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Madeline McDowell Breckinridge and the Battle for a New South$

Melba Porter Hay

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780813125329

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813125329.001.0001

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(p.249) Appendix Selections from Articles and Speeches of Madeline McDowell Breckinridge

(p.249) Appendix Selections from Articles and Speeches of Madeline McDowell Breckinridge

Madeline McDowell Breckinridge and the Battle for a New South
University Press of Kentucky

A Day in Judge Mack’s Juvenile Court in Chicago

A day in Judge Mack’s Juvenile Court in Chicago is apt to be a day full of the sound of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. Children accused of some petty crime when they are told to give their version, when the judge bids them “look up at him and speak out,” usually dissolve in tears; this doesn’t indicate either guilt or innocence; sometimes the judge’s kindly bantering, “what you scared of” restores confidence, if not composure; sometimes it seems as if no human power could stop the flow. But the most vociferous wailing comes from the small boys upon whom sentences are passed that are not to their mind. John Worthy is a juvenal [sic] penal institution, a prison school within the city; St. Charles is a State Industrial school in the country, which means protracted banishment from the joys of the streets. There were no more copious tears shed, no more bitter wailings voiced, one morning that I sat by and listened, than by three small boys to whom these fates were allotted. They had wasted no tears before the sentence; they had defended themselves with a pretty good show of confidence, but when the judge, after listening and questioning good naturedly, spoke their doom with the same calm kindness, the boys knew that the time had passed for defense and had come for appeal. They had all been before the court a number of times before; they were confirmed street urchins with the waywardness and the impudence of the species; but the casual observer would have been taken in, (p.250) would have had hard work to resist the impulse to pity, when the big gray eyes of the youngest overflowed, the muscles around the mouth worked pathetically and he clutched the bar of justice and held on even after the bailiffs of the court were hustling him away, wailing, “Please, jedge, yer honor, give me one more chance. Oh, please, jedge, yer honor.” Nor did the wail of these three cease as long as there was a chance that “jedge, yer honor” might be moved; they could be heard resounding all down the court house corridor to the elevator shaft.

Three other boys who had run away from a Catholic institution and who gave as their proper reasons for so doing that they had been given sour milk to drink and that the brother beat them with a horsewhip, were almost as vociferous in their distress because they weren’t sent to St. Charles; they had come to the conclusion that as a choice of evils St. Charles was preferable to the discipline of the brothers. They told the judge that they would get more beatings now for running away; he encouraged them to face the music, and he sent a private injunction to the brother to try milder methods of receiving the prodigal sons this time, but he destroyed the fallacy in those youthful minds that by running away they could escape the long arm of justice.

But not all the cases are even mildly comic. There is the mother, whose one redeeming trait is her love for her child, told that she has been given her last chance and that the court will this time have to take her child away from her; she doesn’t weep, this mother, but she takes her child to a corner of the court room and sits holding it in her lap and coddling it till the officers of the institution to which it has been confided come to take it, and the sight is touching. There is the mother with a child of six, whose father had deserted it and left it to her support, and for whom the struggle and the sorrow have been too much; she is convinced now that “things” are following her, and she consents to let the child be taken because it will then be safe from the “following things.” The probation officer is told to take the mother to the Hull House physician for examination, and one chokes down a feeling in the throat, hoping that the fact of the juvenile court having taken cognizance in this case may finally mean for the mother restoration to mental health and to her child. There is another mother with seven children, from four to eleven, whose husband has abandoned her; another, with five children, the oldest fourteen, whose husband is insane; another mother, whose husband is in the hospital with tuberculosis, brought into court with her four children—one other is in (p.251) a feeble-minded institute—on the charge of neglect and intemperance. Two children are taken away from her to be cared for temporarily; the oldest, who is over the child labor law limit, is left to help in the support of the family and she is allowed to keep her baby, under the watch of a probation officer, if she will sign the pledge. “A woman who can’t drink moderately,” says the Judge, “must give it up entirely if she wants to keep her children; it is the only way,” and the woman says she will try. Another mother, whose husband had gone South to work and who has been ill in Memphis for several weeks, asks that the court take two of her children temporarily and put them where they will be supported; she thinks she can earn enough to support the other two and to pay the back rent that is owed, and that she won’t have to give up her home and have the added expense of moving. The court undertakes to help her carry her load.

