ALL ARTS Vault Selects

FULL EPISODE

The New Woman

In commemoration of the centennial of women's suffrage in 2020, ALL ARTS reached into our archive to find this 1962 program exploring women's roles at the turn of the 20th century. Dramatic sketches show how women faced discrimination in the workplace and politics as they fought for the vote - and our host intersperses the skits with popular ragtime music focused on women's place in society.

AIRED: March 24, 2020 | 0:29:36
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TRANSCRIPT

♪♪

Welcome to the "All Arts Vault."

I'm Maddie Orton.

The vault is the place to go for special access

to all things arts.

So we're going into the archives to uncover

some of our greatest gems

and share these programs with you

as they would have been seen decades ago

when they first aired.

Join us for a deep dive into a rich programing history

of over 50 years of archival content.

It's all here in the vault.

[ Whistling upbeat tune ]

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

Morath, would you come in here a moment?

Yes, sir.

Now, Mrs. McFarland, may I present

Mr. Morath, our music editor?

Morath, this is Jane Gallagher McFarland.

How do you do?

I'm sure you've read her column,

"The New Woman" in our pages every month.

Well, yes. Yes, of course.

Well, I'm delighted to meet you, Mrs. McFarland.

I'll bet you've got more readers

than any other woman writer in the country.

How very kind of you.

I'm sure much of the credit belongs to

our brilliant editor, Mr. Stone.

Oh, I'm sure.

All right. Let's get on with it.

By all means.

Oh, uh, could one of you gentlemen...?

Oh, I don't smoke.

Morath?

Here you are.

Thank you.

Now, Mrs. McFarland, uh, claims that your recent column

was in rather bad taste.

She says it struck a serious blow

at the cause of women's rights.

It did?

I'm sure you didn't want to stir up a hornet's nest,

Mr. Morath, but, uh, really,

I've had hundreds of letters about the tone of your article.

Well, I'm -- I'm amazed, Miss McFarland.

All I said was that history so far has not produced

any women of the first rank in the world of music

and that it did seem strange

because music was the one field they are exposed to.

It's a condescending attitude. Mr. Morath.

Your article implies the same dreary line

that men have used for centuries,

that "women are wonderful, God bless them,

our better halves, and their place is at home."

Oh, I don't think that that considered --

be considered a reprehensible attitude.

Mrs. McFarland.

It's the prevailing attitude, isn't it?

It may be your prevailing attitude. Mr. Stone.

It isnot my prevailing attitude,

nor the attitude of my readers. I see.

Oh, Mrs. McFarland, if that article offended anyone,

I'm terribly sorry. I didn't realize --

Oh, now, surely.

Do you believe this?

"To write music that we call immortal,

the imagination must be able to soar

to the region of abstract emotion.

The woman is not at home in the abstract."

Well, yes, I think that's true,

but I -- I don't consider it an insult to women.

I see.

Then why did you say this?

Uh, "One runs the risk of trial as a heretic

who dares in this year of grace

to hint at the inequality of the sexes."

Uh, Mrs. McFarland,

acknowledging the inequality of the sexes

as ordained by the Creator

can hardly be considered an insult to women.

"Women lack great imagination of a spiritual quality.

For this reason, there has not been,

nor can ever be a female Homer or Dante,

a female Wagner or Beethoven."

That, Mr. Stone -- that is an insult to woman.

[ Sighs ]

Well, perhaps, Morath, in another issue

you could modify somewhat --

Historically, I'm on perfectly safe ground.

It's unfair. Don't you see?

It's unfair to say that women can't do this or that

when they've never had a real chance.

I do wish you'd see fit to tell the other side.

Couldn't you?

Well, perhaps I could, uh, explore it further.

Not retracting any of it, you understand.

Oh, no, no, no. Of course not.

But do try to see our side of it, won't you?

Well, I really must go.

Oh!

[ Chuckles ] You've been very kind.

Oh, we haven't seen the proofs

of your article for us this month,

Mrs. McFarland.

What have you prepared for us?

It's about horseback riding.

It's entitled,

"Why Can't Women Ride Astride?"

Good day.

Oh.

[ Door slams ]

Goodbye, sidesaddle.

She's quite a determined girl, isn't she?

Determined? She's hysterical.

She's typical of these overeducated

women's rights females

who insist on calling themselves "The New Woman."

Oh, I don't know. I rather liked her.

Intelligent, straightforward.

None of that clinging-vine stuff,

yet very attractive, quite feminine.

Feminine? Smoking cigarettes?

[ Laughing ] Well, yes, that is kind of a shock, isn't it?

