Margaret Sanger, "Dirt, Smell and Sweat," 24 Dec 1911.

Published article. Source: New York Call, Dec. 24, 1911, p. 15 .


DIRT, SMELL AND SWEAT

Editor, Woman's Sphere:

At a meeting of the Woman's Suffrage party of the 27th Assembly District a few days ago a tall, beautiful and charming woman named Mrs. Weeks, acted as chairman of the meeting. In what was called her maiden speech, she mentioned among other things that the men who objected to woman's voting because she would be obliged to bump against the dirty, smelly and sweaty men at the polls, evidently did not object to her bumping against them at other times; they objected only on Election Day and at the ballot box. Then she offered the following suggestion as a cure for this objection. "to remove the dirty, smelling, sweaty men from the polls," so that she and her class could vote undisturbed.

But what about the women who are liable to be just as dirty, smelly and sweaty as their working brothers? Are they, too, to be removed? Dirt is dirt, smell is smell, and sweat is sweat, no matter on whom these unfortunate afflictions happen to be. And if the chairman and her class object to the smell of the workingman, so will they object to the smell of the working woman.

Throughout the meeting the atmosphere was laden with class arguments. Such nice and polite and kind arguments in favor of the women in the home, who need the ballot to get CLEAN milk, clean streets and fresh air. Not one word about the millions of women driven out of the home into the factories and shops. Never a word about the women who cannot give any kind of milk to their children, but give them black tea and coffee and sell the milk and cream to her own class. These women and these conditions have not been considered by the Woman's Suffrage party, and it is doubtful if they will consider them until the working woman stands shoulder to shoulder with her working brother for the emancipation of her class.

The only thing which seems to concern this chairman and her followers is POLITICAL FREEDOM. No other kind of freedom enters into their arguments. For instance, she spoke of the men who say the women who are suffragists smoke cigarettes. This she hotly denied by saying it is the anti-suffragist who smokes! Did she stop to ask why any woman, suffragist or anti-suffragist, should not smoke as well as a man if she cared to? Not she. The idea of emancipating woman from any of the narrow conventionalities of the dark ages has not yet dawned upon the minds of these women.

The idea of making woman's sphere "unlimited, unbounded," as the Socialist women are striving for, has so far scarcely entered their craniums.

The working women evidently are not aware that POLITICAL FREEDOM does not mean INDUSTRIAL FREEDOM and it is the object and desire of Socialist women to show the working woman that Socialism stands not only for her political freedom, but for her industrial freedom and her intellectual freedom. All three with one stroke of the pen can be gained and given to her by the Socialist party.

When the workingman shall be paid the full value of his labor he can then emancipate himself from dirt, smell and sweat. If he had the full product of his labor he would have the time and place to get and keep clean. If he were not robbed of the product of his toil by the master class, to which the chairman of that meeting belongs, he could have a clean coat, instead of wearing one either already bought second-hand, or given him by the charity organizations. No wonder it is smelly.

Let any woman who labors for her bread enter any of these meetings and see what there is in this movement for her benefit, and she will be made to realize that there is no more for her in political freedom alone than there has been for her brother who has had his political rights for some time.

Unless the women will use their political rights in the interest of their class, they will be no more free from dirt, smell and sweat than their brothers in the working class, and will find themselves liable to the same treatment at the hands of their "sisters" of the upper class.

Margaret H. Sanger.


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Copyright 2003. Margaret Sanger Project


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