One cannot spend a day in the Juvenile Court without wishing that our next President might be imbued with a sense of the duty of fatherhood and might “preach a crusade,” as our present President is doing, on the duty of motherhood. On dependent children’s day in the court one believes that a new course of instruction should be introduced into all our boys’ schools on the primal and ancient obligation that a man owes to support his children; and not to desert and leave the job to the mother whenever the family becomes too big for ease and comfort. On delinquents’ day in court one wants added to that course another, to the effect that a father’s responsibility does not stop with providing bread and meat for his children; that the bringing up of those children in proper habits and morals is a little his job as well as the mother’s. Often, and often, when a small boy is being arraigned, the true delinquent is the father. Illinois’ experience in her Juvenile Court has made so clear this fact of ultimate responsibility, of the share that the neglectful parent and the adult law-breaker bear in the downfall of children, that she is trying now to have added to her law the “adult contributory negligence” clause that makes Colorado’s juvenile code so effective.

When delinquents’ cases are taken up in the court many of them have amusing features. There are angry mothers and fathers, one side accusing the other—and throwing in a little gratuitous accusation of the other fellow’s children who are not on trial; there are usually two sides in these neighborhood depredations and street quarrels, and the judge hears them both, as a rule both at once, for it is more than human nature that one set of parents should preserve respectful silence while the (p.252) other talks. Sometimes a foreign mother, whose child long suspected and finally caught in the act of stealing rubber balls from a street peddler or trifling articles from the school room has been brought into court by the school principal, is sure that the principal is simply down on her boy and expostulates and denies loudly in two languages and regularly drowns the voice of the calm little school teacher until the judge restrains her. The judge is no great stickler for the order or dignity of the court; his anxiety is to get at the facts and he knows that one way of doing it is to hear all sides—at once if necessary—so that the human qualities of anger or sorrow or mental unsoundness that enter into the testimony may be weighed with it. And after he has spoken if one witness or another comes back with an added bit of testimony he is quite ready to modify a decision. Once he is convinced of the right and wrong in the matter, though; once he has decided, he loses no time; the court bailiffs hurry off weeping and expostulating parents and children and neighbors, and the next case is entered into before the sounds of dissension from the first are stilled; then one begins to understand how Judge Mack can get through in the time allowed him the Herculean task that now falls to the Juvenile Court of Chicago….

There are eighteen probation officers attached to the Juvenile Court at Chicago—all but four of them women—and, in addition, members of the police force are detailed when needed to assist. For Chicago is a big city, with many little children in it needing “correction, aid and encouragement,” children both of the foreign-born and of American parents. The probation officers are appointed by the judge, though usually suggested by the Volunteer Juvenile Court committee—a committee that raises from individuals and organizations the salaries of the probation officers, and that also has charge of and partially supports the Detention Home. Bills to provide both for the salaries of probation officers and the support of the Detention Home from county funds are now before the legislature. Illinois’ system—if it may be so called—has grown with the need and has not kept pace with it; it did not spring full-fledged and it is made as wonderfully effective as it is by the devoted and unpaid labors of many men and women.

Source: Lexington Herald, April 24, 1905.

(p.253) Cotton Mills of the South

We had a great desire to see it go in cotton and come out olive oil! But we were just too late. Last year’s crop was short in this section and the cotton oil mill at Camden had closed down about two weeks earlier than usual. The season for this industry is short; it lasts only from September to April at the latest; the heat in the room where the oil is pressed out is always great; later in the season the heat is so great that the oil made under such circumstances would become rancid. But while the season lasts and the crop holds out the mill runs night and day, employing from seventy-five to a hundred Negro men. And the Camden mill is but one of twenty-three in the State of South Carolina, and eight odd over the South, belonging to the same company.

This mill in addition to the cotton seed which it buys already ginned absorbs a good deal of the local cotton crop. We climbed up a step-ladder to see the silent gin—the miracle-working machine which is said to be the idea of a woman! The planter’s wagon drives under a shed at one side, the baskets of cotton are grasped and lifted up by machinery; the cotton passes through the gin, the seed going down a chute in the middle, and presently the blade cotton is lowered out of a window on the opposite side on to the waiting wagon. Thence it goes to be made into mattresses. To look at only one boll of cotton and think of the weary process of picking away by hand the cotton from the seed—from which nature surely meant that it should never be separated—makes one wonder that even the great of the earth could have clothed themselves in cotton goods in the days before the gin….