Oh, I don't know where it's going to end, Morath.

These -- these freedoms are leading us into danger.

We are heading for the complete breakdown

of the American home.

That's quite a powerful prediction

coming from the head of a woman's magazine.

I should think you'd support woman's right. Oh, nonsense.

Most women don't give a rat for woman's rights.

They're perfectly content with what they've got.

Well, what about votes for women?

Oh, a lot of ridiculous twaddle.

Oh, I have to put up with a certain amount of it

because there are a surprising number

of society and club women who are very strong.

Well, what about this column?

Oh, don't you retract a word from it.

I don't need a woman to tell me how to run my business.

That'll be all.

[ Sighs ]

I'll leave the past as I leave the boss's office,

but not to close the door

on this turn-of-the-century topic

simply to view it from the present,

the better to examine it.

The New Woman,

the symbol of the crusade for woman's rights --

another mark of America at the turn of the century.

And those years from the 1890s to the first war

were also the heyday of popular song.

While there's hardly a phase of life

that didn't turn up in the swarm of songs

that twanged their way across those years,

the songwriters -- they were men --

had little to say on the subject of woman's rights.

But on woman's wrongs they made frequent comments,

and on women's hats,

well, frankly, the whole history could be told

on the back of the song covers.

This western girl's name was Cheyenne.

Get it? No sidesaddle for her.

But then the west was always ahead of the east

in letting women have their own way.

Most of the song cover girls were sweet and demure.

They reflected traditional attitudes

toward the so-called weaker sex,

which for some contradictory reason

has also been called "the better half."

To judge from the songs,

this type of female was preferable to this type.

Do you believe it?

And woman in this role was prized most of all.

Inside the songs as well as outside,

the girls were sweet and shy,

catching everyone's eye by and by --

you know the rhymes.

They were almost as saccharine as the girls

on the magazine covers.

[ Plays jaunty tune ]

♪ My head's in a dizzy whirl

♪ Since I met a certain girl

♪ There isn't another like her

♪ She's a matchless pearl

♪ Since I met this baby of mine ♪

♪ I've nothing to do but pine

♪ Because I know she never can be mine ♪

♪ The girl I love

♪ Is on a magazine cover

♪ It seems they painted her just for me ♪

♪ I'd fall in love

♪ If I could ever discover

♪ A little girl half as nice as she ♪

♪ If I could meet

♪ A girl as sweet

♪ I'd simply claim her

♪ And name her my queen

♪ Or if she ever came

♪ I would love her the same

♪ As I love her on the cover

♪ Of a magazine

♪♪

Now, don't let those dewy-eyed cover girls fool you, though.

Inside those magazines,

hard-boiled arguments were raging.

The mass-circulation illustrated magazine

was another reality of turn-of-the-century America,

and women were doing most of the reading.

So to discuss The New Woman, we've brought you

to the editorial offices of an imaginary woman's magazine.

It'll serve as a journalistic sounding board

to all those vintage publications whose pages

rumbled with articles on the vital issues of a vital era.

Now, every article that we quote or paraphrase is the real McCoy,

including the columns on female musicians

and the sidesaddle.

Writers espousing the cause of woman's rights

were usually females.

Most of them employed three formidable names --

Charlotte Perkins Gilman,

Elizabeth York Millen,

Helen Watterson Moody,

uh, Lily Hamilton French,

and thus our fictitious Jane Gallagher McFarland,

who speaks for them all.

Man keeps woman inferior

then dilutes himself by calling her superior

and bows to the crippled idol he has made.

And he marvels, "Does this misguided world make her

that the character of humanity makes so little progress?"

Look to your idol, Mister.

Mm.

Sounds a little emotional,

but then that's a woman's prerogative.

I'm sure that we'll find the masculine opinion

unruffled and objective.

Woman is a super-cooled super human,

constituting a separate class

to be legislated for in a particular way.

Woman was never heard of

until the latter part of the 19th century.

We seem to be having a little trouble

getting a calm and collected viewpoint here.

I think we'll have to face the fact

that the traditional battle of the senses --

uh, sexes, rather, had taken on a new aspect.

as the century turned, and on top of that,

it was out in the street where everybody could watch it.

Take the business of women working.

Now, that riled up a lot of the men.

Women liked the independence of it, though,

and some of them who didn't happen

to have a man around the house

preferred it to starvation or charity.

A lot of women went to work in the hospitals

in the offices during the Civil War.

Then in 1867, the typewriter was invented.

The girls took to it like a duck to water.

Women were going into the factories, too,

and by 1900,

there were over 5 million working women in the USA.

