“Women Score in Drama and Debate” An Article in the Winnipeg Free Press on Mock Parliament
Women Score in Drama and Debate
Clever Satire on Provincial Events in Mock Parliament – Bright Sketch Presented.
A sold-out house at the Walker theatre last night testified to the keen interest taken in the activities of the Political Equality league. More than that, however—it testified to the general opinion that the talented women who are its members were due to provide a splendid evening’s entertainment. To say that everyone was delighted is to put it mildly. The program comprised a play, some music and a parliamentary debate, each and all very enjoyable.
The Assiniboine quartette opened the proceedings with some suffragette songs, and, then the curtain rose for “How They Won the Vote.” Originally the locale was London, but the names of streets and so forth were cleverly changed to Winnipeg. It only took about half an hour of determine action on the part of his women relatives to convert Horace Cole, a clerk, to rabid suffragist sentiments. By a concerted movement among all the women the thing was simple enough. They simply struck work. Each woman left her employment and went to live with her nearest male relative until such time as the state should recognize her rights. When Horace arrives home he finds the maid has left, and his wife is conjuring with the steak for supper. The worst was yet to come, however. Before he was able to appreciate the force of the first blow, his sister-in-law turned up, and announced her intention of staying. Molly, his niece, also arrives, also Maudie Spark, his first cousin, and Miss Wilkins, his aunt, and Madame Christine, a very distant relative. All were firm in the intention of staying until man foreswore that plous (?) fraud about woman’s place in the world. Under the circumstances, it was not surprising to find Horace ready to enlist among the “Votes for Women” band, nor even to see him mounted on a chair full of enthusiasm for anything which would once again ensure him the peaceful enjoyment of his home. Miss Betty Cubitt made a dainty wife and Frank Keall a very forceful husband. Mrs. Lipsett-Skinner played the part of the sister-in-law with her usual verve and good nature, and Dorothy was delightful as Maudie Sparks. Miss Phylis-Cameron was amusing in a double role, first as a very woe-begone slavey and then as the niece. Other parts were genially played by Misses Eileen Fallon, M.E. Corwin, Ethel Hayes and John Logan. Staged by Mrs. C.P. Walker, there was no danger of anything but efficient “business.” During the ensuing intermission H.E. Davey gave a couple of violin solos which were enthusiastically applauded.
The piece de resistance was, of course the mock parliament. The legislative hall was fittingly plain and impressive in prevailing gray, and the lady members appeared charming in black cloaks which failed entirely to conceal some of the beautiful gowns, and did not attempt to hide most effective coiffeurs. The speaker Mrs. Francis Graham, was a gorgeous exception in splendid purple and ermine, Miss Altma Graham made a charming clerk and Misses Ruth Walker and Florence Walker were natty little pages. Before the house was called to order, Mrs. McClung asked the audience to remember that the conditions for the next hour or so were to be reversed. The women enjoyed the suffrage and allied political rights: the men were entirely without them.
Petitions were first in order, and some facetious papers were read. One by the society for the prevention of ugliness, prayed that men wearing scarlet neckties, 6-inch collars, and squeaky shoes, be not allowed to enter any public building whatsoever. Mrs. W.C. Perry, leader of the opposition, then read a bill to counter dower rights on married men. In a clear, sympathetic voice she made a strong appeal for poor downtrodden man; but the government was adamant. The attorney-general, Miss Kenneth Haig, with a composure and eloquence which might be envied by many a really statesman, and with the necessary heaven of humor, said she was keen on men. Possibly she kept them on a pedestal. At any rate, she shelved them. They were often so unconsciously funny. She knew why Mrs. John Smith left home. Her husband hadn’t made the home attractive. She moved that the bill be withdrawn; and withdrawn it was.
Mrs. Lipsett-Skinner, exuberant to the point of overflowing with pleasant satire, talked down a bill for the introduction of labor-saving devices for manual workers. If men were allowed any leisure, the first thing you know they would be educating themselves, and then they might even be coming around asking for the vote.