We were not too late for the cotton mills and we came out from them with a much greater respect for unbleached cotton than we had ever felt before. They were doing their twelve hours a day amid a terrible din of machinery and lint of cotton. A boy of thirteen, who had been in the mills four years, told us that he went to work in the “new mill,” as they call it, the one with the most up-to-date machinery, at six in the morning and worked until twelve; after three-quarters of an hour for dinner he went back to work at a quarter of one and worked till seven; there is a half holiday on Saturday. As the child gave them to us—though he was not in the least complaining and seemed quite content with his job—the hours seemed much longer than as the manager briefly stated them: sixty-seven hours a week. One can readily understand the temptation to employ child labor (p.254) when one sees how little the perfection of the machinery leaves to the human hand to do. The human motions in several of the processes are so simple, so slight, so mechanical that it seems a perfectly natural thing to turn them over to a child; yet when one sees them being made with a lightning-like rapidity the thought of the long, monotonous hours makes one’s head swim and one’s body tired. In the spinning and weaving rooms the majority of the workers seemed to be children. In other rooms where in the preceding processes the soft, white stuff is being handled more in bulk, the greater numbers of the workers are men.

In the older mill, the machinery of which is not so improved a type, many hand processes are being done by women. To see a woman stooping over her frame catching and placing a thread with a tiny steel crochet needle with the utmost rapidity, with eye and hand never diverted from their job, and to learn that she received 20 cents an hour for this setting up for weaving, makes 20 cents seem a very valuable piece of money, one not to be idly and wantonly fooled away. She doesn’t complain either of the hours, only that she is laid off so often, that the mill shuts down so frequently and the chance to work is gone. Another evidence that the machinery in this mill is a little antiquated—and also that supervision is not very strict—is seen in the fact that the children are not working at such speed and that there are some loafing times between, when they frolic at the end of the great room, and make faces through the windows and giggle at a chance visitor outside.—And yet among these children is one with a face unlike any child face I have ever seen before, so wrinkled, so white, so horribly old—the skin drawn tightly over the bones, little eyes deep-set and crossed, the tow-head covered with whiter cotton line, increasing the look of age, and the whole set on an emaciated body like that of an old man rather than of a child. It may be unjust to think of this as a cotton mill type, but I shall never forget the strange little figure nor cease to associate it with the cotton industry. Whether this child is the result of the cotton mills or not, I thought, he is in the cotton mills, and if the children are to be in the mills rather than in the schools, then there should be a medical inspector in the mills who would remove such a child to a hospital, where surely he must belong. The children in the mill seemed younger than in the other mill; one little girl was ten, another was “going on” eleven, another, with her feet tied up in rags because they were sore, was twelve, and had as helper her little sister of eight. She did not know what wages she made, her mother drew her wages and she thought that (p.255) none of the children under twelve got wages—presumably they were all “helpers”—she had three brothers and a father also in the mill. The oldest brother had gone over to the “new mill” because wages were better there. Conversations in the mill had to be brief, for it was almost impossible to make one’s self heard in the roar. The children seemed quite used to it, as to the other incidents of the machinery. Two children seemed to be playing a sort of game of tag near some exposed hands with never a notion of danger. It seemed quite dreadful to me in view of the information a girl who was returning from her dinner had given me outside the mill; that a child of nine had gotten his finger mashed off the Saturday before. She would be glad, she added knowingly, if they would pass a law to take the children out of the mills. She was sending her baby brother, who “had the toothache” all night, down to a dentist—presumably to have his tooth pulled. “How early their troubles begin!” I said to myself. But perhaps I was looking at life through the colored cotton mill glasses, for the child himself seemed quite proud that he was going to the dentist, and tried to tell me about it in English that was not yet comprehensible.

Source: Lexington Herald, March 17, 1907.

A Model Public School

[By special request Mrs. Desha Breckinridge has consented to try to reproduce here what she said at the opera house Tuesday night.]

The Civic League has asked you here tonight to consider with us the plan for a model public school in the city of Lexington and the means by which we are to get it.

Perhaps it is necessary for us to realize that we have need of educational improvement. We have been saying to ourselves for sometime, in the manner of Kentuckians, that we have one of the best public school systems in the country, and unless someone insists that Kentuckians look the facts in the face they are very apt to believe just what they say of themselves to others. As a State we stand disgracefully low in the tables of illiteracy. To the dismay of our own local community, it has recently been shown that in ten Blue Grass counties, of which Fayette is one, there are but 92 fewer native white illiterates than in the whole State of Massachusetts, a State with almost double the population of Kentucky and a large foreign element.