Now, the working girls --

they weren't out beating the drums for equal rights.

They were too pooped out at the end of a 12-hour day,

and at wages that sometimes were down

as low as 60 cents a day,

they didn't have car fare to go to meetings.

In short, working conditions were --

they were generally pretty bad.

But their plight aroused other women.

It was probably the biggest incentive

for the woman's rights movement.

[ Typewriter keys clacking ]

"Pale, anemic, underdeveloped girls

swarming in factory or shop

are the mothers of the coming generation,

defrauded before birth of all those elements

that make strong bodies and teachable souls."

The articulate ladies believed that women

could do almost any job. men could do,

and just as well, if they were treated

as human beings and paid better.

The men disagreed.

"There now seems to be conclusive evidence

that woman's entry into industrial life

has not been an economical success.

And for woman herself,

it has had mischievous physiological effects."

And so the arguments raged.

The average male, on one hand,

saw these monstrous demands of woman

for an end of traditional taboos,

and he envisioned a future race of Amazons

with himself enslaved in the home,

saw himself washing dishes, changing the baby,

cleaning the house.

[ Chuckles ] Ridiculous.

Of course.

And the average woman saw her inferior status in society

as part of a perpetual plot by men to keep her enslaved.

Most of them refused to look at the whole thing

as a human problem involving both sexes,

And that they were better off than the women

in other societies, past and present --

that didn't seem to cut any ice either.

Every once in a while, an opinion could be heard

from Tin Pan Alley.

From the gay and unconcerned world of lower Broadway

came the musical question,

"Hey, what's all the fuss about?"

A girl is a girl. A boy is a boy.

All the new laws and the legislation and all the words --

they aren't gonna change that one bit.

[ Plays jaunty tune ]

♪ The suffragette question now worries the men ♪

♪ It's filling us all with alarm ♪

♪ When women get the ballot

♪ They'll lose all their feminine charm ♪

♪ They'll be no more courting at night in the grove ♪

♪ The men will be bashful, the girls will propose ♪

♪ Girls will call, have a talk with Ma ♪

♪ The fellows will say, "Ask Papa" ♪

♪ But she'll do the same thing over ♪

♪ Over again, over again

♪ She'll do the same thing over ♪

♪ Over and over again

♪ She'll put on those high French-heeled slippers ♪

♪ And stand where the wind blows and then ♪

♪ Pretend she don't know you're enjoying the show ♪

♪ Over and over again

♪♪

Well, along with the expression "New Woman,"

that word "suffragette" was being heard frequently

as the new century unfolded.

More and more women were taking up the cause of equal rights,

and the right to vote now became the goal.

Handwriting was on the wall, and it was in a woman's writing.

Trying to erase it or at least ignore it,

you find the churches and the press.

For instance, in 1913,

"The New York Times" announced confidently that, uh,

"The day when women will have the privilege of voting

is still a long way off.

And for that, we may be thankful."

Most of the papers when they weren't poking fun

or pontificating about how women would be corrupted by politics.

"Women shouldn't sully themselves," they warned.

Hard to tell whether they wanted women up on a pedestal

or under their thumbs, or whether it was

just unvarnished male ego asserting itself.

Women will never be the equal of men physically or mentally

so long as they are handicapped

by the burden of possible maternity.

The glory of the lily is one thing,

the glory of the... oak another.

If the press as an impersonal giant, though,

worked against the cause of woman's rights,

it was at least fair enough to let the new breed

of lady writers share this growing national forum.

And they weren't afraid to use it.

They might have arisen a question of woman's rights

in the old mosaic days

had not the priest who feared a loosening of their control

over the people issued a, "Thus sayeth the Lord,"

and so riveted women's chains for the next 3,000 years

with, "My desire shall be unto thy husband,

and he shall rule over thee."

Religion, custom, male ego --

for years they seemed an insurmountable combine,

and there was one other foe, the most frustrating of all.

"The most discouraging thing we have to face

is the attitude of our own sex.

To a vast majority, the woman's rights movement

is an all but incomprehensible performance

which amuses, bewilders, or shocks them."

Now, the average American male or female

didn't hear about -- didn't care about

the legal, the political side of all this.

But he knew -- he knew there were changes afoot,

that something was brewing.

All he had to do was look around

in turn-of-the-century America --

women drinking, women smoking,

playing basketball.

They were getting too darn independent.

