Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Female Vote

The historic period of the Homo Sapiens is around 2500 years. It was only a mere 100 years ago, that women got the right to vote. Being a proud voter, I thought I would share some thoughts with you.

200 years ago, a portly highly respectable Englishman gave rational explanations on why married women cannot be allowed to engage in any form of trade.

"By marriage, the personal identity of the woman is lost. Her person is completely sunk in that of her husband, and he acquires an absolute mastery over her person and effects. Hence her complete disability to contract legal obligations; and except in the event of separation by divorce, or other causes, a married woman in the United Kingdom cannot engage in trade"

I am not finding fault with this respectable gentleman, He was an astute business man and a highly practical and in sync with his times. Even today when women are thought to be unadjusting and selfish if they do not subscribe to the views of their parents/husband/in-laws, one can only imagine how subservient women must've been 150 odd years ago, even the wealthy jewels residing in the glorious imperial capital of the world at the time.

The very beginning of recorded English feminism I personally feel is with the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft's "A Vindication of the Rights of Women". She argues that women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education. She suggests that both men and women should be treated as rational beings and imagines a social order founded on reason. (Source: Wikipedia, I've read the book, was too easy to cut-copy-paste :P)

The 1800's were a tumultous time for women. For example,

This handsome man on the right is none other than one of the most prolific physicists of England, Michael Faraday. His contributions and his ability to think out of the box is examplary. He was particularly drawn to Science by the elementary textbook written by the lady on the left Marcet Jane called "Conversations in Chemistry" where she extolled young women to spend time understanding Science.

This is a rather curious example stored in my head that I wanted to share at this point. Women were "daring" to say things other than what they had been taught, what they had been raised to perform. Another example, Elizabeth Garett Anderson became the first female physician. She had to fight an uphill task, no company whatsoever, hiring private tutors, becoming a nurse and slowly convincing people of her abilities and really the necessity to study medicine.

One baby step at a time, education, graduation, jobs and elf respect were improving.

I believe every woman, at some point of her life or the other, will truly and desperately wish she was a man. And that is the seed of feminism, to fight against this "guilt" of being who we are. Similarly, women almost exactly 100 years ago, started aggressively fighting for rights as education for women became more widespread. Both slow passive approaches and massively militant approaches were also tried by women to fight for their rights.

This was really the golden era, the blooming Industrial Revoultion, the age of the Titanic. Women realized they do not have a fundamental right, the right to vote. The French Revolution, for example, established a democracy in 1789 that awarded male adult franchise. This, when half the people who stormed Bastille were hungry ladies who were tired of seeing their babies die. The right to vote was a long drawn battle, notably led by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters alongside Milicent Fawcett. They were known as the suffragettes.

And just like every other person who tries to do something different, these women recieved a lot of flak.


What really helped women push the tide of patriarchy was in some twisted sense, the First World War. As men were conscripted to participate in the army, women unassumedly took over all major occupations at home. With increased movement and exposure, many were able to see the appalling conditions of female factory workers. As the war culminated in 1918, women in the US and UK got the right the vote.

They are by no means the first countries to grant the right.  New Zealand is the first country. However, the movements in these two countries have been greatly recorded. And, the English Suffragettes were directly in touch with our own women in India and helped us get the right to vote right from the Montagu Chemlsford Reforms in 1919.

Women's day is a day whose genesis lies in this movement overall movement across the world.

Why I have gone on this long winded history is because I want to show my fellow women that we have got this right to vote, that we now take for granted, with great difficulty. While it is important for any citizen to vote rationally, it is essential we use our 10 million neurons to rationally and personally vote. Today when I hear things like, I vote for this party because my family said so, my heart cringes. I don't mean rationally if you happen to follow your families choices it is bad. I mean, without giving a moment's thought and subscribing to somebody's views is not acceptable, Are we going back to the old ages? Let us not put this effort and pain and struggle in vain. We fought for the nation's independence, and coupled with this, it is our highest obligation that we do our jobs well, ladies. It is invigorating to vote because it is a personification of your individuality.

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