(p.256) Fayette County’s Poor Showing

In 1907 the county of Fayette, which was spending over $185,000 of county revenues, devoted but little over $2,000 of this to her public schools. Since that time we have gotten from the Legislature a new county school board law, one of the special objects of which was to bring about local county taxation for the benefit of schools, and this year Fayette county will spend $4,000 for her schools while she spends $65,000 for her roads. Now the roads over which the children go to school are important, but the schools to which they go are likewise important, and the present proportion of expenses simply indicates that our county officials, the men who are deciding the business methods of our county, have not at present a proper appreciation of the importance of our schools.

If you should ask—you who are contentedly saying that we have a perfect system of schools in Lexington—those who are intimately acquainted with the schools about them, they would not tell you that any single school in Lexington is a model. The superintendent would not; the members of the board would not. And if you should talk for five minutes to a principal or teacher, showing any intelligent interest or knowledge of the subject, he or she would begin to pour out to you a list of the things needed for the schools.

Women Are Needed

Personally I do not believe that we shall ever have model schools, as good schools even as the money that is spent for them should provide, while we divide our community into two classes, the women who are doing the thinking about educational matters and the men who are doing the voting. Having started out 70 years ago by granting the first school suffrage to women of any English-speaking people, Kentucky, by a final stroke at her last Legislature, contentedly reduced herself to an oriental position by declaring that men only were ft for school suffrage. It is rather singular that this reactionary attitude on the part of Kentucky men has gone on side by side with the most remarkable and important development of public interest in educational affairs that Kentucky has seen in the seventy years past.

(p.257) Movement Backed by Women

And this movement has been conceived and executed and financed to a large extent by Kentucky women. Of all the ridiculous political disabilities that men have ever put upon women the most ridiculous is to debar them from a share in the control of the public schools—to say to them on the one hand, “Women, your glorious mission is to bear and to rear children,” and on the other hand, to say to them, “When those children are six years old—or four years old, now that we have kindergartens—they must go into the public schools, and there you may not go with them. How the public schools are conducted is a matter for men, not for women, Mothers have nothing to do with the education of their children.”

As a matter of fact, even debarred as they are from any authority, the mothers of this community know more and care more about what is going on in the public schools than do the fathers. A mother came to me the other day, wanting me to look into a matter in the public schools which she thought very wrong and to get it remedied. It was a thing about which I had never thought, but I have thought of it since and I have asked people in this and other communities whose experience is much wider than mine, and I am convinced that that mother was right.

Devoid of Power to Act

I told her that I was not on the School Board, that I was as devoid of any power in the matter as was she, and when she left I decided that this hard job was perhaps not my job, and I wrote to her and suggested that she have her husband, the father of the boy, talk with the members of the School Board about it.

Now that was a month or so ago and I do not believe that anything has been done. I mention it simply to show you that there is a difference in women’s standard and men’s standard of what the public school should be, and I believe if we want to bring up our children in the best way we should be getting the judgment and advice of the mother sex instead of ignoring it. We should have women on our School Boards and women as principals and women as inspectors “nosing” about in our schools and finding out the little apparently insignificant things that are perhaps the things of vital importance that should be changed and bettered.

(p.258) Male and Female Standard

We had an example the other day of the difference in the male and female standard. A stranger came into our midst, a woman, and she went into the cellars and basements of our public schools, and she did not like them, and a few days later the gentlemen of our School Board went around and looked at them and they said they were all right. Now even male janitors could have made a change in those cellars and basements in the two or three days intervening between visits, but if the men of our School Board had gone with Mrs. Crane I think their views and hers about the conditions of those cellars and basements would have been different.

Our men have minds above cellars. It takes a woman who has had herself to see to the cleaning and whitewashing to know how a cellar or basement ought to be. If you do not believe it I suggest that some of you women go and look at the cellars of some of the most prominent business houses in our city, even those within the fire limits and see if you think they are right. We cannot expect men who have looked down upon housekeeping for many centuries and considered it a menial task ft only for women to know very much about it.

