WOMEN IN CONGRESS

by Charles Dudley Warner

It does not seem to be decided yet whether women are to take the Senate or the House at Washington in the new development of what is called the dual government. There are disadvantages in both. The members of the Senate are so few that the women of the country would not be adequately represented in it; and the Chamber in which the House meets is too large for women to make speeches in with any pleasure to themselves or their hearers. This last objection is, however, frivolous, for the speeches will be printed in the Record; and it is as easy to count women on a vote as men. There is nothing in the objection, either, that the Chamber would need to be remodeled, and the smoking-rooms be turned into Day Nurseries. The coming woman will not smoke, to be sure; neither will she, in coming forward to take charge of the government, plead the Baby Act. Only those women, we are told, would be elected to Congress whose age and position enable them to devote themselves exclusively to politics. The question, therefore, of taking to themselves the Senate or the House will be decided by the women themselves upon other grounds?as to whether they wish to take the initiative in legislation and hold the power of the purse, or whether they prefer to act as a check, to exercise the high treaty-making power, and to have a voice in selecting the women who shall be sent to represent us abroad. Other things being equal, women will naturally select the Upper House, and especially as that will give them an opportunity to reject any but the most competent women for the Supreme Bench. The irreverent scoffers at our Supreme Court have in the past complained (though none do now) that there were "old women" in gowns on the bench. There would be no complaint of the kind in the future. The judges would be as pretty as those who assisted in the judgment of Paris, with changed functions; there would be no monotony in the dress, and the Supreme Bench would be one of the most attractive spectacles in Washington. When the judges as well as the advocates are Portias, the law will be an agreeable occupation.

This is, however, mere speculation. We do not understand that it is the immediate purpose of women to take the whole government, though some extravagant expectations are raised by the admission of new States that are ruled by women. They may wish to divide?and conquer. One plan is, instead of dual Chambers of opposite sexes, to mingle in both the Senate and the House. And this is more likely to be the plan adopted, because the revolution is not to be violent, and, indeed, cannot take place without some readjustment of the home life. We have at present what Charles Reade would have called only a right-handed civilization. To speak metaphorically, men cannot use their left hands, or, to drop the metaphor, before the government can be fully reorganized men must learn to do women's work. It may be a fair inference from this movement that women intend to abandon the sacred principle of Home Rule. This abandonment is foreshadowed in a recent election in a small Western city, where the female voters made a clean sweep, elected an entire city council of women and most of the other officers, including the police judge and the mayor. The latter lady, by one of those intrusions of nature which reform is not yet able to control, became a mother and a mayor the same week. Her husband had been city clerk, and held over; but fortunately an arrangement was made with him to stay at home and take care of the baby, unofficially, while the mayor attends to her public duties. Thus the city clerk will gradually be initiated into the duties of home rule, and when the mayor is elected to Congress he will be ready to accompany her to Washington and keep house. The imagination likes to dwell upon this, for the new order is capable of infinite extension. When the State takes care of all the children in government nurseries, and the mayor has taken her place in the United States Senate, her husband, if he has become sufficiently reformed and feminized, may go to the House, and the reunited family of two, clubbing their salaries, can live in great comfort.

All this can be easily arranged, whether we are to have a dual government of sexes or a mixed House and Senate. The real difficulty is about a single Executive. Neither sex will be willing to yield to the other this vast power. We might elect a man and wife President and Vice-President, but the Vice-President, of whatever sex, could not well preside over the Senate and in the White House at the same time. It is true that the Constitution provides that the President and Vice-President shall not be of the same State, but residence can be acquired to get over this as easily as to obtain a divorce; and a Constitution that insists upon speaking of the President as "he" is too antiquated to be respected. When the President is a woman, it can matter little whether her husband or some other woman presides in the Senate. Even the reformers will hardly insist upon two Presidents in order to carry out the equality idea, so that we are probably anticipating difficulties that will not occur in practice.

The Drawer has only one more practical suggestion. As the right of voting carries with it the right to hold any elective office, a great change must take place in Washington life. Now for some years the divergence of society and politics has been increasing at the capital. With women in both Houses, and on the Supreme Bench, and at the heads of the departments, social and political life will become one and the same thing; receptions and afternoon teas will be held in the Senate and House, and political caucuses in all the drawing-rooms. And then life will begin to be interesting.