Putting women on an equal footing

In Political, Quotes on October 22, 2010 at 11:31 pm

This is why I love T.R.

“Much can be done by law towards putting women on a footing of complete and entire equal rights with man – including the right to vote, the right to hold and use property, and the right to enter any profession she desires on the same terms as the man…Women should have free access to every field of labor which they care to enter, and when their work is as valuable as that of a man it should be paid as highly.” – An Autobiography, 1913.

This was 97 years ago. Before the 19th Amendment, before the pill, before Betty Friedan. There’s a reason the man was called a Progressive.
Did you know he also wrote his B.A. thesis on women’s rights? Awesome.

  1. Perhaps progressive in some ways.
    Check out these gems: “I wish very much that the wrong people could be prevented entirely from breeding; and when the evil nature of these people is sufficiently flagrant, this should be done. Criminals should be sterilized and feebleminded persons forbidden to leave offspring behind them…”
    “The expansion of the peoples of white, or European, blood during the past four centuries which should never be lost sight of, especially by those who denounce such expansion on moral grounds. On the whole, the movement has been fraught with lasting benefit to most of the peoples already dwelling in the lands over which the expansion took place.”
    Perhaps, in the interest of academic and journalistic fairness, some of his less palatable beliefs should also be given light?

    • You’re absolutely right: “progressive in some ways.” However the point of this post was to mention Roosevelt’s progressivism when it comes to women’s rights.

      I agree with Roosevelt in principle on the first “gem” and disagree with him, to a point, on the second. I have no wish to “spread” democracy to those who have no desire or even need for it. However, whatever thoughts I have will, of course, be ethnocentric. Just as yours are.

      Maybe I should do a post on what I disagree with T.R. on after I complete my “Theodore Roosevelt Week” posts? Would that be of interest?

  2. You AGREE with the first quoe? That the “feebleminded,” criminals, and/or the “wrong kind of person”should be sterilized so they can’t breed?

    • Let me rephrase: I don’t think “feebleminded” people (which I translate to mean mentally handicapped) should breed.
      Should they be sterilized? No.
      Should criminals and the “wrong kind of person” be sterilized? No.
      Why not? Because there is no way to determine who is wrongfully/rightfully imprisoned and because the phrase “the wrong kind of person” is an empty and unquantifiable phrase. Wrong kind of person to who? Who can make such a judgment call? No one.
      Forced sterilization, to me, smacks of fascism, something I strong oppose.

  3. Why shouldn’t the “feebleminded” breed? Mental illness is often hereditary, but one does not have it simply because one has the gene. If a person with paranoid schizophrenia has a child, the child will not necessarily develop schizophrenia, although he/she will be more likely to. Criminality isn’t heritable at all. You’re absolutely correct: there is no way to determine who is “right” and “wrong” at that level, which is why eugenics is considered a dangerous pseudo-science today. However, Roosevelt’s embrace of eugenicist ideals reflects a powerful conviction of very black and white thinking. Thinking that people are intrinsically “good” or “bad” is of course fallacious, and a common thought. However, it requires an incredibly deep, unwavering conviction of one’s own righteousness to suppose that those that one deems to be “undesirable” are unworthy of the same things that anyone else is. If our human rights are inherent and unalienable, as stated in the constitution, then the faculty of one’s mind or body does not take them away. This probably contributed to his sense of Manifest Destiny and the other imperialist acts he condoned. The man may have been an avid reader, but a great thinker he was not.

    • And yes, a review of T.R.’s shortcomings at the end of the week would be of interest.

    • They shouldn’t breed because of the mental, physical, and material cost. I am not saying everyone with a hereditary disease shouldn’t breed, only those whose diseases are particularly debilitating in some noticeable way. For instance, AIDS. I’m not saying someone with AIDS shouldn’t be allowed to raise a child (adoption, hello!) but that their contributing to the gene pool only furthers a disease and the costs associated with it. A disease which, by the way, doesn’t yet have a cure. A disease, which has a destabilizing affect on not only an individual, but also on their families, friends and their larger community. Africa is an example of this. However, to say “Africa is the way it is because of AIDS” would be a bold faced lie. AIDS has played it’s part, just like Imperialism. Speaking of which…

      Manifest Destiny came before Roosevelt’s time. Although “imperialism” and “Manifest Destiny” definitely overlap frequently, I wouldn’t use them interchangeably. I do not consider Roosevelt an imperialist, but would instead call him a global strategist. And by that I mean “think Bill Clinton’s foreign policy.” Under Roosevelt’s presidency no nation was invaded, no war’s fought. In fact, Roosevelt was responsible for ending the Russo-Japanese War and earned the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.

  4. Yes, Manifest Destiny came before T.R., but he still believed in it. Roosevelt did reside over the U.S. involvement in acquiring the Panama Canal, and quite a lot of books have been published over the brutal treatment of the Panamanians. “Global Strategist” is quite the euphemism. It is a typical American attitude that American interests are best served by forcing other nations into the iron grip of our corporate power. Anyone who doesn’t want to do that is labeled communist or terrorist, or whatever. These are usually presented to the people under euphemisms like “spreading democracy,” “allowing free-trade,” etc. I think the brutal acquirement of the Panama Canal could be considered an invasion.

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