving mother of all the other women in this great reform is Mrs. Sarah Emery. What Elizabeth Cady Stanton is to equal suffrage and to her reverent suffrage disciples, such is Mrs. Emery to the Home Crusade and her most devoted co-crusaders.
It is doubtful if any other one factor has contributed more to the spread of the financial doctrines of the People's Party than Mrs. Emery's little book, "Seven Financial Conspiracies." It was surely an inspiration of the modern sort – the putting in so clear, concise, and brief a form the epitomized story of the nation's finances since the civil war. The low price and simple style of the little book made it available and effective. It was read more extensively than any other work of its class. It was one of those "poisonous" books which Ex-.Governor Geo. T. Anthony, now the Republican nominee for congressman-at-large from Kansas, in a public speech berated his follow Republicans and Democrats for having allowed the Alliance men to get behind closed doors-and-read."
Ex-Governor John P. St. John seems to have found meat rather than poison in the book. He said "I learned more in relation to the financial history of our country during the past thirty years by carefully reading Mrs. Emery's ‘Seven Financial Conspiracies’ than I had ever known before."
Mrs. Emery was born May 12, 1838, at Phelps, Ontario County, New York. Her father was a widely informed, warm-hearted man. He espoused the doctrines of the Universalists, in those days the extreme of heresy, and was subjected to much contumely therefore. The animating spirit of early Universalism was love – love all-conquering, love that refused to believe that evil or pain could eternally endure. The breath of life from earliest childhood for this strong, mother-hearted woman was loving kindliness, tender solicitude, and entire hopefulness that all ills could be cured. Writing of her father, she says: "In my sympathy for the oppressed, in my love for justice to my fellow-men, I see my father's spirit, and the same benign influence that inspired my childish heart leads me on to-day and strengthens my devotion to the great cause of humanity."
During the years of her young womanhood, Mrs. Emery alternated between teaching and attending school. In Sunday schools and temperance societies she has always been an efficient worker. As a matter of course, she is an equal
In 1881 Mrs. Emery was elected delegate-at-large to the State Greenback Convention of Michigan, the first woman thus honored from her state. Since that time she has been sent as delegate to national conventions of the Greenback and Union Labor parties. She was also a delegate to the Conference of Industrial Organizations at St. Louis, February 22 of this year.
Mrs. Emery began her career as a public speaker in 1880. Returning from the State Greenback Convention, she said to her husband: "When I saw that little band of men, I said in my heart, Surely these are the people chosen of God to perpetuate the principles established by our fathers, and, though despised and ridiculed, my lot must be, cast with them. I feel that I must go and preach deliverance to the toiling captives of our land."
Her first meeting was held in a country schoolhouse; and though the house was crowded there was not one person present sufficiently in sympathy with her views to be willing to preside. With entire confidence in the righteousness of her message, she proceeded calmly to expound the new political doctrine. She was listened to with profound and respectful attention, and at the close of her address an old gentleman stepped forward and stated that he had voted the Republican ticket ever since there had been a Republican Party, but he should never vote it again.
Mrs. Emery makes no effort at oratory or elocutionary style. She is none the less effective, and is credited with making converts wherever she speaks.
She is widely known and is much beloved. Her sweet spirit has shaped a face of benign loveliness. She is very tall and proportionately large. She has all the wholesomeness of perfect health and the soft color of youth in her fresh, fair face. If the whole human race were to call upon her for kindly attention and for sympathy, she has enough to go around.
Mrs. Emery is one of the associate editors of the New Forum, a People's Party paper just started at St. Louis. Her home is at Lansing, Mich. She is now speaking in Oregon, and will continue on the platform during the summer and fall. Indeed, she will doubtless be at work speaking and writing for the prisoners of poverty as long as life shall last.
MRS. FANNY RANDOLPH VICKREY.
Mrs. Fanny Randolph Vickrey, of Emporia, Kan., could not help being a reformer of the aggressive type. She has it I’ the blood. With Quaker-Abolitionist-Greenback ancestry, with Kansas for a native state, with a glad, free girlhood passed on a broad prairie farm -- with these blessings supplemented by a course in one of the fine co-educational institutions of her native state, and all this crowned by marriage with a noble, generous-minded man who glories in his wife's ability, it is not more than to be expected that Ms. Vickrey should be a sympathetic and active worker in the Alliance.
In1884 Mrs. Vickrey, then Miss Randolph, was nominated by the Greenback Party of Kansas for state superintendent of public instruction. Her fitness for that position was acknowledged even by the opposition press. A leading Republican paper of the state said of her: "She is a capable teacher, and possesses elocutionary skill, which should make her a pleasing and effective public speaker. Her force of character indicates executive ability; and while, of course, she cannot hope to be elected, we hazard no public interest in saying she possesses exceptionally fine qualifications for the important duties of the office."
