Item 117 - Letter from Edward Carpenter to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

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PETH/8/117

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Letter from Edward Carpenter to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence

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  • 12 Oct. 1916 (Creation)

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2 sheets

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Millthorpe, Holmesfield, near Sheffield.—Explains why he does not support the immediate granting of universal suffrage to British women.

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Millthorpe, Holmesfield, near Sheffield
12 Oct 1916

Dear Mrs. Pethick-Lawrence

Do excuse my long delay in replying to yours of the 28th ult:, but I find it very difficult to keep up with my correspondence!

Of course I remember you very well and have often wished to meet you again, but our paths do not often cross.

With regard to the Adult Suffrage question, though I certainly favour it for Men in this Country I am quite doubtful whether it is wise to open the Vote out so rapidly & suddenly for Women—who so far have had little or no experience in the matter, and of whom we have so little experience as to how they will act. Considering the enormous preponderance of Women in numbers, combined with the fact that the mass of women at present (and in this Country) are so easily swept up, as one’s experience shows, by any specious and glib-tongued man(!)—as by clergymen, ministers, titled folk and the like—and might easily with a little scheming be taken in flocks to the polls—I think the experiment on the proposed scale is at least a little rash.

Of course I am speaking of the working class women I know, up here in the North, and of the middle class women generally. What I say does not apply to the ‘advanced’ women—but then what proportion are they of the population—1/10th or 1/100th or 1/1000th?

I should feel quite differently in the U.S. for instance where the general level of alertness & education is greatly different from here; and I have a good hope that even here the rising tide may make the universal suffrage feasible in what people call “the near future”—but you see I am cautious, and think we ought to hasten slowly.

At any rate you understand that though I appreciate much the invitation to join the National Council for A.S. I do not feel at present disposed to do so. Though I wish the movement all success—esp[ecia]lly in its educative rôle—I do not feel drawn just now to give my time & energy to it.

Excuse my rather hasty & halting explanations, and with the expression of my gratitude to you for the good work you are doing in the cause of Democracy—believe me

Yours very sincerely

Edwd. Carpenter

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