Miss Francis Beynon, on the opposition side, asked when the perambulating university site was to become stationary. Dr. Mary Crawford, brilliantly effective, as minister of health and education, said that only five sites had hitherto been used and a letter from the real estate association was in her hands requesting that the site continue to perambulate until every real estate interest had benefitted. About this time Dorothy Milne turns up, carrying a pretty dog, and demands instant consideration, much to everybody’s amusement.
Asked if she intended to introduced compulsory education in the agricultural college, the minister of agriculture, (Mrs. Skinner), said no, but she had something just as good. She proposed to change the label of the bottle and introduce the best system of truancy officers this country ever saw. The truancy officers would be appointed by the government and responsible only to the government. They would patrol the back-lanes and the road allowances of the province, and she continued, “I venture to promise my friends on the opposition benches that my truancy officers will capture every man in the province of Manitoba who is over 20 years of age and put them in the magnificent agricultural college in St. Vital for a course of two years in economics.
Mrs. A.V. Thomas, a speaker of well-known earnestness and power, seconded for the second time a bill to confer upon fathers the rights of equal guardianship with mothers. Men with their broad shoulders and big feet and hands, had an equal interest in their children with their wives.
Delegation of Men
The climax of interest was reached when a delegation of men, headed by R.C. Skinner, arrived at the legislature to petition for suffrage privileges for their sex. Their slogan was, “We have the brains. Why not let us vote?” Their case was strongly urged by the spokesman, but effectively squelched by the premier (Mrs. McClung). She said, in part: “We like delegations. We have seen a great many, and we pride ourselves on treating these delegations with the greatest courtesy and candor. We assure you that we are just as pleased to see you today as we shall be to see you at any future day. We wish to compliment this delegation on their splendid gentlemanly appearance. If without exercising the vote, such splendid specimens of manhood can be produced, such a system of affairs should not be interfered with. Any system of civilization that can produce such splendid specimens of manhood as Mr. Skinner is good enough for me, and if it is good enough for me it is good enough for anybody.”
Plenty of Satire
The premier compared the gentlemanly conduct of the members of the delegation to the rabid courses of suffragists overseas. If all men were as intelligent as the leader of the delegation she would have no hesitation in according them the suffrage. But such was unfortunately not the case. Mr. Skinner with the customary hot headedness of the reformer, had not stopped to think of that. Down to the south, where men had the vote it had been shown that seven-eights of police court offenders were men and only one-third of church members were women. “Another trouble is that if men start to vote they will vote too much. Politics unsettles men and unsettled men mean unsettled bills – broken furniture, broken vows, and – divorce….it has been charged that politics is corrupt. I don’t know how this report got out, but I do most emphatically deny it. Politics are not corrupt. I have been in politics for a long time, and I never knew of any corruption or division of public money among the members of the house, and you may be sure if anything of that kind had been going on I should have been on it. Ladies and gentlemen, what I mean is that I would have known about it. Every time we spend a dollar on the province, we first look at it from every side to see if we could make better use of it for ourselves. We always try to get the greatest number of voters for the smallest sum of money. Our government has always been most generous to its friends with government jobs. Every man who has helped us into power has had reason to test out gratitude. At the present time we pay 14 women for every governmental job, and we are willing to hire the fifteenth if she comes along and shows that she will really work. Perhaps the time will come when men and women will legislate together. I don’t know. In the meantime I asked your delegation to be of good cheer. We will try to the best of our ability to conduct the affairs of the province, and prove worthy standard-bearers of the good old flag of our grand old party, which has often gone down to disgrace but never to defeat.”
At the end of her splendid address Mrs. McClung was presented with bouquet of red roses. It is reporter that two members of the Manitoba opposition had deserted the civic dinner and secreted themselves among the audience. Furthermore, that the beautiful flowers were an earnest of their appreciation of the “premier’s” eloquence.
Description: This article appeared in the January 29, 1914 of the Manitoba Free Press (now Winnipeg Free Press) profiling the mock parliament. The article is called “Women Score in Drama and Debate.”
Credit: Winnipeg Free Press, January 29, 1914; reproduced with permission.