A Celebration of Women Writers

"A Talk." by Miss Kate Field. pp. 77-79.
From: The Congress of Women: Held in the Woman's Building, World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, U. S. A., 1893, With Portraits, Biographies and Addresses. Edited by Mary Kavanaugh Oldham Eagle, 1854-1903. Chicago: Monarch Book Company, 1894.


woman's portrait, head and shoulders

Mrs. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: Some weeks ago I received a communication from the Board of Lady Managers. I have a great respect for the American eagle, particularly when it screams for my sex in the gracious person of Mrs. Eagle, the Governor of Arkansas, or at least the wife of the Governor. When Mrs. Eagle asked me to appear at some future time in the Woman's Building I replied that if I were in Chicago I should be happy to comply with her request. At the same time, when asked to give the subject of my address, I replied that that would be impossible, and that calling it an address was quite contrary to my desire, as I should depend entirely on inspiration. It is really too hard work to sit down and write a paper. In fact, I think that too many people are now being read to instead of being talked at. The little I have to say is said on the spur of the moment, and if you don't get your money's worth you must remember that I never promised anything.

What am I here for? I came first to deliver a talk before the Press Congress. It so happened that at this talk last Friday night an interesting incident occurred which if it had been planned could not have been better done, as far as dramatic effect is concerned. I heard Miss Anthony was in the audience and asking her to come to the platform gave in my adhesion to woman's suffrage. She has labored long for her cause, which is now beginning to be recognized. I said that I never believed in woman's suffrage. I never opposed it, but occupied neutral ground, because I did not believe in universal suffrage. That is highly unpopular, I expect; but I do not believe in it, and as this country is free, I suppose I am entitled to my opinion, however unpopular it may be. Not believing in universal suffrage for men I certainly do not for women. But I have always advocated, and always shall advocate, although I never expect to get it, a restricted suffrage founded on education and character regardless of sex. That is what we can not get; and why? Because of the politicians. It doesn't make the slightest difference which party it is—one is as good and one is as bad as the other.

Only a few days ago I read what a Republican convention did in Louisville. They said that the Republican party needed new blood, and with that I surely agree. Much more important was the proposed revision of the naturalization laws. As we are on this subject of immigration I want to state that if we leave the doors open in the East then we should leave them open in the West; and I don't believe in either. The other day in California I was called upon to address a large assembly made up of the middle class—made up of neither rich nor poor. This audience was made up of the better middle class. I said I failed to see the virtue of opening our arms to the scum of Europe and of closing them to the Chinese, who never get drunk, who do their work and don't vote, and ask nothing in return except to live. The audience was so enthusiastic that I thought it would tear the benches up. This most infamous Geary Bill, opposed to every principle of liberty, was the work of politicians.

One of the congressmen who had supported this bill in Washington asked me what I thought of his speech. I said to him: "Do you want to come back to Congress?" He said: "No." "Very well," I said, "why don't you tell the truth, for you know that it is a lie." He said: "I don't want to come back, but I want to have the pleasure of refusing the renomination." So in order to get a possible renomination he lied about the whole Chinese race. I do not expect any applause for what I am saying—[applause]—I dare say Californians here do not agree with me, but if they are women they feel as I do, because they know that without the Chinese servants they will have to do their own work.

But to return to Louisville. I said that the only new departure the Republican party advocated was woman's suffrage. Seeing it is utterly impossible to get a restricted suffrage I said to Miss Anthony last Friday night that from this time forth I should advocate woman's suffrage, because I was tired of being classed with criminals, idiots and children, and I did not want politicians to make the laws for me if I could help it. So Miss Anthony came upon the platform and accepted me into the fold.

What am I here for today? I am here not to celebrate myself, but to celebrate the World's Fair. Do you know what this means? It means the dawn of a new era for woman. For the first time in the history of the world women have been officially recognized in a world's exposition. You have this wonderful Woman's Building, designed by a woman, managed by women, and filled with the work of women; and if you don't take your new departure from 1893, women of America, it is your own fault. You have the chance and you should take advantage of it.

