THE WAR, AND THE SONS AND
DAUGHTERS OF THE EMPIRE
AN ADDRESS By MRS. EMMELINE PANKHURST
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
September 17, 1918
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,--I feel very greatly the honor you have done me when I think of it as done to me as an individual, and I feel it less onerous and weighty when I realize that in honoring me as your guest today, you are really honoring all those women of the English speaking part of our mighty Empire whom I humbly represent here this morning. I am not here officially representing the British Government, and I did not go to Russia officially representing the British Government; the part the British Government took in the business was this, as stated by Mr. Balfour in reply to a question in Parliament-I am here with the approval of the British Government because the Government thought I could do work useful to the allied cause. I am here, sent by the Women's Party of Great Britain. Patriotic women thought I could serve the Empire's cause last year by going to Russia, and they sent me and paid all the expenses of that visit; and the same band of patriotic women, when it seemed that delay in the United States on the question of intervention in Russia was dangerous, said to me again, "Go to America and tell the American people what you saw in Russia, and we will bear the cost of your going." So I am not the envoy of the Government, but I am the envoy of the women who are devoting
Mrs. Pankhurst's consecration of her talents -and time to the winning of the War, with a political genius possessed by few, and a devotion to justice and equality of opportunity for all persons, has made her one of the great world figures.
their whole life and all their money and treasure to the winning of this great war.
A few years ago, when women were fighting for their enfranchisement, one of the arguments against them was that women should not have power of citizenship because they could not understand Imperial questions, and their coming into citizenship would be very dangerous for the integrity of the Empire. Is it not strange that, now that that question is settled, I should be here today as the guest of an Empire Club? Whether women are competent to deal with the vital questions of Empire as citizens, remains to be seen; we are still young in citizenship; but the women of the Empire have shown that whether their brains can deal with those complicated questions or not, their hearts and their hands have been ready to take up the burden of Empire and to sustain it equally with the men. When we talk amongst ourselves at home, we women, in encouraging one another to make every sacrifice to win the war, are accustomed to say, "We are not called upon as women to fight for the cause as the men are; it has been wisely thought that women, the conservers of the race, must be released from that supreme duty of citizenship; we contribute the fighters, and we face our own battles in bringing life into the world; that is our women's contribution; but when war comes, when the Nation and Empire are in danger, then every woman should be prepared to do whatever is needed on the home or civilian front to release the sex that fights, to go to do the necessary work of defending the Empire and the Home.
It had become the fashion of late years to decry Empire and Imperialism. During those years of insidious German propaganda in every allied country, the propaganda which culminated in the destruction of one of the great Empires engaged in this war was directed against Empire and the Imperial idea. It did not begin with this war; for years past a great and responsible political party in Great Britain was accustomed to denounce Imperialism and pride of Empire. The war is teaching us many things, and the supreme thing that it has taught is to distinguish between the right kind of Empire and Imperialism and the wrong Imperialism and wrong and weak and corrupt kind of Empire. The war is testing us, and I believe that the British Empire will come through the awful test of war strengthened and purified and ennobled by the test.
When this war began, there were several Empires engaged in it on both sides. There was an Empire based on autocracy and the will of a single man. We have seen in the fall of Russia how weak that kind of Empire is when the test comes. We have the kind of Empire which finds its expression in the Empire of Austro-Hungary--the Empire which within the last day or two has been making offers of peace to the allies. That ramshackle Empire which is founded on the subjection of liberty-loving peoples who have been subdued by force and compelled into the Empire, is on the point of following the ruin and the fate of the Russian Empire. Its downfall will be necessary to the victory of the allied cause, and when that Empire falls, as it must fall, we shall have played our part in liberating those magnificent people, the Jugo-Slavs, who are the pioneers in the great struggle for liberty, wherever they are to be found. Then we have the German Empire-the head and front of our offending-headed by that arch-hypocrite the Kaiser, who, having prepared for this war for a generation, has the insolence to take the sacred name of peace upon his lips, and who dares to take a kind of democratic camouflage even to the people of his own country. If we are to succeed in the winning of this war, that Empire will have to go, and be broken up into its component parts. Lastly, there is our own Empire, broad-based upon the people's will-the only form of Empire which can stand the test of war, an Empire in which vast and deep responsibility rests now upon practically every man, and every woman too, of the English-speaking race. It is we who are responsible, not the Empire or the Monarch, not even the Parliaments, but the people who are primarily responsible in our Empire are the ordinary men and women of the English-speaking races who make up the vast Empire. We are responsible for the good government of the Empire. We are responsible also for the well-being of those races not so advanced as ourselves in modern civilization and in democratic institutions.
When I think of those old days when it was urged against women that they could not understand the Empire, I remember we used to say in reply, "If we don't, then it is high time we had responsibility and began to learn, because we British women have a great trust; we have to care for those millions of women in the Eastern part of our Empire, in the Oriental part of our Empire, who depend upon us even for their very existence,-the women of India. Think of those millions of women, in subjection sometimes of the most abject kind! When I think of those who attack the Empire and the Imperial responsibility, when I think of what has been done even without women having rights, to abolish suttee, to do something to modify that horrible institution of childmarriage, to do something to bring education to those countless millions of British women, then indeed I rejoice today that the English-speaking women of the Empire have, even in war time, come not only into the duties and responsibilities of citizenship but into the power also, so that we can do something to influence the trend of Imperial politics in regard to that part of our Empire in the near future.
