Sources reveal a variety of attitudes towards votes for women

Read the following sources A to M and fill in the details below for each one (or for a selection):

  1. What kind of source is it?  
  2. Evaluate the extract briefly as historical evidence, mindful of its historical context.
  3.  Date (if known) 
  4. What attitude is expressed towards votes for women? 
  5. What reasons are given or implied for the stated attitude towards votes for women? 
  6. Do you agree with that attitude? Give reasons for your opinion.


A. Women's suffrage will, I believe, be the ruin of our Western civilisation. It will destroy the home, challenging the headship of man, laid down by God. It may come in your time - I hope not in mine.
John Dillon in conversation with Hanna Sheehy Skeffington in 1912.


B. Bishop O'Dwyer of Limerick feared that the movement for women's franchise had yet even more potential for doing harm than the movement for equal education ... Public opinion did not demand it ... He was against their participation in politics because it would disrupt the domestic sphere. 'A man comes home at present from political turmoil and finds calm and quietness which would be impossible if his wife was an active participator in the same contest' ... He concluded that it must be the duty of Irishmen ... 'to stand at the threshold of their homes to keep them inviolate from such influences'.
Pastoral letter of Dr. O'Dwyer, Bishop of Limerick, 1912. Referred to in Cliona Murphy, The Women's Suffrage Movement and Irish Society, London, 1989, p.147.


C. The Bishop (of Limerick) is again wrong when he says there is no demand for it [women's suffrage] here. It should have come to his knowledge that the two most important representative bodies in his diocese, the Limerick County Council and the Limerick Corporation, have passed resolutions in favour of women's suffrage, and in Limerick city there are strong and active branches of three suffrage societies. Belief in the justice and common sense of votes for qualified women has been expressed similarly all over Ireland.
Margaret Cousins in a letter to the Irish Times, 20 Feb. 1912.


D. In the Cross, the magazine of the Passionist Fathers [in 1913], a letter from Father Raymond Saunders C.P. stated that there can be no doubt 'that woman has a right to the franchise and in the present state of society we cannot see how it can be withheld without grave injustice.'
Cliona Murphy, The Women's Suffrage Movement and Irish Society, London, 1989, p.153.


E. The Dean of St Patrick's (the Church of Ireland Cathedral) in Dublin ... was presented with a petition [in 1912] ... which was signed by over 1,300 members of the Church of Ireland, 'among them 56 clergy'. Despite this he refused to allow his church to be used for a service 'which would pray for God's blessing and direction on the movement'. Perhaps he was influenced by the chairman of the Anti-Suffrage League in Dublin who happened to be his wife.'
Cliona Murphy, The Women's Suffrage Movement and Irish Society, London, 1989, p.154.


F. 'Votes for Women!' is the shrill cry of a number of discontented ladies who seem to have missed the best of life. And it is well-nigh useless to repeat the plain truth that Woman was and is destined to make voters rather than to be one of them.
Novelist Marie Corelli, Woman or - Suffragette? A question of national choice, 1907.


G. Miss Shannon, in the course of her address, said that Dr. Douglas Hyde, who was as good an Irishman as any, told her that his first speech was in favour of women's suffrage.
Miss Shannon, B.A., addressing a public meeting of the Irish Women's Franchise League in the Town Hall, Kilkenny. Reported in the Kilkenny People, 21 May 1910.


H. Many women, bitten by the Higher Education craze, openly and aggressively assert their own superiority and reversing God's order, attempt to exercise dominion over men.
Pastoral letter of Dr. Kelly, Bishop of Ross, 1913. Quoted in Rosemary Cullen Owens, Smashing Times, Dublin, 1984, p.69.


I. But what is meant by physical force being the basis of government? I have always thought that government was designed to supersede physical force, that civilization meant the reign of law instead of brute-strength ... Our Cabinet ministers are not chosen from the men who can knock each other down.
Arabella Shore. Quoted in Harold L. Smith, The British Women's Suffrage Campaign 1866-1928, London, 1998, p.86.


J. Mr. Laing opposed the motion on the ground that it would lead to women's wanting to be in Parliament and also that the instincts of all men, and of nine women out of ten were opposed to it and he had much greater confidence in instincts than in logic.
The debate on the enfranchisement of women, 1867. Reported in the Englishwoman's Review, July 1867.


K. The Dowager Countess of Desart came forward 'as the only person here representing the large number of women who do not want the franchise.' For 5,600 years women had been a negligible quantity. Yet without votes or political rights she had been the dominant factor that had ruled the world. Her position was to educate the men who were to go into the fight ... Mrs. Soulsby followed ... She could not conceive that any woman could manage her home and find time to go the polling booth. Women's business in politics was in the exertion of influence ...
Report of Women's Conference in the Sussex Daily News, 26 Oct. 1906.


L. In England some distinguished prelates, among them Cardinal Vaughan, favoured women's suffrage. His Eminence declared: 'I believe that the extension of the parliamentary franchise to women upon the same conditions as it is held by men would be a just and beneficial measure, tending to raise rather than to lower the course of national legislation.'
Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911.


M. On Catholic principles, at any rate, it is not explicitly defined that woman has the right to a living wage, or the duty of supporting herself at all. She is supposed to be shielded by her male relatives from most of the hardships and disabilities of citizenhood. As a wife, the efficient discharge of her duties under the Fourth Commandment renders it impossible for her to make her own way in the community, and hence there is no reason why she should have any direct part in the polity of the state.
David Barry, STL, 'Female suffrage' in The Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 1909.


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