Chapter 10

19 0 0

 The next convention of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance was planned forStockholm, Sweden.  Carrie’s health was still not very good, so her doctor was glad to learn that Carrie had decided to take a long tour around the world to rest and regain her strength.  Of course, Carrie also planned to give speeches and work for suffrage wherever she went.

            Before the convention in Stockholm, Carrie made several speeches in Denmark and then traveled to Norway, where she met the Norwegian king.  The Scandinavian countries were friendly to the cause of women’s rights and the convention in Stockholm was very successful. There were now branches from 24 countries that were members of the Alliance.  Women were gaining rights in many of these countries.

            Carrie visited London after the convention and met with the English suffrage leaders. Then she set off for her trip around the world, accompanied by her Dutch friend and colleague, Dr. Aletta Jacobs.

            The great tour began with a passage by steamship down the west coast of Africa toCape Town in South Africa.  Carrie and Aletta spent three months in South Africa, traveling around the country and working for suffrage.

            As in the western United States, many of the women in South Africa lived as pioneers, working side-by-side with men.  Some of the Dutch settlers, known as Boers, supported woman suffrage, but most of the English settlers were opposed.  Carrie worked to bring together rival groups of suffragists, and with her help, the first national suffrage organization inSouth Africa was formed.

            Carrie and Aletta also spent time sight-seeing and met many of the notable people ofSouth Africa, including Mohandas Gandhi, who was then a radical lawyer fighting for the rights of Asian workers in South Africa.  Many years later Gandhi would become famous as the leader of India’s fight for independence from Britain.

            From South Africa, Carrie and Aletta traveled up the east coast of Africa by ship, stopping a number of times along the way.  Then they toured Syria and Palestine, stopping inJerusalem and Beirut.  Everywhere they went, they met prominent women and urged them to work for equal rights.  They visited Egypt, where Carrie organized a woman suffrage committee among Egyptian women.  Many of the Egyptian women could not read and had been forbidden to take part in business or to do anything outside of the home.  But times were beginning to change and the Egyptian women were interested in what Carrie had to say.

            After Egypt, their route went east along the southern edge of Asia, with stops in Indiaand Burma on the way to the Dutch East Indies.  Carrie and Aletta spent two months in theEast Indies.  Aletta had relatives there and made many speeches for women’s voting rights. Carrie helped organized suffrage clubs, but did not do much speaking because she did not know Dutch and few people there understood English.  Carrie knew that progress for suffrage and women’s rights would be very slow in the East Indies, since most of the women there felt they simply had to do what men told them to do.

            After the East Indies, the two women traveled northward, stopping in Hong Kong and the Philippines before reaching China.  Chinese women were an inspiration to Carrie.  Except among the wealthy, women had the same kinds of jobs and businesses as men.  Women were also becoming active politically in China.  Carrie was thrilled to see a revolutionary assembly inCanton, China, with women participating as full members.  After all, there were still no women in the United States Congress.

            Carrie was deeply impressed by the courage and ability of the Chinese women that she met.  More than ever she understood that the American suffrage movement was part of a worldwide struggle to improve the position of women.  There was much that American women could learn from women of other countries.

            Carrie and Aletta traveled through a large part of China.  It was an exciting and frightening time, because China was in the midst of a civil war.  Chinese women fought and died alongside men, but when the revolution succeeded, the men broke their promise and did not let women have equal rights.

            From China, Carrie and Aletta went on to Korea and Japan.  One day during her visit to Japan, Carrie had two meetings.  One was with Americans who were living in Japan.  This was a social occasion with no importance for the work Carrie was doing.  By the time the chit-chat with the Americans was over, Carrie felt completely worn out.

            Her other meeting that day was with a group of feminist Japanese women.  Carrie wanted to convince them to join the International Alliance, but they were hesitant.  Finally, after much discussion they agreed.  Carrie felt wonderful when her meeting with the Japanese women was over, not tired at all!

            At the end of their time in Japan, Carrie said good-bye to Aletta, who returned toEurope as Carrie set out towards California with a stopover in Hawaii.

            Carrie summarized her trip with these words:

We have made suffrage speeches to audiences on four continents: America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and on the ships of three oceans.  Our audiences have included the followers of every main religion … and representatives of all the main human races … .  We have left the seeds of revolution behind us, and the hope of liberty in many souls.  But we have got much more than we gave … especially … the intensified conviction that the Cause of Woman cannot wait.  I am tired and I would like to retire from the work and the worry, but … I must keep at it.

Bio of Carrie Chapman Catt--Intro and Chapter 1Read this story for FREE!