What do we Mean by a Model School

Now if we are going to have a model school in Lexington what do we mean by it? In the first place we mean a school in which teachers are chosen for merit and efficiency; a school in which there are provided for our children the very best teachers that can be obtained for the money to be laid out, no matter where we go to get those teachers; a school in which a teacher who is doing her best knows that she will hold her place while she deserved it and does not have the Damocles sword of an annual election, for which all sorts of wire pulling are necessary, hanging over her head; a school in which the curriculum is the result of the careful thought of big minds; in which discipline is gentle but absolutely firm, in which book teaching is of the highest type; and in which that indescribable process of character building is going on constantly from the influence of a high type of men and women in charge of the children.

(p.259) Ideals of Perfect School

… Our model school must have in it thorough equipment for hand training in every grade. It must have in it certain physical equipment and space for neighborhood uses, some time back considered out of the province of the public school, and it is these things I want to talk about….

Commercial Value of Education

There can be no longer any question about the practical and commercial value of education. … everywhere there is a direct relation between the amount spent for education and the average earning capacity of the people. For every dollar earned per inhabitant in Kentucky Indiana earns $1.57. When we go further to the application of the latest educational discovery, the discovery that it is wasteful to try to train the mind alone, but that you must train the hands and body with it, the illustration is even more striking….

Private Initiative

I want you to realize a little how other communities have waked up to the commercial and moral value of hand training in the public schools, and want to refer to the way in which most of the great advances in educational matters have come from the initiative and generosity of private individuals. It is impossible to ask that any community shall act as a whole through its public representatives until long after there have been many individuals who are ready to act privately to attain a desired end….

The Habit of Public Giving

Our own community has not as yet contracted the habit of public giving. Sometimes in Louisville when I have looked at the magnificent Manual Training High School, the gift of one citizen, and at the building in which the charity organization society has its headquarters, the gift of another; and at the beautiful drinking fountains and gateways and bridges on the streets and in the parks, I have wished that that contagion of public spirit might reach this Blue Grass region. At the present the attitude of many of (p.260) us toward the State or the city seems to be to “do” it, to give as little as we can and to get as much. It seems sometimes as if we had forgotten that this government was our own government and that what we gave to the public we were, after all, but giving to ourselves….

Community Use of School Buildings

Another thing that we want our model school to give besides handtraining is the opportunity for community use. It is slowly dawning upon us that the public schools belong to the public, and that they have the right to use them both in school hours and out. Of all the wicked extravagances the most wicked, it seems to me, is to tax people—and poor people, for every landlord, no matter how disgraceful the hovel which he rents, makes his tenants pay the taxes on the rental which he fixes—to tax poor people for the purpose of erecting costly school buildings and then to allow these school buildings to stand idle 165 days out of the year and 19 hours out of every 24 of the days they are in use. While the people have need of them for every sort of use our school buildings are closed and idle for half of the afternoons, for all of the evenings, on Saturdays and on Sundays and through three months of the summer while our janitors are taking the rest cure. And there is no place for our people, whose homes are too small for more than domestic uses, to meet with their fellowmen as every rightly constructed human being wants to do.

How Money Is Wasted

The men must go to the saloons for their political meetings. The young people, if they want to dance or to enjoy themselves in other ways, must go to the skating rinks and the cheap dance halls and the five-cent theaters; and they go unchaperoned, and there are often deplorable consequences. Then we go to work in our juvenile courts and our reform schools we spend the money that we should have spent to keep these young people from going wrong. And the pity of it is, that a broken thing mended is never what a whole thing might have been, even if we succeed in mending and not in further scarring and disfiguring the young character which is handled so roughly in police courts and jails and State Institutions….

(p.261) Our Next School

Now the model school we want for Lexington is to be built in the West End simply because that is the next school we are to build. Bye and bye we want such a model school for every school in Lexington. Surely it will not be many years before our people demand that every school building in Lexington for white or for colored be equipped for manual training work, so that this may be given to all our boys and girls and not just to an occasional few who are picked out and sent from their school to the manual training center. And after we get these schools all up to the standard we are now setting, you may rest assured that somebody will come along with a standard of a school building way in advance of any we have now; and then we will begin aiming for that. One’s wagon should always be hitched to a star.