She did her first speech-making in the summer of 1890, borne on by the spirit of the popular crusade for "equal rights to all and special privileges to none." Her voice is rich and mellow. Her large featured, frank, handsome face, with clear brown eyes, and her tall, graceful figure, enlist admiration, which ripens into high regard for her intelligence and worth.
She is equally as noticeable in social life as in reform work. She is a Prohibitionist, a Woman Suffragist, a Single Taxer; and if there be good things and true for the benefaction of humankind which Mrs. Vickrey does not yet see, she is liable to call for them in the near future.
MRS. BETTIE GAY.
A companion to Mrs. Emery in stature and fine physique, Mrs. Bettie Gay of Texas is somewhat contrasting as to physiognomy. Her hair and eyes are black. The thought lines in her strong, fine face betoken a character of heroic type. There is no lack of kindly expression, but the intellectual woman greets you first. A woman so innately superior that her calm self-poise is quite lost to self-consciousness.
Mrs. Gay was born in Alabama. Her parents moved to Texas while she was a child. She was married. to Hon. R. K. Gay, also an Alabamian, at an early age. Her husband was a cultivated man who had traveled extensively, and from him she gained her fondness for the literature of philosophy and science.
After the war, Mrs. Gay, like many Southern ladies who became impoverished thereby, took up a burden of unaccustomed work. She not only performed all her household duties, but helped her husband in the field work, and also sold their farm products in open market. In 1880 her husband died, leaving her with a mortgaged farm and a half-grown son. Then it was that her extraordinary qualities, her industry and her business ability, were tested to the utmost. In addition to her farm work she took in sewing. With all of hr work she would snatch a little time for her beloved books. She raised and started in the world six boys and three girls, none of them having any claim of relationship upon her. She was always ready to drop her own work and go to the bedside of a sick neighbor. The entire community where she has lived so many years speak in grateful praise of her benevolence and personal service.
As a result of her indomitable energy and her executive ability, she raised the mortgage from her home, paid other outstanding debts, and educated her son. Her magnificent plantation of seventeen hundred and seventy-six acres is managed by her son, Hon. Bates Gay, who is prominent in local politics of the new school.
Mrs. Gay receives a large daily mail of letters and newspapers, to which she gives systematic attention. She is a frequent contributor to the press of her state, and writes with much force and clearness.
Mrs. Gay is broad in her religious views. Her interest is rather with deeds than creeds. She is a Woman Suffragist and a Prohibitionist. She is a leading spirit in the Alliance. Her judgment is relied upon. She has given liberal sums to further the interest of the order.
Hers is a history of effort and achievement which would have been expected from New England and a preceding generation rather than from the South and these later times.
Mrs. Gay contributed the excellent article on "Women in the Alliance" in N. A. Dunning's "History of the Alliance," from which the following is taken as serving to show her estimate of the benefits women have both given and received from membership in that great order.
"Through the educational influence of the Alliance, the prejudice against woman's progress is being removed, and within the last five years much has been accomplished in that direction. Women are now recognized as a prominent factor in all social and political movements. In the meetings of the Alliance she comes in contact with educated reformers, whose sympathies she always has. Her presence has a tendency to control the strong tempers of many of the members, and places a premium on politeness and gentility. She goads the stupid and ignorant to a study of the principles of reform, and adds an element to the organization without which it would be a failure. Being placed upon an equality with men, and her usefulness being recognized by the organization in all its work, she is proud of her womanhood, and is better prepared to face the stern realities of life. She is better prepared to raise and educate her offspring by teaching the responsibility of citizenship and their duty to society."
Another extract from the same article shows the advanced thought of Mrs. Gay as a woman's rightful place in the world.
"What we need, above all things else, is a better womanhood -- a womanhood with the courage of conviction, armed with intelligence and the greatest virtues of her sex, acknowledging no master and accepting no compromise. When her enemies shall have laid down their arms, and her proper position in society is recognized, she will be prepared to take upon herself the responsibilities of life, and civilization will be advanced to that point where intellect instead of brute force will rule the world. When this work is accomplished, avarice, greed, and passion will cease to control the minds of the people, and we can proclaim, ‘Peace on earth, good will toward men.’"
EVA MCDONALD VALESH.
