"Property and Women's Honour"

“Property and Women’s Honour” by Isabel from The Awakener, March 29, 1913

"Are we as a country going to value Property higher in the future" (we have given many signs of doing so in the present) "than the Honour of our Women?"

The public complacency towards violence against women becomes the targeted focus of Sieveking's own unapologetic support of the militant suffragette cause, "Property and Women's Honour." Published in The Awakener in March 29, 1913, this piece offers a persuasive justification of militant action that proves ample evidence of Isabel's "passionate speech" giving talents. Beyond illuminating the mere connection between the destruction of property and the destruction of human lives, Sieveking exposes and inverts the entire "shameful" logic behind viewing the breaking of windows by women as more militant than their rape, assault, and forced prostitution at the hands of men.  

 Repeatedly raising the "downright ugly" question of whether "the country decides for Property or for the Honour of Women," "for the furniture of life, its material goods...or the woman that God 'gavest to be' with us," Sieveking observes its unavoidable presence in daily life and declares that the "uninterested spectator" can and must not "stand aside" without being implicated. "The disgraceful truth," Sieveking writes, is that England has already proved it values personal property such as golf grounds and game much more highly than its women, "of no political value," long before the question of suffragette militancy had been raised. As evidence, she points to "the accounts of punishments served out to those who injure or destroy property, and to those who injure and degrade women," to the swift retribution called down upon those who destroy things, and the lenient indifference of "totally inadequate punishment, and sometimes...no punishment at all" towards the rapists and purchasers of women and children. The magistrates of police courts callously treat "the hideous shameful injuries...the degradations, the sacrileges of the purity of womanhood" as "jokes" and the breaking of windows with "stupendous gravity."

Drawing contrasts between the "evident desire to let offenders [against women] off as easily as possible" and the "outcry voiced by nearly every paper, when Suffragettes...resorted to resolutely planned militant action" against a Government that systematically condones violence against their sex, Sieveking's argumentative ends are clearly progressive. Yet, predictably, the persuasive means through which she reaches her conclusions resound with conservative rhetoric. In this particular case, Sieveking appeals to religious sentiment and British nationalism to prompt her readers towards more radical thinking in their approaches to women's rights. England has chosen "the body" over "the soul" and this "absorbing passion and lust for property" deaden its "finer spiritual perceptions," its "militancy against evil," and its very "power of following Christ." It has chosen "the concerns of Caesar" over God, and perhaps even more galling to Sieveking's contemporary readers given British hatred of the French, she claims this has resulted in a "more Gallicised" decadence.

Thus, even the components of the Suffrage Movement deemed most radical relied on traditional arguments for the conservation of Christian morality by pointing to the latent radicality of religious love itself. The militancy of women fighting for their lives against a conservative government that devalues them becomes, in Sieveking's terms, a "militancy against evil" itself.