The West End School

I believe I can tell you best what we need in all of these model schools we are to have, by telling you a little of the history of the school in the West End, and why we want the things in it that we do want. Seven years ago the Woman’s Club and the Civic League started a little playground in what is commonly known as Irishtown on a lot loaned to us by Mr. Richard Stoll. The second year this property had been sold and we could not get it for a playground, so we started a little vacation school with cooking, and sewing, and out-door kindergarten in a slip of a yard, and sand piles, and swings, and see-saws and basketball, and croquet. Then we went to the School Board and showed them that in a list of 80 children of kindergarten and primary age but four were even registered up town and they were not attending school. We showed them that there were children of 14 and 15 who could neither read nor write and that the public school system was passing over the heads of these children, who really needed it most. The School Board started a kindergarten with our little playground instructor, Miss Betsy Cloud in charge—who is about the best thing that has ever happened to that end of town—and to that kindergarten the School Board has added one thing after another.

(p.262) One Grade Crowded Out

There is a school now of 150 pupils and one grade was lost this fall simply because the children could not be accommodated in the funny little school-rooms that have been made out of the two converted dwelling houses that are the school. And we are not pushing the School Board any longer about this West End School. They are pushing us, and right now they are eager to build and we are begging for time that we may try to raise a little more money.

For seven years we have had a beautiful vision of what the new school building in that section was going to be and how it would have in it a kitchen, a carpenter shop and a laundry with stationary wash tubs where the girls might learn the fine art of laundry work and where the mothers might bring their washing out of school hours, as they do to the municipal laundries in the European cities; of how it would have a gymnasium and shower baths for the use of young and old alike and a swimming pool; perhaps a little room that might be used for a library and a club-room; and either an assembly hall or a kindergarten room so large that by putting funeral chairs into it we could on short notice convert it in time into an assembly hall. And if we can not afford a separate assembly hall we want a stage at the end of the kindergarten room where the piano and the cupboards for the kindergarten work may go, which you see is really an economy of space, and a teacher’s room to one side of it where a sick child may be taken or a business matter gone over with the principal in school hours, and in which in the evening may be converted into that fascinating place where wigs are put on and eyebrows are blackened and ready-made expressions created by the fine hand of the artist—a green room. For the children who read and learn and play Shakespeare and Schiller in their youth are going to have tastes above Anna Held and “The Merry Widow” and the five-cent theater when they grow up….

An Experiment Station

We like to claim that the manual training in our public schools grew out of the humble little work started in the West End School; and that the playground and park movement grew out of that. And we believe now that, if we can open there a model school which the board will allow the superintendent to use as a sort of experiment station where the curriculum (p.263) may be loosened and adapted to the model set by the School of Education in Chicago, the influence of this school in the West End will go not only through all the schools of Lexington eventually, but through all the school of Central Kentucky. And even further, for no Kentucky movement has ever yet hid its light under a bushel; and we will see that there is plenty of free space in the newspapers to proclaim our shining example throughout the length and breadth of the State.

Observations of Seven Years

In the seven years that we have been in the West End we have seen boys go to the penitentiary and girls go wrong in one way or another for the lack, we believe, of being taught in the school to use their hands to make an honest living, and of being given some outlet for social intercourse under proper conditions. And the things we have seen there, you could have seen in many other parts of town if you had only watched for them closely.

The school we are planning to build will be fed from the section known as Irishtown and from Davis Bottom, and the territory extending over to the tobacco factories and the Southern depot and from Spiegel Heights and from the new and growing section beyond the Cincinnati Southern tracks that cross the Versailles road. The lot picked out is in the very center of this district. The building must be so constructed that it may be added on to from year to year.

Good Work of the Teachers

Sometimes we have gotten discouraged with our work in the West End. It seemed as if there were but little result. But when we remember that for seven years through the school and the playground, winter and summer, there have been with these children every day women of refinement and high character who are teaching them not only what is in the books but all the little unconscious things that go to make up a good man or a good woman, we must know that the work has not been in vain. And, however hard it is, however exacting, we know too that those children are worthy of it. I have seen them sitting with their little bare feet under the kindergarten tables and their heads bowed over them, saying the grace that the teachers have taught them:

  • (p.264) “Father we thank thee for the night
  • And for the blessed morning light;
  • For rest and food and loving care
  • And all that makes the world so fair.”

And I have said to myself: “Those children have a right, just as your children or my children have, just as every child in the world has, to ‘rest and food and loving care and all that makes the world so fair.’” And I have said to myself: “When we make our school building here we must build one thing in the section that is fair, that is dignified and noble, and that shall serve its ends not only for usefulness but for an inspiration of neatness order and beauty to the whole community.”