The jauntiest, sauciest, prettiest little woman in the whole coterie of women in the Alliance is piquant little Eva McDonald-Valesh. A fun-loving, jolly, prankish, elf of a woman, quite as much at home on an improvised store-box platform on the street corner, speaking earnestly to her toil-hardened brother Knights of Labor, as in the drawing room, radiating sparkling wit and repartee. All places and all experiences fall naturally within Mrs. Valesh's versatile sphere. Her career as a public speaker, covering a period of about two years, has been one of brilliant and efficient service to the cause of political reform. She was state lecturer of the Minnesota Alliance, and has, spoken in several states, never failing to captivate her audiences. Her youthful appearance is quite in contrast to the maturity of her thought. She is conversational rather than elocutionary in style. Her voice is clear and strong. She uses apt illustrations, strong statement and good logic.
At the state convention of the People's Party of Ohio, held at Springfield in the summer of 1891, she was the principal speaker at the evening mass meeting. Her address was rapturously applauded. In the course of her remarks she referred to the opposition to women on the rostrum, saying that she hoped to be able to speak for woman’s cause as long as there were homeless, voiceless women, helpless to cope, with the hard conditions of life. This she intended to do regardless of the prejudice that would relegate her to the four square walls of home. At this point a gray-haired convert, won by the power and pathos of her plea, called out, "You are at home now; you are in the sphere for which God designed you."
Mrs. Valesh is as efficient with her pen as on the platform. She has been a self-supporting newspaper writer for several years, and has written several strong papers on economic topics which have been widely noticed. Her noteworthy contribution to the May Arena exhibits her vigorous style as well as her power of analysis.
A little more than a year ago she was married to Mr. Frank Valesh, a superior young man, prominent in labor organizations, and in the employ of the Bureau of Labor Statistics at St. Paul, Minn., where they now live.
The crowning glory of motherhood has recently come to this bright, brave little woman. If the new little man does not admire his mother as he grows to years of comprehension, he will be exceptional among her large circle of devoted friends.
MRS. MARION TODD.
One thinks of a choice poem, of a sweet song, of delicate perfume, of all things gracious and true, in the presence of Marion Todd. Such exquisite, subtle charm of personality as is hers is only gained by a life of unselfishness and of high culture.'
Mrs. Todd was born in New York, of New England parentage. Her mother was a woman of much intelligence and great brilliancy. She was her daughter’s high exemplar. Her father was Abner Kneeland Marsh, a Universalist preacher. He made the education of his daughter a matter of chief concern, thus enabling her at a very early age to take the position as teacher in a public school, which vocation she pursued until she was married to Mr. Benjamin Todd of Massachusetts. Her husband was a man of rare attainments, a fine speaker, and an ardent advocate of an enlargement of woman’s sphere of action. Under such hospitable conditions it became easy and natural for the young wife to take her place beside her husband in his public work. She made her first speech during the first year of her married life. Temperance, woman suffrage, and politics have successively engaged her service on the platform.
In 1879 Mrs. Todd entered the Hastings Law College, remaining two years, after which she easily passed the ordeal of examination before the Supreme Court of California. She then opened an office in San Francisco, and was a successful practitioner.
Mrs. Todd had made a specialty of the study of finance some years prior to taking up law. Her researches led her to see the monstrosity of our national legislation on the money question. In1882 she was nominated by the Greenback Party of California as attorney-general, and ran ahead of her ticket.
In 1880 Mrs. Todd was left a widow with one child, now a most accomplished and lovely young woman, above all things proud of and devoted to her gentle-mannered mother.
Mrs. Todd left California in 1890 and went to Chicago, where she edited the Chicago Express, a reform paper of national circulation. She is the author of three books: one on the tariff, one on suffrage; and the third, "Pizarro and John Sherman," is a work on finance of great value. All three have had large sale.
Mrs. Todd, like the other women speakers and writers of the rising political movement, believes that homelessness threatens the masses of the American people, and that the danger is so imminent as to demand unanimity of action in order to arrest the encroachments and shake off the domination of corporate power. Hence, though an ardent prohibitionist and woman suffragist, she would, for the immediate future, leave those great questions to philanthropic and educational methods of propagandism – at least so far as national politics is concerned.
At the famous Cincinnati conference of industrial reformers on the 20th of May, 1891, Mrs. Todd was chosen to present the chairman, Senator Peffer, with a floral testimonial. Without the least time for preparation, her presentation speech was a marvelous combination of poetic, graceful utterance, and of profound thought. Her perfect readiness, her attractive personality, rendered the episode a pleasing picture, always to remain in the memory of those present.
Mrs. Todd will be one of the principal speakers in the coming campaign.
In the far West are many capable, earnest women, enlisted in the Home Crusade. Ms. Annette Nye of California, writer and general promoter, is of the splendid Wardell family.