♪ Said Tillie McMaster to Willie VanAstor ♪

♪ Let's dine at the Waldorf tonight ♪

♪ First call for a taxi, and after we dine ♪

♪ We'll drive all around, see the sights ♪

♪ He said, "Nothing doing, you'll drive me to ruin ♪

♪ Let's take a streetcar instead" ♪

♪ "Willie, dear, not for mine, maybe some other time ♪

♪ Please get me a taxi," she said ♪

♪ "'Cause somebody else will if you don't ♪

♪ Someone who's jealous of you

♪ Be nice to me, Willie, sit up and jump through ♪

♪ You never can tell what a girlie will do ♪

♪ When some other fellow is waiting ♪

♪ To take me around if you don't ♪

♪ So take me to dine where there's music and wine ♪

♪ 'Cause somebody will if you don't" ♪

♪♪

♪ When Willie got married a cookstove he carried ♪

♪ And placed in their new furnished flat ♪

♪ Said she, "Hubby, darling, please take that away ♪

♪ We haven't much use here for that" ♪

♪ He said, "It's brand-new, dear ♪

♪ I bought it for you, dear

♪ To cook my meals, wife of mine" ♪

♪ She just gave him a look and said, "I'm not a cook ♪

♪ Take me out where the millionaires dine ♪

♪ 'Cause somebody else will if you don't ♪

♪ Someone who's jealous of you

♪ Be nice to me, Willie, sit up and jump through ♪

♪ You never can tell what a girlie will do ♪

♪ When some other fellow is waiting ♪

♪ To take me around if you don't ♪

♪ So take me to dine where there's music and wine ♪

♪ 'Cause somebody will if you won't" ♪

♪♪

Well, now, by 1910,

six Western states had already granted women the right to vote.

In 1917, Miss Jeannette Rankin of Montana

became the first woman

elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

But most of the public didn't notice these milestones.

The New Woman was obvious to them for other reasons.

A woman was arrested in New York City in 1908

for smoking a cigarette on Fifth Avenue 1913.

1913, the police chief of Louisville, Kentucky,

ordered the arrest of any girl wearing a slit hobble skirt.

And a critic in Chicago issued this pronunciamento --

"The human knee," he said,

"is a joint, not an entertainment."

Visiting America in 1899, Rudyard Kipling observed

that the American girl was clever and could talk.

"Furthermore," he said, "it's reported

that she can think."

At the height of the bridge-playing craze

just before World War I, a leading expert said that,

"The bridge table is the only place I know of

where the sexes are absolutely equal.

Bridge has done more for feminism

than all the woman's suffrage movements.

It's taught men and women the practical experience

of thinking and playing together as equals,

and they like it."

The president of the New York Cotton Exchange

predicted ruin for the industry.

Women were abandoning petticoats and full skirts by the yards.

Ankles were appearing, of all things,

and women wanted them covered...with silk.

In 1907, clergymen denounced the peek-a-boo shirtwaist.

It was perforated. You could see through it.

[ Chuckles ] You could see skin.

Not very much always.

And on that subject of how a woman

should sit a horse...

[ Chuckles ]

"It is hard for any true modern to see the impropriety

in the simple act of striding a horse,

where it is impossible for the old-fashioned

to see anything else.

The old and the new must fight it out together

until the fittest survives.

The result is not hard to see in a generation

where women's petticoats are no longer

supposed to be fastened to their shoes."

In 1901, Buffalo Bill predicted the extinction

of the sidesaddle within 10 years.

"It was bad," he said, "for the horse."

The women hadn't thought of that.

Further notes in changing fashion

could always be found in popular songs,

especially the topical stuff --

the show tunes, things for the day.

For a view from 1903, this tune spotted in a show

called "The Yankee Council."

[ Plays jaunty tune ]

♪ It is strange what a change has come over the world ♪

♪ Since the days of long ago

♪ The distinction of caste is a thing of the past ♪

♪ There's a bank account now you must show ♪

♪ To be rude and to stare and to frequently swear ♪

♪ Is considered the thing in smart sense ♪

♪ And I shudder to think that some real ladies drink ♪

♪ And a few even smoke cigarettes ♪

♪ It was not like that in the olden days ♪

♪ That have passed beyond recall ♪

♪ In the rare-old, bear-old golden days ♪

♪ It was not like that at all

♪ Then we all did just what we ought to do ♪

♪ Or if not, we never told

♪ I sigh in vain to live again in the days of old ♪

♪♪

♪ But the change that is strangest of all in the world ♪

♪ Is the style of ladies' dress ♪

♪ Where this dangerous trend will eventually end ♪

♪ Is a thing we can none of us guess ♪

♪ The hoop skirt is gone and they put nothing on ♪

♪ That will answer its purpose or place ♪

♪ And the bustle that once did such beautiful stunts ♪

♪ Has been lost with its outlines erased ♪

♪ It was not like that in the olden days ♪

♪ That have passed beyond recall ♪

♪ In a rare-old, bear-old golden days ♪

♪ It was not like that at all

♪ Then the new straight front and the habit back ♪

♪ Have now even been foretold

♪ Imagination had some play in the day of old ♪

♪♪

That song makes an interesting point.

