The greatest difficulty in enforcing the compulsory school law is in the cases of foreigners who can’t understand why a man has not the right to work his own children in “a free country.” One of the truancy officers reported the case of an Italian boy several times. To evade the school law the father sent the child into the net county and put him to work in a coal mine; but it is a state law, and the authorities brought the boy back and brought the father into court, where he was given his choice of sending his boy to school or going to jail himself.
Women have always been regarded as natural conservatives, but it is interesting to note the gradual effacement of the imaginary lines of demarcation between social classes where women are most active in public affairs. The Pingree Gardens, Social Settlements, Neighborhood Houses, Day Nurseries, and like interests fostered by women’s clubs have done much to bring women together, and the ballot-box is the most democratic of all social institutions. True, the woman meets only her own neighbors at the polls, while she touches elbows with all the world in shops, theatres, and public places; but in all other places it is an individual interest, at the polls it is a common interest and one that affects the public. The difference is infinite. And as the woman of education and intelligence is apt to be better informed than the woman of more restricted opportunities, she has greater influence, and thus it comes that slowly but surely the process that seems to some people to be one of disintegration, becomes a leveling up.
To those who fear the fierce partisanship of women it may be rather startling to know that such a thing as a party measure has never been espoused by women in any legislature, in Colorado at least. Women want the same things, and they have worked together in perfect harmony. They wanted a pure-food law, and secured one in line with the national provision in the last legislature; they want civil service, and they have obtained that in a measure, though the ideal thing is yet to come; they want honest elections and the elimination of graft.
During the session of the last legislature an attempt was made to change the law in regard to the control of the State Bureau of Child and Animal Protection, taking it from the Colorado Humane Society and creating a political board. Every federated club in the state besieged its senators and representatives, and the vice-chairmen of the two dominant parties waited on different members of the legislature together to enter their protest. Men understand that in legislative matters, when they oppose the women, it is practically all the women, and the great independent vote of the state.
One inference would be that this would bestow on the women the balance of power, and make them invincible; but long ago they found that if there was no politics in their attempts to secure cleaner politics by means of better registration, primary laws, etc., there was no politics in the opposition to them, and Republican and Democratic machine men agreed that nothing must be done to interfere with the machine, and still agree. Hinc illæ lachrimæ. After a dozen years of this the enfranchised woman understands that eternal vigilance is the price of a republican form of government, and that most people grow weary in well-doing about the second watch. Sometimes she grows discouraged, like that great home-keeping army of men who take no interest in politics; in rare instances she understands the belligerent tendencies of Carrie Nation; and sometimes she begins to see, even if it is through a glass darkly, that government is an evolutionary process, and it does not yet appear what it shall be. If she is a reader of newspapers, which have been fairly successful in filching from us our convictions, leaving nothing more stable than a few opinions in their place, she believes that we are on the top wave of prosperity, or on the way to destruction, according to her political affiliations. If she has read a little history and learned to reason, she thanks God and takes courage.