Sunday, 13 July 2014

Countdown to War, Day 16. 13 July: votes for women, a force for peace?

One hundred years ago today, on Monday 13 July 1914, our Mancunian railwayman friend reading his Manchester Guardian, might have been impressed, and had his scepticism shaken, by the scale the movement for women’s rights was taking.

The International Women’s Suffrage Alliance conference had been meeting in London all week, and on the previous day had devoted some time to planning the next conference, in Berlin in 1915. The Berlin session would consider the relation of the vote to wages and prostitution, “with further consideration of wages to the social evil. Another question to be discussed at the conference relates to what women have done and what they can do in municipal government.”

That would make the Berlin conference particularly interesting for France, since “the women there are hoping very shortly to get the municipal vote.”

It might be time for Martin to overcome his reservations and accept that the momentum for women’s suffrage would ultimately prove irresistible. Besides, as it involved international meetings of this kind, it was a further guarantor of peace between nations. A conference in Berlin with support from Britain and France? That meant building bridges across some tense frontiers.

On balance, he was coming round to the idea that women should win the right to vote, and rather hoped that it might be extended to him, too.

Once again, things seemed to be heading for a resolution in one of the world’s trouble spots, Mexico. “Information has been received from Mexico City that General Huerta is about to resign in favour of SeƱor Carbajal, the newly appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs.” He had little understanding of the implications for ordinary Mexican citizens, but it sounded like a way to stop conflict and, surely, the twentieth century was not a time to settle differences by military means?

William III at the Battle of the Boyne
Pacifying Ireland in England's time-honoured style

That was a lesson still to be learned in Ireland, it seemed. The Ulster Hall in Belfast had seen a 3000-strong meeting of Orangemen to mark the twelfth of July. It was on that day that Protestant Irishmen celebrated the Battle of the Boyne, the moment in 1690 when William of Orange, William III of England, defeated James II, ensuring the Protestant Ascendancy on both sides of the Irish Sea.

Martin had met Irishmen in Liverpool who gave a far less attractive account of the battle and its consequences. As Catholics, they saw nothing to celebrate on 12 July. To the Orangemen, on the other hand, it was a high point in the calendar.

The Rev. Dr. Patterson, of May Street Presbyterian Church, who preached, based his discourse upon the text “And Moses said unto his people, ‘Remember this day.’” (Exodus xiii., 3). Israel, he said, was commanded to keep in remembrance her deliverance from the bondage of Egypt, and to-day hundreds of thousands throughout the English-speaking world were commemorating a great deliverance from the bondage of Rome – a bondage more terrible than that of Egypt.

Referring to the time of the Battle of the Boyne, he went on:

William led; in these days Edward leads, and he is in possession of the flag which went before William... God raised up Moses and Joshua to bring His people from Egypt to Canaan, and we do not question for a moment the fact that He raised up William III. in the seventeenth century to save Great Britain and Ireland from the hierarchy of Rome. Surely we have the same right to believe that Sir Edward Carson has been raised up in the twentieth century to save Ulster...

Well, if it was with the blessing of God that Sir Edward Carson was organising an illegal armed movement, then Ireland’s problems were far from over. It would, indeed, be trouble enough if his supporters merely believed that...

At least Lancashire had stuffed Derbyshire. By an innings and 25 runs. That at any rate was something over which Martin could feel unqualified pleasure.


Anonymous said...

"surely, the twentieth century was not a time to settle differences by military means?"

Martin would have been delighted to learn that in the twenty first century, military solutions are now considered old-fashioned and are redundant.


Awoogamuffin said...

Oh no! I've caught up with the present! Now I have to wait a whole day for the next bit?

Good stuff. Keep it up!

David Beeson said...

Quite so, San. He would doubtless be delighted to see how much we've learned from the lessons of his time.

David Beeson said...

Glad you've enjoyed it, Michael. One a day, though, I'm afraid. That's as much as I can do. And as much as there ever was, actually.