Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice
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Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.
 
Bringing the Light
(From “A Bed of Roses”)

By W. L. George

(Contemporary English novelist. The life-story of a woman wage-earner who is driven by the pressure of want to a career of shame. In the following scene she argues with a suffrage-worker, who has called upon her, in ignorance of her true character)
 
THE WOMAN’S eyes were rapt, her hands tightly clenched, her lips parted, her cheeks a little flushed. But Victoria’s face had hardened suddenly.  1
  “Miss Welkin,” she said quietly, “has anything struck you about this house, about me?”  2
  The suffragist looked at her uneasily.  3
  “You ought to know whom you are talking to,” Victoria went on, “I am a.… I am a what you would probably call … well, not respectable.”  4
  A dull red flush spread over Miss Welkin’s face, from the line of her tightly pulled hair to her stiff white collar; even her ears went red. She looked away into a corner.  5
  “You see,” said Victoria, “it’s a shock, isn’t it? I ought not to have let you in. It wasn’t quite fair, was it?”  6
  “Oh, it isn’t that, Mrs. Ferris,” burst out the suffragist, “I’m not thinking of myself.… Our cause is not the cause of rich women or poor women, of good women or bad; it’s the cause of woman. Thus, it doesn’t matter who she is, so long as there is a woman who stands aloof from us there is still work to do. I know that yours is not a happy life; and we are bringing the light.”  7
  “The light!” echoed Victoria bitterly. “You have no idea, I see, of how many people there are who are bringing the light to women like me. There are various religious organizations who wish to rescue us and house us comfortably under the patronage of the police, to keep us nicely and feed us on what is suitable for the fallen; they expect us to sew ten hours a day for these privileges, but that is by the way. There are also many kindly souls who offer little jobs as charwomen to those of us who are too worn out to pursue our calling; we are offered emigration as servants in exchange for the power of commanding a household; we are offered poverty for luxury, service for domination, slavery to women instead of slavery to men. How tempting it is!”…  8
  The suffragist said nothing for a second. She felt shaken by Victoria’s bitterness.… “The vote does not mean everything,” she said reluctantly. “It will merely ensure that we rise like the men when we are fit.”  9
  “Well, Miss Welkin, I won’t press that. But now, tell me, if women got the vote to-morrow, what would it do for my class?”  10
  “It would be raised.…”  11
  “No, no, we can’t wait to be raised. We’ve got to live, and if you ‘raise’ us we lose our means of livelihood. How are you going to get to the root cause and lift us, not the next generation, at once out of the lower depths?”  12
  The suffragist’s face contracted.  13
  “Everything takes time,” she faltered. “Just as I couldn’t promise a charwoman that her hours would go down and her wages go up the next day, I can’t say that … of course your case is more difficult than any other, because … because.…”  14
  “Because,” said Victoria coldly, “I represent a social necessity. So long as your economic system is such that there is not work for the asking for every human being—work, mark you, fitted to strength and ability—so long on the other hand as there is such uncertainty as prevents men from marrying, so long as there is a leisure class who draw luxury from the labor of other men; so long will my class endure as it endured in Athens, in Rome, in Alexandria, as it does now from St. John’s Wood to Pekin.”  15
 
 
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