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Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Socialist and the Suffragist”

The Appeal to Reason, the most popular radical publication in American history, was founded in 1895 by J. A. Wayland. The socialist newspaper reached a paid circulation of more than three-quarters of a million people by 1913, and during political campaigns and crises it often sold more than four million individual copies. Wayland, the paper’s publisher until his suicide in 1912, had become a socialist through reading. He built his paper on the conviction that plain talk would convert others to the socialist cause. From its Kansas headquarters, the Appeal published an eclectic mix of news (particularly of strikes and political campaigns), essays, poetry, fiction, humor, and cartoons. During and after World War I the paper declined in circulation, and it ceased publication in November 1922. This poem by feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman appeared in the September 28, 1912, issue.

Said the Socialist to the suffragist:

"My cause is greater than yours!

You only work for a special class,

We for the gain of the general mass,

Which every good ensures!"

Said the suffragist to the Socialist:

"You underrate my cause!

While women remain a subject class,

You never can move the general mass,

With your economic laws!"

Said the Socialist to the suffragist:

"You misinterpret facts!

There is no room for doubt or schism

In economic determinism—

It governs all our acts!"

Said the suffragist to the Socialist:

"You men will always find

That this old world will never move

More swiftly in its ancient groove

While women stay behind.“

”A lifted world lifts women up,"

The Socialist explained.

"You cannot lift the world at all

While half of it is kept so small,"

The suffragist maintained.

The world awoke, and tartly spoke:

"Your work is all the same:

Work together or work apart,

Work, each of you, with all your heart—

Just get into the game!"

Source: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Socialist and The Suffragist,” Appeal to Reason, 28 September 1912. In John Graham, ed. “Yours for the Revolution”: The Appeal to Reason, 1895–1922 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990), 85.

See Also:How Many Socialists Does It Take To Screw in a Light Bulb?: Finding Humor and Pathos in Class Struggle
The Class Ceiling: Nearing on Social Mobility