Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties - Vol. 1

By M. Ostrogorski; Frederick Clarke | Go to book overview

SIXTH CHAPTER
AUXILIARY AND RIVAL ORGANIZATIONS

I

ALONGSIDE or behind the regular armies of the party Organizations there are irregular troops as well, also formed into regiments and disciplined, but intervening only as auxiliaries. Among them the first place belongs to a variety remarkable alike for the exceptional importance of its effective forces and for their composition. These are the battalions of Amazons, party Associations made up exclusively, or to a great extent, of women, and offering them a field of political activity which they do not possess elsewhere and a sphere of influence which they had hitherto never enjoyed in the English State nor in any other country.

Under the Constitution of England women have always been excluded from political life. And it is in vain that a vast amount of erudition has been expended in trying to prove that they enjoyed the parliamentary franchise in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In a judgment of the Court of King's Bench, of 1739, it was noted incidentally that women had no right to vote; for, according to the remark of one of the judges, "the choice of Members of Parliament requires an improved understanding which women are not supposed to have."1 This, no doubt, was the general opinion. The mere idea of women politicians occurred to men's minds only at times of great constitutional disturbance; the public imagination had to be greatly unsettled by the force of events to conceive such a notion even with a malicious intention. It was, in fact, under this aspect that the political rôle of women was viewed, as is proved by the pamphlets and caricatures of the time of the Commonwealth in the seventeenth century,2 and afterwards of

____________________
1
Modern Reports, VII, case of Ingram v. Olive.
2
In the collection of political pamphlets presented by George III. to the British Museum there is a small volume called "An exact Diurnale of the Parliament of Ladyes, Printed anno Dom. 1647," with a vignette on the title- page representing the interior of the House of Commons with the Lady Speaker, Lady Sergeant at Arms, and the Lady Members on the benches (Collection of Pamphlets, an. 1647, E 386 310).

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