Thursday, August 21, 2014

Esperanto, the Language of Women’s Rights

Virinoj devas havi rajtojn!
One of the characteristics of Esperanto that it doesn’t seem to share with other planned language movements is a commitment to social justice. Not to say that every Esperantist is a progressive, far from it.[1] Early on, the language was picked up by the socialist movement[2] and the workers’ movement. It seems that people promoting conservative causes are less likely to be encouraging people to learn an international language, though, once again, there are conservative Esperantists.[3]

It should not be a surprise that in 1910 one of the speeches at the Universala Kongreso was in favor of women’s rights. One of the articles read on the forming of the Esperanto Association of North America noted the presence of women in leadership roles. In 1908, the expectation was that women would be shunted off to the ladies’ auxiliary (and, admitted, EANA did have such a group). On the other hand, I can’t imagine people like Ivy Kellerman Reed and Winifred Stoner, Sr. conceding that they should take subordinate positions on the account of their sex.

And so, the 1910 Universala Kongreso included a call for women’s suffrage, delivered in Esperanto, and helpfully translated in English by the Washington Herald on August 21, 1910.
We expect to have woman suffrage in Germany in less than twenty years, and we are not gong to carry on our campaigns in any such noisy and violent manner as women have been conducting them in America and England,“ said Mme. Maria Haskell,[4] of Dresden, in a ringing speech in Esperanto before the international society in the ballroom of the Arlington Hotel yesterday.

”Hitherto the high schools of Germany have been closed to girls, and the fact that they were recently opened is one step forward for the cause of women,“ she continued. ”The whole world is now considering the rights of women.“

”Germany is working for the same end as other nations, but we choose another way; possibly longer and more circuitous,[5] and requiring more patience, but in the end more certainly successful. In Germany they ask: ‘Do you desire the franchise for women’ The reply is: ‘Certainly; why not?’ ‘They say women cannot judge seriously of political affairs—they are not sufficiently well taught.’ The universities may be closed to women, but thank goodness, books are open." She went on to say that in Germany, while doubtless, as elsewhere, the men assume the more difficult duties of life, the feminine helper is none the less a necessity, and hence to this end an ample eduction is fitting.

Dr. Arnhold, of Dresden, emphasized the woman suffrage, as did Mr. Kurrie, delegate from Australia, who explained how well the woman’s franchise was working in his country. Prof. Rudy, of Raleigh, N. C. closed the discussion.
First, the headline really should read “Woman Asks for Equal Rights in Esperanto.” They had room for that. And it certainly was an “ask,” not a “demand,” since that his to bee one of the meekest claims for equal rights in existence. Further, we can tell that Dr. Arnhold is a man, since he’s holding a doctorate. I can only imagine what Dr. Kellerman Reed was thinking as she sat in the audience listening to this.

Not in “such a noisy and violent manner as women as been conducing themselves in America and England.” Well, we can see the paper’s stance: Ladies, can’t you be more like the women in Germany? Ladylike? Willing to settle for little and slowly?

Amerika Esperantisto notes that the subject was on the agenda “through the efforts of Mrs. Tindall, who did not know Esperanto, but had become strongly convinced of its importance to the propaganda of the suffragist movement.”

It would be another ten years before women could vote in the United States, and ironically the “longer and more circuitous” route in Germany concluded a year earlier. And, despite Ms. Hankel’s claim that women were admitted to German universities, that started in 1909 (though they were barred from the professions).

  1. As the example of George Alan Connor, the ardent anti-communist, shows.  ↩
  2. Leaving some to argue that the Esperanto flag should be red, not green.  ↩
  3. It’s a language. Not a mind-control cult.  ↩
  4. Amerika Esperantisto gives Hankel.  ↩
  5. Justice delayed is justice denied, Ms. Hankel.  ↩

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  1. Mi kopiis por mi origine (angle), esperante kaj hungare. (Jozeĉjo el Hungario)

  2. Vi povas traduki miajn verkojn, se vi volas, esperante aŭ hungare, sed vi devas noti ke mi estas la originala verkisto estas mi. (Verko de John Dumas, kun Jozeĉjo, tradukisto.)

    Se vi volas uzi ĝin en la originala lingvo, vi povas uzi unu triono, kaj tiam vi devas diri ke la tuta estas ĉe mia blogo.


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