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Women in Class Society

Votes for Rich Women

It has long been a socialist aim, first voiced by the Utopians, that men and women should be equal in the conduct of social and personal affairs. This was a direct challenge to the Christian doctrine that women were inferior and to the legal contract called marriage which made the wife the private property of the husband. This aim is expressed in our own Declaration of Principles: “the emancipation of the working class will involve the emancipation of all mankind without distinction of race or sex”. In other words, the establishment of Socialism would mean an end to all oppression and discrimination against women.
 
The heyday of the Suffragette movement was the decade before the outbreak of the first world war. During that period also, the Socialist Party of Great Britain was set up.

The Suffragettes

In January 1918 Punch signalled the end of the struggle for female suffrage, which had provided it with so much material, with one last cartoon. There was a woman, looking like Joan of Arc, holding a banner with the words “Women’s Franchise”. The caption read simply “At Last”.
 
In February that year an amendment to the Representation of the People Act gave the parliamentary vote to those women over thirty who held a £5 occupation qualification, or were householders, the wives of householders, or graduates.

The Emancipation of Women

 The radio often provides us with talks, arguments and debates which are alleged to be serious contributions on profound subjects. Actually they are often demonstrations of verbose futility which would be absurdly humorous if the social ignorance they reveal were not so tragic.

"Woman’s Hour,” for instance, recently featured an argument between four male speakers on the question of "woman’s emancipation.’’

 Befuddled on the very definition of feminine emancipation, the speakers were nevertheless agreed that up to about forty years ago women were the virtual slaves of their men-folk. Forced to do their household chores uncomplainingly, tied unceasingly to the home, and browbeaten into subservient obedience by their male lords and masters, the women of the pre-emancipation era, according to the speakers, were indeed oppressed.

Book Review: Engels and Russia (1946)

 In a revised edition of “The Life and Teachings of Friedrich Engels” (published in 1945 by Lawrence & Wishart, 100 pages, 4s.), Zelda K. Coates quotes Engels in support of Russia’s economy and institutions. She approvingly quotes from Engels’ “Origin of the Family,” wherein is shown the development of woman from the equality of early communal society to that of her modern legal status of a monetarily assessed "chattel,” and where he prophesied that: —

       "With the transformation of the means of production into collective property, wage labour will also disappear and with it the necessity for a certain statistically ascertainable number of women to surrender for money ” (p. 91, Kerr Edition).

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