Editorial: Preserving democracy (8-14-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (August 14, 1941)


By Mrs. Walter Ferguson

I sat in a crowded hall listening to a visiting lady talk about women’s duty in preserving democracy. I longed several times for the courage to heckly. Ladylike instincts at such moments are a great inconvenience. I longed to cry:

Explain yourself, Madam. Give us a diagram. In simple words, what do you mean when you say we must act now to save America?

I’m sure she didn’t know. None of her audience knew. Each interpreted her phrases to suit a personal prejudice. Like most audiences, we were intoxicated by cadences and tones and word pictures. We were not thinking of reality, and the speaker wasn’t talking about it.

There were women present who would faint if you told them they could help national defense by looking at conditions on the opposite side of the railroad track – or by reading both sides of the capital-and-labor question. Their thinking about the American way doesn’t go far enough to include their own gardener or laundress or the peddler who comes to their back door. It has to do with snappy uniforms, parades, and flags embroidered on stylish blouses. Economics comes into it of course, but father looks after that.

To the club-minded lady, another picture arises. Instantly her mind leaps to new organizations, fresh recruits, drives, committee meetings, banquets, speeches, and all sorts of exciting get-togethers. Possibly democracy means something different to the housewife and office-worker. Business as usual, says the latter to herself; the former, while dreaming about schools for Mary and Joe, resolves to set up a new budget and tio give more to the Community Fund.

Women who think they love democracy are working hard at the Red Cross, sewing Bundles for Britain, taking lessons in motor mechanics and flying, selling defense bonds and begging to join the Army. Yet of these many do not understand the meaning of the term. That’s why the times call for specific words – Anglo-Saxon preferred. The average citizen is more confused by language than events. Why doesn’t someone have the courage to say “To be preserved, democracy must be practice everyday, everywhere, by everybody”?

1 Like