Friday, June 27, 2008

Would a Woman Make a Good President?

A woman today would not make a good President for the identical reason that no man would make a good President who has been deprived, as woman has been and for as long as woman has been, of practically all participation in political life and all political responsibility. . . . She has been deprived of all civic imagination, all civic knowledge and all civic responsibility, so far as man could so deprive her. . . . Will there be women who will make good Presidents? That is another question, and one to which I give the ready answer, Yes. Woman's political capacity may be denied at the present time, but her capability is undoubted. There are many administrative functions in political life which she would perform far better than man; there are none which, as President of the United States, she would not perform as well, given the experience and practice which men enjoy.

These lines, written by lawyer Alice Parker Lesser, appeared in the Boston Sunday Globe on October 8, 1905, as part of a feature opinion piece by four Boston women. They had been asked by the Globe to comment on a recent speech by Supreme Court Justice David J. Brewer who had addressed "a large audience of young women at one of our prestigious female colleges, to intimate that within the present generation the suffrage might be extended to women in every State, and to excite the enthusiastic applause of his emotional hearers by the hint that before they became gray-haired there might sit in the White House a woman who, like Queen Victoria, will shed lustre upon this country."

Elm Court House Party, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1905
In addition to Mrs. Lesser, the other writers solicited for this piece included, according to the Globe sub-head, "the Following Women of Boston Who Have Engaged in Professions and Business": Elizabeth C. Keller, a physician and surgeon, Katherine E. Conway, editor of the Pilot, and Mae D. Frazar "of the Frazar Touring Co.".

Five years earlier, in a similar opinion piece entitled "Will a Woman Ever Be President of the United States?", Alice Parker Lesser had commented, somewhat sadly and quite presciently: "I have persuaded myself that some time in the future a woman will be president. But hardly in the next century."

Lesser also suggested that women would soon earn the right to vote. She herself was a women's suffrage leader, and would go on to serve as the delegate from Massachusetts to the International Woman Suffrage Alliance Convention in Stockholm in 1911.

The last reference I can find to Mrs. Lesser was in a 1914 interview, so I don't know if she was still around in 1920 to exercise her right to vote. I certainly hope so.

Illustration Credits and References

The photo above was taken at a house party at Elm Court, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in 1905. It was reprinted in the Boston Globe on October 30, 2005. Click here to read the article about this 100-room "cottage" built by William Sloane and Emily Vanderbilt Sloane in 1886.

No comments: