Election 1940: Women Politicians, According to Westbrook Pegler (10-9-40)

The Pittsburgh Press (October 9, 1940)


By Westbrook Pegler

New York –
It appears that we are about to observe an attack on Wendell Willkie as an enemy of American womanhood because he adverted to the notorious incompetence and general unfitness of the deplorable Mme. Perkins for the position of Secretary of Labor and went so far as to say that hers was a job for a man.

I do not know how much further Mr. Willkie will have the candor and audacity to go in this direction, but if he will slip me the ball I will carry it for a long gain, because the professional politician ranks high in the list of American abominations and is a pernicious nuisance who has imposed on the natural chivalry of the race to escape the criticism which she deserves.

A candidate for the Presidency will be unfairly shackled in any attempt to do justice to this theme, for the female of the species does not submit to judgment on her merits as a public official but instinctively raises the equivalent of the old cry which has touched off so many deep South lynchings.

The truth is that, after all these years and after all the suffragette propaganda, which most of us remember only dimly now, women in politics and office have contributed nothing to the political morality of the nation or its subdivisions.

Just Party Heelers

They have been just so many more sordid and selfish Democrats and Republicans – no worse, on the average, than the males but certainly no better. They have failed to live up to their early billing as a purifying moral force who would pretty up politics by hanging chintz in the polling places and substituting hand-painted gobboons for tawdry paper mache and enamel ware.

In Chicago and Kansas City, the investigation of election frauds proved that women ward heelers and precinct workers were just as crooked as the buck Democrats with whom they collaborated in the dirty work of the reigning gangs. In the U.S. Congress, no woman has ever made any notable contribution to the common good, and Mrs. Mary Norton of New Jersey, who enjoys a very good press because she wears the union label as a political badge, is, in fact, only the political creature of Frank Hague, who refused even to let the CIO hire a hall or hold a meeting in a park.

Mrs. Norton’s political patron has had notorious dealings with mercenary labor stakes of the AFL, one of whom, out of the priestly poverty of a selfish unioneer, personally dug up $60,000 in one hunk to settle Hague’s income tax.

This impressive arrearage had been amassed by Mrs. Noerton’s political boss on a salary which never has exceeded $7,500 a year.

Mrs. Norton thus, notwithstanding the reputation which chivalrous forbearance has permitted her to acquire, is seen to be, in fact, only another boss-elected member of Congress with what noble yearnings we do not know but with no more civic virtue than any trousered member of the same low political kind.

The kind of women who do become prominent politicians are more political than feminine. By the time they rise to power, they are deprived of the inherent special virtue which women were supposed to bring to politics, due to their long association with the men.

They have learned to play politics the men’s way. Otherwise they would not get there. And, of course, because the males are still overwhelmingly more numerous in politics and in office, the presence of a woman in an important post creates embarrassment and needless annoyance. The woman in this role is a political and personal affection. She is in unnatural surroundings and must be referred to for reasons deep in the nature of human beings, even when she is absurdly and dangerously wrong.

Fail to Elevate Morals

I would like to add, too, that most of the women who are active in politics are officious and rather shallow in personality and temperament after long detachment from the office which nature appointed for woman kind. That observation, however, is only esthetic, not political.

The bottom fact of the matter is that women politicians have failed to elevate the political morals of the country, and in those few representatives of their sex who have been raised to distinguished office have given us no improvement over the conscience and ability of the standard type of male political hack. They have shown a net loss, for they have tarnished a very pretty illusion which would still be among our spiritual treasures had they been content merely to talk about what they might have done.