Isn’t it a vision worth waiting for and working for, and giving to, and even worth begging for? Will you help us to get it?

Source: Lexington Herald, May 30, 1909.

Woman’s Suffrage Is Sure to Come

Excerpt from two-hour speech given by Madeline McDowell Breckinridge on December 15 in Savannah. Newspaper commentary is in brackets.

I think I am perfectly safe in saying that the granting of the ballot to women generally in this country will come within the next quarter or halfcentury. We now have eleven states in which whole or partial suffrage has been given. The very biggest statesmen in the country have said that they believe women’s suffrage is coming and I believe that anyone who is not totally blind can see now that it is coming just as surely as the sun rises and sets.

Speaker [Camp] Clark in an interview with a delegation of women advocates of equal suffrage said that he believes woman’s suffrage was inevitable. I think this is one of our greatest weaknesses. We all think it is inevitable and we are apt to underestimate the difficulties and the opposition that undoubtedly confronts us in our fight for the ballot.

Woman’s cause is not won until it is won throughout the entire nation, and one of the greatest forces with which we must reckon is the force of inertia. This exists among a large percentage of women all over the country. The women are complacent to sit idly by and say that it can’t be done or that their time is so taken up with their duties at home that they (p.265) are unable to get out and work for the cause, even though they feel down deep in their hearts that in asking for a voice in the affairs of their states and their nation they are but asking for that which is justly due them.

Other forces opposed to granting suffrage to the women are the liquor and vice interests and the interests who know that child labor will be speedily abolished after equal suffrage goes into effect.

[Mrs. Breckinridge told of the experiences of those who had fought for suffrage in Kentucky and gained a partial victory. She said that as a result of the limited power given the women of her state some very good and successful laws had been enacted in Kentucky; that commissions on schools and illiteracy have been established and that the laws provided that on all the commissions appointed for educational purposes women must be appointed as well as men. The result, she said, had been that a far greater percentage of the state funds have been spent for educational purposes, the conditions in the schools have shown marked improvement and the percentage of adult illiteracy in the state has been cut down to almost nothing. The part women has [sic] played in the wars of the world was one of Mrs. Breckinridge’s most forceful arguments in favor of giving the ballot to women.]

If there were no better argument in favor of giving the ballot to women, war would be an entirely sufficient one. When we think of patriotism we think of war and when we think of war we think of men who march off to war ’mid the playing of patriotic airs, the beating of drums, and the waving of flags. We forget the hundreds of thousands of women who have been and are being made widows, whose sons are taken away from them in the cruel, bloody game of war—a war which was precipitated by an act of their nation in which they had no voice.

But the mere fact that war is all wrong, that it is barbarous and criminal and awful and terrible to think of in this stage of civilization is not the only argument in favor of woman’s suffrage that war gives us. Has [sic] not women, since the very earliest days when nations took up arms against each other, made sacrifices that make this plea of hers for the right to help conduct the affairs of her nation, but a request for, but a portion of, that which has been her right?

[Mrs. Breckinridge dwelt strongly upon the great need of new laws and the enforcement of existing laws in the South and explained that the giving of the right to vote to women would help greatly to accomplish those things which the South needs most.]

(p.266) It is only because I love my Southland that I regret and recognize the fact that the South is so lawless; that educational, health and other conditions in the South are far in the rear of the pace that has been set in the North and West.

When I think of how little Georgia spends for the education of her children I try to remember Sherman’s march through the state to the sea—how women were made widows and children made orphans and homes wrecked and pillaged and the path taken by the Union soldiers so devastated that not even a crow could find sustenance in the fields. But even when I am thinking of this, I realize that this is no excuse for the conditions that exist to-day in Georgia; that the heroic sacrifices made by the people of the South in their war for “states’ rights” is no excuse for the fact that the South is not now leading all other sections of the country in the passage of good laws, in the enforcement of laws and in the health and educational conditions.

A great argument in favor of woman’s suffrage is contained in the educational statistics of Georgia as compared with some of the Western states where equal suffrage is now in effect. Do you know that in Georgia the average salary paid to your schoolteachers is but $250 and that in the state of Washington it is $600 and in the state of California it is $900? This shows that the sacrifice is being borne by your teachers.

[Mrs. Breckinridge dealt a blow at the cotton goods manufacturers of the South who employ cheap child labor in their mills.]