Sophia Hardin of South Dakota occupies the responsible position of secretary of the State Alliance.
Mrs. Elizabeth Wardell, wife of Alonzo Wardell of South Dakota, is an able writer and an untiring worker in Alliance ranks.
Mrs. Emma Ghent Curtis of Colorado is a prolific writer of good verse, full of thought and high purpose. She is also author of "The Fate of a Fool," an interesting story bearing on the condition of the toilers of the country.
Mrs. Emma De Voe of Illinois, a most elegant and attractive woman, is a platform speaker of growing prominence.
These and hosts of others are busy working out manifest destiny toward a higher civilization. Even thus at the South are numberless enthusiastic Alliance women, who, for this time, must be unnamed. The past decade has marked wonderful progress among the Southern women. The advent of their charming and distinctive personality into larger circles bf activity has added much to the history of American women. Among the most accomplished in Alliance circles is Mrs. E. R. Davidson of Georgia, niece of Hon. L. F. Livingston. She is a newspaper writer of growing power and popularity.
Mrs. Harry Brown of Atlanta, Ga., is of the Georgia Gorman family. A most engaging young woman, whom her friends delight to call the pet of her Alliance. She can ride her fine horses or write dainty, descriptive letters for her husband's paper. both with equal grace and ease.
Mrs. Dr. Dabbs of Texas demonstrated at the St. Louis conference, where she was a delegate, that she could bear her part in public discussion of a controverted. question with her most practiced and ready Southern brethren.
Mis. Ben Terrell of Texas, wife of the first lecturer of the National Alliance, has been her husband's constant companion on his lecture tours, and has thus become widely known and loved.
Mrs. Bessie Dwyer, a remarkably versatile and talented young lady, recently come from Texas to Washington, is a writer on the National Economist, the official organ of the National Alliance.
It is a great inspiration to have a great ancestry. To be much expected of is to induce much performance. This is true either of a man or a state. Kansas was a well-born state – well fathered and mothered. New England colonized and pre-empted her for freedom and for progress. Consider her record: Kansas has nine men in the national Congress, all woman suffragists – not merely acquiescent, but reverent, believing that woman should be enfranchised in justice to herself and for safety to the state.
Susan B. Anthony gauges the wives of men by the estimate which their husbands hold of womankind. Her rule proves itself in the case of the Kansas congressmen. Their wives are all suffragists. Mr. Broderick, one of the representatives, and one of the two Republicans from Kansas, is a widower; but his three intelligent, accomplished daughters make it a matter of conscience to vote at municipal elections, at their home in Holton, and to vote for the best men for mayor and councilmen, thus making party subservient to merit,
Seven of the nine Kansas congressmen are of the new political faith which seeks to provide ways and means whereby each member of the nation's family may have fair chance to work for life, liberty, and happiness. These men are fresh from the rank and file of toilers, most of them practical farmers, whose wives have shared their labors and their hardships. And now that official duties have transferred them to the most beautiful city on the continent, the family unity is preserved, and the good-wives share their enlarged experience. What manner of women are they? Let us see.
Mrs. Jerry Simpson, born in England, is a delicate little woman devoted to her husband and their one child, a bright boy of thirteen. What a deal of hard, faithful work this little body has done ! mostly by will power, by sheer determination and ambition to do the duty next at hand. One hard season, while Jerry raised the crops, she milked twenty cows with no other help than her eight-year-old boy. She churned twice a day with a dash churn, and sold three hundred pounds of butter. She takes naturally and easily to Washington life. She delights in strolling the lovely parks, often expressing a wish that old neighbors and friends might have a resting spell, and share the charms of existence at Washington. Mrs. Simpson is a great reader of the newspapers, and keeps well posted on current events.
Mrs. J. G. Otis bears a close resemblance to Mrs. Grover Cleveland. The double attraction of a handsome face and a kindly spirit have made her a favorite in the farmer organizations to which she has belonged. She was the Flora of her grange for twelve years. She has read papers of much value before the State Dairy Association, the Grange, and the Alliance. She is vice-president of her county Alliance.
It is doubtful if Baby Ruth Cleveland is a daintier morsel of humanity than the blue-eyed Otis baby, born since coming to Washington. Certain it is, the advent of Baby Otis has been much "resolved" about in Kansas Alliances, and many congratulations have been sent the wee girl that she is come to share with three brothers and one sister the mother-love and care of so noble and true a woman as Mrs. Otis.