No matter what age you live in,

the one before was always better.

Thus, we shall always have the good old days,

no matter how great the good new days are,

and even though the old days were actually pretty punk.

For instance, I don't suppose most American women

at mid-20th century

would care to step back 100 years.

Legally in those days, they didn't even exist.

They had no property rights,

no legal claim even to their own children.

They couldn't, uh, bear witness or bring suit or do jury duty.

They couldn't vote anywhere.

But that was the least of their worries.

What they wanted was better education, working conditions,

and legal standing.

When I say "they," I'm talking about

a small group of aggressive women, and men,

who started all this in organized form about 1850.

Easily the the best-known name in this century-long struggle

for woman's suffrage was Susan B. Anthony.

She and her lifelong companion, Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton,

were the pillars of the movement,

which started out with demands for equal rights under the law

and ended up in 1920 with the 19th Amendment

to the Constitution, giving women the right to vote.

Now, many of the newly enfranchised women expected

that now that they had the vote,

they would proceed to usher in the millennium.

A lot of men thought it meant the end of Western civilization.

And there were opinions from both sexes that the women,

now they had to vote, would always vote as a bloc.

But, uh, I guess most people realized

it was silly to choose upsides anymore.

The New Woman was still a part of the human race.

Magazine articles reflected a relaxed attitude.

"What will she do with it?" asked "Everybody's Magazine."

"Does the wife vote like the husband?" --

another one.

"How will the farmer's wife vote?"

Ex-President William Howard Taft

expressed his opinion in the "Ladies' Home Journal,"

an article called, uh,

"As I See the Woman of the Future."

And all through the early '20s,

there were countless articles with such titles as, uh,

"What Next for the New Woman?"

"Not long ago, the young suffrage worker

was convinced that with women having a voice in government,

wars would be avoided, social evils remedied,

and the world generally made a fitter place to live in.

But after campaigning, she begins to have grave doubts

about the feminist program as a panacea for social ills

or even the ills of women." Hmm.

Well, that's an admirable viewpoint, Mrs. McFarland.

But then I should have known

that your unfailing good judgment

would keep you from mouthing the tired cliches

of many of your colleagues.

You mean the notion that women will now

vote us into Utopia?

I never believed that for a moment, Mr. Stone.

I don't believe women are going to enjoy life

in the political arena.

I don't imagine they'll relish it for very long.

Well, if you mean that women are going to back away

from their responsibilities now

after this long fight, on that I disagree.

And with more and more women in public office,

I'm sure we'll see a gain at least

in political morality and decency.

You don't foresee any shortage of women

willing to run for public office?

Why, no. If an honest and capable woman

ran anywhere now at any level,

she'd be assured of all the --

well, at leastalmost all the votes

of women in America. What does she to fear?

Well, what if her opponent were a handsome man?

[ Scoffs ] Oh, really, Mr. Stone.

No, I'm quite serious, since you appear to be.

I think it's very naive

to suppose that women will vote as a bloc.

We've had enough trouble getting Republicans

and Democrats to vote as a bloc, much less the sexes.

No. Women who are people, after all,

will vote just as capriciously as men always have.

I think you're wrong, Mr. Stone.

We've worked too hard to let this chance slip away.

Why, already we have Miss Rankin of Montana in the Congress,

and our old National Association for Suffrage

is going right on as the League of Women Voters.

Well, I'm sure they'll do very well,

but not because they're women.

Because they are, we shall hope, good citizens.

[ Chuckles ]

You've never really believed in woman's rights,

have you, Mr. Stone?

Like most men, Mrs. McFarland,

I have been concerned that the order of family life

would be disturbed.

The mother-child relationship is a thing of nature, basic,

and anything which threatens to disturb that relationship

should be approached with caution.

That is why I...

Excuse me just a moment.

[ Piano playing upbeat tune ]

Morath, what is that?

You've been whistling it all morning.

Well, it's a new tune, just, uh, looks like

one of the big hits of 1920.

Well, what's it called? "Daddy, Dear Old Daddy,

You've Been More Than a Mother to Me."

[ Chuckles ]

[ Piano plays ]

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

♪♪

"Ladies' Home Journal" magazines

courtesy Curtis Publishing Company.

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