The removal of all forms of the subjection of women is the purpose to which the National Woman’s Party is dedicated. Its present campaign to remove the discriminations against women in the laws of the United States is the beginning of its determined effort to secure the freedom of women, an integral part of the struggle for human liberty for which women are first of all responsible. Its interest lies in the final release of woman from the class of a dependent, subservient being to which early civilization committed her.
The laws of various States at present hold her in that class. They deny her a control of her children equal to the father’s; they deny her, if married, the right to her own earnings; they punish her for offenses for which men go unpunished; they exclude her from public office and from public institutions to the support of which her taxes contribute. These laws are not the creation of this age, but the fact that they are still tolerated on our statute books and that in some States their removal is vigorously resisted shows the hold of old traditions-upon us. Since the passage of the Suffrage Amendment the incongruity of these laws, dating back many centuries, has become more than ever marked.
In all of our States butone the fundamental law is the English common law, modified by the civil law where the influence of France and Spain was felt. Under the English common a married woman was subjeci to the will of her husband and without legal identity; the husband was the sole legal head of the house; the father was the guardian of the minor child and had the control of its education and the benefitof its labor. Mother as such was "entitled to no power but only to reverence and respect."
Haphazard modifications of this old law by unrelated statutes have created the present anomalous legal position of women in which there is no uniformity. As a matter of fact there are more than fifty points at which the laws of one State or another at present discriminate against women. The National Woman’s Party is now making the first complete digest which has ever been made of all these laws in every State — except one, Wisconsin, where the Woman’s Party Equal Rights Bill, with modifications to meet local conditions, has already been passed, and men and women made equal before the law.
Because the common law said that the husband was head of the house, husbands may still in at least forty-five of our States decide where their wives must live and vote. At the last election a woman living in Boston with her husband, wrote to the Woman’s Party protesting against the fact that though she wished to play a part in the public affairs of Massachusetts, where she spent her entire time, the only place where she could vote was Maine, since her husband for business reasons maintained his voting residence in Maine.
As the head of the house the husband may say also exactly who may and who may not belong to the family circle. In Georgia, as recently as 1914, a woman who supported the family and paid the rentof the house, went to court because her husband insisted upon having a drunken companion constantly about the house, and she insisted upon not having him. The court told her she "was putting the petticoat in a more advanced position than the pantaloons," and that let would pay the rent, her husband was "head of the house."