Mrs. Ben Clover, with hindrances, and farm duties which could not be even temporarily set aside, remained at home, working harder than ever with the butter and all business of the farm, endeavoring to free the dear home place from mortgage: Round and rosy, the incarnation of good sense and constant cheeriness, you almost scent sweet Clover in her presence, Mrs. Clover is a neighborhood mother, on hand in time of sickness or other need. She is much counseled with in the Alliance, and was the first woman ever sent as delegate to the Supreme Council of the National Farmers' Alliance.
Mrs. Senator Peffer is another embodiment of gentle, refined womanhood -a very genius of home and all things motherwise. She is large, stately, and placid faced. Her husband credits her with much heroism. Her mother-wit and calm courage saved his life from a marauding band of bushwhackers in Missouri in the dreadful days when brothers South and brothers North were crazed with loss of sense that they we're all children of one God, and citizens of one dear native land. Mrs. Peffer is an Episcopalian. She does much visiting and helping of the poor about her. Of books, she loves best Scott and Dickens, and the old English writers. And of all mothers, her admiring sons and daughters think her the Wisest and best.
Mrs. Wm. Baker's eight children would of course good-naturedly but firmly dispute the Peffer children's claim as to the best woman in the worId. The eldest Miss Baker taught school in Kansas before coming to Washington. She is so fair of face that were she on dress parade in decollété society, which she will never be, her fresh beauty, quick wit, and naive manners would be newspaperized ad nauseam. Mrs. Baker had more than the ordinary educational advantages of the girls of her time. She was the daughter of a well-to-do merchant at Centerville, Penn., and knew nothing of farm life until she married and went pioneering in the West. She took her books and music, and made the prairie home in Western Kansas one of refinement despite the hard work and hard times.
The beamingest personage of the entire delegation of Kansas women at Washington is Mrs. John Davis. Her presence radiates peace and will. She is a superior woman, English by birth, a sister of Major Powell, of the United States Geological Survey. She is a Universalist in religion; not of the sect specially, but a believer that real religion is universal. She has done considerable literary work, was a long-time-ago contributor to an illustrated periodical published at Chicago. She is in demand in women's clubs and organizations both philanthropic and educational. Since coming to Washington she has made much effort toward getting the claim of "Anna Ella Carroll " considered by Congress.
It is worth much to call upon this gentlewoman and see her beaming satisfaction as she shows you the pictures of her three bright daughters and her six great, manly sons – a most notable group of photographs, the originals each busy and successful in some useful world work, each of the half-dozen boys a woman suffragist and promoter of the political Home Crusade.
To mention all the helpful Kansas women of the Alliance, even to catalogue them, would be to fill the pages of The Arena. What hardship to the writer not to be able to say more than a line of so fine a character as Mrs. Anna C. Wait, vice-president of the Kansas Equal Suffrage Association. and co-editor with her husband for so many years of the Lincoln Beacon, always a progressive paper, now a People's Party advocate!
There is Mrs. Florence Olmstead, a county superintendent of schools, and composer of a book of Alliance songs which helped to sing the people into power; Mrs. Pack, editor of the Farmer's Life, organ of the Woman's National Alliance; Mrs. McLallin, wife of the president of the National Reform Press Association – the helpfulest and cheerfulest of sensible, well-informed. women; Mrs. Fannie McCormick, candidate for superintendent of public instruction on the People's Party state ticket of 1890; Mrs. Anna Champe, co-editor with her husband of a People's Party and prohibition paper, and besides these a world of sensible, helpful farmer women and capable, pretty country schoolma’ams, world without end – all Alliance workers.
Consider this Kansas record, oh supercilious sneerer at "strong-minded" women. Most of these women have opened their mouths and spake before many people; they have sat in counsel with bodies of men, among whom were their husbands and sons. And oh, Ultima Thule of "un-womanliness," they have voted actually cast ballot, thereby saying in quietest of human way that virtue shall dethrone vice in municipal government. All these heretical things have they done, and yet are womanliest, gentlest of women, the best of homekeepers, the loyalest of wives, the carefulest of mothers.
What answer to this, oh, most bombastic cavillers – you who would shield woman from the demoralizing ballot? What answer, most ridiculous of theorists, who tremble lest any sort of man-made laws be mightier than nature’s laws, who writhe lest statutes should change the loving, loyal mother-nature of woman? Let not such preposterous theorist come into the presence of the six stalwart sons of halo-faced Mrs. Davis and suggest that their most revered mother is "unsexed" because of the ballot box and politics.
Thus splendidly do the facts about women in politics refute the frivolous theories of timorous or hostile objectors. The women. Prominent as active, responsible factors in the political arena are those who are characterized by strong common sense, high ideals, and lofty patriotism. When such as these cast ballot throughout the nation,
Source: The Arena 6 (July 1892):161-79.