NOVEMBER 18, 1946
HYDE PARK, Sunday—We spent another session of Committee No. 3, last Friday, listening to the representatives of country after country make speeches in favor of the resolution proposed by Mrs. Begtrup of Denmark. The resolution asked that the General Assembly request members of the United Nations to grant political rights to women where they have not already done so.
This is in the Charter, of course, and the committee will unanimously pass the resolution, which it has been ready to do from the time of its introduction. Mrs. Pandit of India said she was not in favor of the resolution solely because she hoped the time would come when we could talk about human beings and not about men and women. I am quite sure, however, that India will vote to reaffirm what is already in the Charter.
Much to my amusement, Mrs. Pandit in her speech said that I felt women were not "ready for full political rights." I could not help wondering where she acquired this strange information, and I discovered afterward that it was from the ladies who back the Equal Rights amendment in this country. I was amused since these ladies know quite well that I am not opposed to equal political rights for women.
Our differences have always been on the question of whether in the U.S. we should pass a Constitutional amendment stating broadly that women shall be on an equal basis with men. This would necessitate ratification by two-thirds of the states, and would wipe out any protective legislation now in force for women. Since we would still have to repeal laws in the states which are unfair to women, it has always seemed to me less trouble to repeal these laws now by working in each state, and not run the risk of wiping out those laws for the protection of industrial women which in some cases are still very useful. The day will come when industrial women will not need protection any more than do professional women, but I do not think that moment has actually arrived. I have never suggested that we should wait to grant political rights to women throughout the world until any particular group is ready for them. Some groups may not always use them well. We do not always use them well in the U.S. I know of no better way, however, to educate women to their responsibilities as citizens than to give them civil and political rights on an equal basis with men.
My real feeling about this resolution is that its proponents were misguided in not letting it follow the regular and orderly procedure of reference to the Economic and Social Council, from which it would have been referred to the Commission on the Status of Women. This commission could then have made concrete suggestions as to how the council might contact the individual nations which have not yet found a way to give their women political rights and urge that initial steps be taken in each particular case. This is the only practical way in which results can be obtained.
I appreciate fully the value of creating public opinion, and I hope the General Assembly resolution will strengthen whatever efforts are made later on by the Economic and Social Council to implement this first step toward raising the status of women throughout the world. I shall be surprised, however, if any concrete results are attained in less than a year, though it is quite evident from the speeches which have been made that there must be a desire to convince the ladies at home of the interest of their delegates in their welfare. Eleven of these speeches still remain on our next calendar.