It is the child labor that fills our juvenile courts. The young boy and girl criminals that we are turning out in large numbers each year do not come from the children who are reared in the homes and are given the playgrounds and the schools to play and become educated in.

There are cotton mills in the South that have been moved here from Northern states where the employment of child labor has been prohibited. Shall we allow these men to come down here and commercialize our children, stunt their bodies and their minds in the dirty, unsanitary and poor paying mills?

And right here I may add that the man who employs child labor will be a factor in the fight against woman’s suffrage. This man knows that he will not be allowed to employ this sort of labor once woman is given the right to enact and enforce laws forbidding it.

[Mrs. Breckinridge condemned the statement made by opponents of woman’s suffrage that women, if given the right to vote, will go out of their sphere.]

(p.267) We have never gone out of our sphere in anything that we have undertaken. The very earliest movement of woman to help the world, the movement toward nursing, which was at one time considered the proper thing for woman only in her own home or in the home of her very dear friends, has been so broadened now that nursing is a profession in which woman is entirely within her sphere. The government of this and other countries has taken up this movement and the Red Cross societies of which the woman nurse is the prime factor, are among the greatest and most efficient organizations in the world.

The sphere of the woman is as broad as she chooses to make it. She is the mother of men and any undertaking she may endeavor to engage in which aids and makes more pleasant, more profitable and more enlightened the life of men is within her sphere….

I want to make an urgent appeal to the women of this community for support in efforts to obtain the right of the mother to the guardianship of her child; the right of the young girl to protection up to a greater age than now embraced by the age of consent, and the right of the working woman to protection in the length of her working hours. These are things which are all badly needed, particularly in your own state.

Source: Savannah Morning News, December 16, 1914.

Are we the Gates of Hell, and a Field for Foreign Missions? If so, What shall we do about it?

The Salvation Army is a religious organization and a relief society. This fact makes it difficult for many people to weigh the relief work on its own merits. I believe that in determining whether they wish to maintain the headquarters of the association and to finance its work, the people of Lexington should separately weigh the merits of each function of the organization. To speak briefly of the religious function first.

It does not seem to me that Lexington is or should be a missionary field. I noticed in last Saturday’s papers invitations to church from twenty churches. These did not include the two Catholic churches. These church organizations are all supported by our home people; some of them by great sacrifices and self-denial on the part of some. Is it necessary that these same people should also support the missionaries of an out-side religious organization? Lexington is not a very large place; I feel sure that (p.268) the clergy and members of twenty-two churches can carry and are carrying the teachings of their churches to the poor of the city.

If we are the “Gates of Hell”—and sometimes I am inclined to think so when I learn that we have 104 or 105 licensed saloons in a town of 40,000, and that there were in 1915 eighty-eight deaths from violence in Fayette County as compared to six in Bloody Breathitt and fifty-seven in Campbell, whose people we were helping to reform last winter by act of Legislature—if we are the “Gates of Hell,” I think it is time we found it out ourselves and set about to remedy conditions. I do not believe they will ever be remedied by foreign missionaries. And it is a pity for us to get the notion that by dropping small change into a tambourine we can get our own job done by someone else.

I do not consider the relief work of the Salvation Army sound, and I believe no citizen ought to support it until he has assured himself that it is. My opinion is based not only on careful reports of the methods of the army throughout the country made by experienced and conscientious social workers, but on investigation of such facts concerning the local work of the Salvation Army as have been brought to light by their own newspaper articles and appeals.

But I especially deplore the fact that when local people have for a good many years now been making through certain central organizations a brave effort to bring order out of chaos in what is known as “outdoor relief”— relief to the poor in their homes, that these efforts should be broken down as they are in many cases, by the efforts of another relief society coming in from the outside. I know how difficult it is for the organizations under home rule to get the money necessary for really helping the poor and the sick. For real help often does not mean “small change,” it means study, thought, effort, time, and considerable sums of money. Our people are a liberal people when it comes to food, clothes, automobiles, theatre or movie tickets, but they are a fairly careful people when it comes to doubtful expenditures like charities. When $2,500 of local money goes to the Salvation Army, as their published report of expenditures for the year September 1914–15 (I have seen no financial report from the Salvation Army since) showed it did go, we can feel pretty sure that $2,500 was withdrawn from the support of our local relief workers. Which group is it better worth our while to support and to try to improve and reform if they need improving and reforming?

Source: Lexington Herald, January 18, 1917.