I am here today to endeavor, if possible, to get from this audience expressions of opinion as to the best way to make the World's Fair popular. I am not only an editor of a national review, but I am here as a contributor to one of the leading papers of Chicago. I want to be a friendly critic. I think I fully appreciate the greatness of this Exposition. The idea of criticism of many Eastern writers is the noble art of finding fault. It is not noble; it is ignoble. What I want to do with this fair is to popularize it. Now the question arises: "How shall we do this?" If there are persons in this audience who have an idea of what they think would be an advantage to the World's Fair I wish they would get up and speak to me about it. I hear that Dr. Swing is present. Is he here? Evidently not; and I am afraid that not one of you has courage enough to speak. I will tell you what I think.

But just here a woman's voice piped up from a front seat:

"If the railroads would reduce the fare I know hundreds of people who would be here."

Miss Field repeated her remark for the benefit of the audience, and then a Wyoming woman made a remark about the cost of living, on which Miss Field commented:

A lady from the splendid State of Wyoming says that a great many people have staid away because of the increase of prices in board and lodging; that rooms which have been renting for $15 to $20 a month now rent for $65 and $70, and even $100 a month. That is too great a profit. I don't think it is fair. We all know that the commercial system of today is quick returns and small profits. We should impress upon those charging too much that it would be a great deal better if we had a great many people here and not so much profit on a few. Is there anything else?

A lady from Logansport, Ind.—Keep the fair closed on Sunday.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is but right that I should be the mouthpiece of the lady from Indiana, but I thoroughly oppose the closing of the fair Sunday.

A lady from Milwaukee—Keep the fair open Sunday.

I do not believe in closing the fair. I think it is a retrograde movement. I came out last Sunday and worshiped here all day, and the sermon I listened to with all my eyes was such a sermon as has not been preached to me out of the Bible in all my life. I looked around and saw well-dressed people conducting themselves in a well-dressed way, and I remembered how many of those people the Sunday before had clamored at the gates and had not been permitted to come in. I also know, what perhaps you may not, where a good many of those same people went afterward. It was not to church. Therefore, as a moral movement, I say that to close the fair Sunday would be most retrograde, and with all my heart, and with all my head, and with all my soul I am going to do everything in my power to keep this fair open Sunday.

It is a matter that does not concern the United States Government. It has no right to dictate on a matter of local right, and I think it will be beaten. Jackson Park belongs to the people, and the people gave the park to the Exposition on the condition that it should be open every day in the week. If vox populi is vox dei, and I fully believe it is, the World's Fair will be open on Sunday from now on until the end of the fair itself.

I think the railroads should reduce their rates. But they have a good argument on their side. They say: "Why should we always be expected to bring down the prices when the hotels are continually raising them?" But there is no use arguing with the public, and it will be money in the pockets of the railroads if transportation is reduced, and we must have it reduced. If everyone of you who knows a railroad man will go to him and buttonhole him and talk to him like a father, I think we can get it. Everyone of us should go out and make everybody else come to the fair, and make everyone a committee of one to advertise the greatest show on earth.

cross design made up of five ornamental circles

[Page 77]

Miss Kate Field is a native of the United States. She was born in St. Louis. Mo. Her parents were Eliza Riddle and Joseph M. Field. As editor of Kate Field's Washington, published in Washington, D. C., she has made a reputation for great brilliancy and executive ability. Miss Field addressed one of the largest audiences that assembled at the Woman's Building Congresses. Her speech, however, was wholly impromptu, and it is regretted that Miss Field—having filled many similar engagements during the Colombian Exposition—was unable to furnish even a brief synopsis for this publication, hence the newspaper report of the address is given. Miss Field's postoffice address is Washington. D. C.


About This Edition

This chapter has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at A Celebration of Women Writers. Initial text entry and proof-reading of this chapter were the work of volunteer Mary Mark Ockerbloom.