I do not know whether you men here have thought much about it, but we women have been thinking a great deal about this proposal to extend democratic institutions to the manhood of India. We want to know, before it is done, what effect it is going to have upon the womanhood of India. If you give political power to all the men of the diverse races of India, will it mean that they are going to set back the progress that has been made under British rule? Does it mean that the chains are to be strengthened upon Indian womanhood, or will it mean that that impetus given by British Government is going to be useful toward higher civilization? We want to know all these things before any steps are taken, and our influence in British politics-and I hope the influence of Canadian women will be in the same direction-will be to say, "Don't act until you have fully weighed the consequences of your act." Let us be sure that it does mean a strengthening of liberty to women-not for a handful of people who will get power, but for the vast numbers of those races in India for whom we people of British origin are responsible. That is our contribution today towards Imperial politics in the management of an independent force. We want to have the women of India safeguarded; we want this whole institution of immolation of womanhood not to be revived; we want to be sure that they will have the benefits of education increased and not diminished before we give our consent as women to any sweeping changes in the Government of India.
We women voters of Great Britain have a programme, if we do not include Imperial politics; and I want to tell you Canadians who read in your papers this morning those two speeches from the representatives of New Zealand that they express the desires, at any rate, of the Women's Party of Great Britain. We want to see an Imperial Parliament. We want to see the Dominions represented there. We want Canada and Australia and New Zealand to bring to us the benefit of their youth, of their energy, of their quick perception of new things and progressive things that have to be done. We realize that the Empire will never be as great and as mighty as we want it to be, until the Dominions are represented in the Imperial interests of the Empire as they have never hitherto been. That must be one of the vital consequences of the war. We must draw together as we have never done before. We must all have a share in the development of the mighty resources of this wonderful Empire of ours. It is going to be good for you Canadians to be represented there. It is going to be even better for us in the mother country than it will be for you.
What is the tendency in the old civilization? Ah, we know what it meant; we have realized it during this war. The mother country with its old civilization had grown wealthy, or apparently so. There were people prepared to rest on their oars, to rest on their past, and to remain stationary. Sometimes I think we at home needed the war to wake us up to the vital necessities of the hour. Well, if you come to us with your young life and your new vigor as you have done in this war as fighters, then indeed we are going to start out on a new and mighty appeal .of, development for the Empire, and we need you more than you need us, and so it must be when the war is over.
Now, may I make a suggestion to you in return, as to what you can do for us in addition to this splendid work you have done in sending your sons and your daughters to offer to help in the essential work of winning the war? When the war is over, then 1, -and those who think with me amongst women,-want you to co-operate with us in a great effort of Imperial development. We want the Empire and its sons and daughters to be richer and happier than they have been in the past. We are not content that some should be wealthy and that many should be poor. We believe that because of the poverty of the masses in the Mother country, those who have been insidiously working for the downfall of the Empire have found fertile ground in which to work. We must in future have an Empire where all discontent based upon poverty is swept away for ever. We must have material conditions so favorable for all, that there will be no room for an enemy propaganda to work; and we women hope that our contribution to politics will be one based upon sound political economy, a policy which will lead to the development of the vast natural resources of our Empire, because in that alone can the wealth of the masses be found. We are fighting now and we shall fight to the end for winning of this war, and afterwards against that small pacifist internationalist minority who are now talking about making peace with their German comrades and who at the same time are preaching at home class-war and discontent. Against their war-cry we preach the co-operation of all sections of the community for the production of national wealth to pay for prosperity for all. That is our motto, and I tell you this; if there are any men here who have doubted the coming of women into citizenship, I tell you to put away your doubts forever. You will find in women a force which is conservative of all that is best in national life, and at the same time a force, from practical experience of being the administrators and the dispensers of the national money through household arrangements, that will accept every intelligent and progressive method of increasing the means with which the necessaries of life are bought. Women are sound political economists; they know it is a fact, that if you spend more than you get, domestic bankruptcy awaits you. If you apply that principle to the national life, you will find in our women citizens not only a great conservative force but a great productive force, because unless you produce, you cannot have the money with which to pay your national bills. That is the profound principle which the woman voter is putting against the preacher of class war-the conservation of wealth. We say to them "Gentlemen, there is not enough left to pay for all we want; we have to create more, as it is only by conserving what there is that you are going to pay for social improvements; it is by making wealth that you are ever going to foot the bill."
Today in this Empire Club it is of the Empire that one thinks most of all. In this war we shall get rid of all this nonsense against the Imperial idea. We will get rid of false Imperialism by the destruction of those Imperialistic enemies who sustain an Empire based upon the ideas of force and conquest and tyranny and domination. We shall substitute for that the Imperial idea based upon democratic institutions and the people's will; and when victory is assured this will be our task as citizens of this vast Empire. It will not be our aim to increase the extent of our Empire, but to develop what we have, and lead the van of civilization for all other countries on earth. We are a great and mighty Empire, and because of that our duties and responsibilities are greater than those of other nations and Empires. We have to lead the world in civilization. We have to show in this war a willingness to sacrifice, in emulation of all those who have fought and suffered with us, the greatest and foremost in sacrifice of them all.
When I think of this war and of the vast issues involved, I always take to my heart this thought: What do I or any other individuals matter? What does my life or any other life matter? There are things much greater than the individual at stake in this war. There are great and spiritual interests involved. There are ideals of human life and conduct and ideals of civilization at stake. If we lose this war, then those great ideals which we are longing to mould into our conduct will disappear, perhaps forever, from this earth. If we succeed in crushing finally the ideal of force on which our enemies rely, then indeed there will be hope that we, a purified people, softened and quickened by the suffering of war, through minds strengthened and enlightened by the experiences of War, helped by those who return to us from the battlefront and the women who have come into responsibilities and rights through the war, shall work out the future of civilization on nobler and higher lines than we ever could have done without the truthful and purifying experiences of the war.