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It has been successfully proved in Norway that a liberal system of divorce is capable of averting much misery without endangering the moral life and feeling of the people. Our experience has been that men and women generally do not ask for divorce unless their marriage has been the cause of real suffering and lasting calamity for one party or for both. The system of one or two years' separation before the granting of divorce in cases where no special offence (such as adultery) is pleaded has contributed considerably to this result. The difficult question of the children has, of course, to be most carefully dealt with. The power of the authorities to determine their custody, and to fix and collect the payments of either parent until the children are grown up, is not only an indispensable remedy but also a check upon frivolous petitioners.
In all countries illegitimate children and their mothers are usually treated in a fashion which fails to satisfy the claims of justice, and which exposes the health and lives of the children to unusual perils, raising the death rate of this class of infants to an alarming height and often stamping them for life as outcasts of society. In Norway, where the illegitimate births amount to about 4500 out of a total of about 62,000—that is, about 7 per cent.-a child so born has in reference to its mother the same legal rights as her legitimate children: it takes her surname, and is entitled to inherit from her and from her relatives and to be maintained by her equally with her legitimate children. The father, on the other hand, is only bound to pay a small contribution towards the expenses of the confinement and to the child's maintenance until its fifteenth year-and only when he is formally required by the mother or by the parish to fulfil these obligations. The right of taking the father's family name is an exclusive privilege of his legitimate children. His illegitimate children are excluded from the right of his family inheritance and have no legal relation whatsoever to the father. The result is that, in most cases, the mother is left alone in her distress; very often she delays the undesirable appeal for the father's contribution, and the infant is boarded out with strangers, where it is deprived of its natural nourishment and a mother's care. The mother herself, in her abandoned and miserable situation, is often driven to despair and tempted to commit a crime against her child. As to the children, a recent medico-statistical inquiry has shown that the death rate among illegitimate children in the early months after birth is nearly thrice as high as among legitimate children, without doubt because the former, for the most part, are deprived of their natural feeding and care.
To remedy this unsatisfactory state of things the late Government introduced a Bill aiming at a thorough reform. This Bill
provided that, when an illegitimate child is born, the man who is stated to the registrar by the mother to be the father of the child shall be notified of this statement by the authorities, and be asked at the same time whether he acknowledges the child to be his. If he denies that he is the father he must defend his declaration before the court within a fixed period. Should the court find it proved that he is the father, or if he acknowledges that he is, he must assume all the duties towards the child which he would incur if it were his legitimate child, while the child has all a legitimate child's rights in relation to the father. If, however, the court finds it only proved that he has had relations with the mother at such a time as to make it possible for him to be the father, without venturing to declare that he and no one else really is, then he shall only be ordered to pay the confinement expenses and a monthly contribution towards the maintenance of the child until its sixteenth year. In all cases any contribution shall be imposed on him and collected by the authorities without regard to the request of the mother. The mother may also demand compensation from the man for her loss of working ability in the last three months of pregnancy and in the six weeks following childbirth, and such damages, as well as the contribution to the expenses of confinement, can also be claimed within a fixed period before the birth of the child.
A very important part of the Bill is the section which provides for a contribution from the public funds (State and municipality) to the support of the mother for the six weeks preceding the birth and for three months thereafter, provided this is necessary to enable her to keep the child with her and give it its natural food. This support is paid in advance to the mother, and the father of the child is held debtor to the public funds for the expense thus incurred. The same provision is also made for married women who have lost or are deserted by their husbands.
The foregoing Bill was not passed by the last Parliament owing to insufficient time. Now that a new Government has come in, it will probably be submitted to the present Storthing as a private Bill. Its provisions for giving an illegitimate child the same family rights in relation to the father as, by Norwegian law, it already possesses in relation to the mother, have aroused considerable controversy. Generally, the Bill has been most heartily approved by the labour organisations and by working-class women, as well as by the more advanced women of the upper class.
As an important measure recently enacted, it may here be mentioned that, by the Sick Insurance Act of September 1909, childbirth is regarded as an illness entitling women to gratuitous medical aid, and for a period of six weeks to a daily allowance of 60 per cent. of their ordinary average earnings. The provision applies to all women working for employers.
Turning now to the participation of women in public life, I would first call attention to the fact that as long ago as 1896 they obtained the right to take part in a special kind of municipal referendum with reference to the abolition of liquor licences. In Norway the so-called Gothenburg system prevails-i.e. the entire sale of all sorts of spirits is exclusively in the hands of associations (samlags), which are substantially governed by the County Councils, and whose profits go entirely to the State or to the communities and to charities. The continued existence of such an association, whose premises must always be in a town, has to be decided by a referendum every four years in each town con. cerned. Every person over twenty-five years of age, men and women, has a vote. In these referendums the women have always taken a very active part, generally in the direction of abolishing the licences. They have thus been largely instrumental in limiting the traffic in alcohol and supporting the strong temperance movement in Norway.
The most prominent feature of the movement for women's rights all over the world is, however, the struggle for the vote at municipal and parliamentary elections. But it ought never to be forgotten that women's suffrage should be only a link in a chain of reforms and reform movements all aiming at the emancipation of women and their equalisation with men. Hearty and strong support of women's suffrage can never be expected in any political party, or any nation, that has not previously been penetrated with the comprehension and recognition of the justice of placing women on the same footing of respect and rights as men, in their capacity both as human beings and citizens. Of this Norway is an example. There the victorious struggle for the women's vote has partly followed, partly gone hand in hand with reforms and reform movements which have gradually trained men to look upon women as of equal legal standing with themselves, and which have developed and strengthened the selfrespect, the self-confidence, and the social and political faculties of the women themselves. On this basis the fight for the women's vote was gradually carried on to victory.
The women's vote was carried for municipal elections in 1901 and for parliamentary elections in 1907. In Norway the men have universal suffrage on the one man one vote basis. No system of plural voting exists. All parliamentary electors who have lived in the constituency for one week before the polling day are placed upon the register and have the right of voting. About 450,000 men over the age of twenty-five have this right. For women, on the other hand, the franchise is limited, comprising those women who themselves or whose husbands pay taxes upon a yearly income of about 161. 10s. in the country and about 221.
in the towns. As incomes, particularly in the case of small farmers, agricultural labourers, and domestic servants, are very low in the rating-lists of Norway, this limitation excludes about two-fifths of all the adult women-i.e. about 200,000 out of 500,000.
With the municipal franchise for women is combined eligibility not only for the County Councils but also for all commissions and functions for which men are eligible for example, poor-law commissions, school boards, commissions for the assessment of taxes, and juries. The parliamentary franchise carries with it eligibility for Parliament. In all cases such eligibility imposes the obligation upon the enfranchised of accepting the function bestowed by the County Councils or by the electors. Thus the eligibility is not only a right, but a legal duty.
The agitation for the women's vote was first begun in Norway about 1885. It was begun by women. By their cogent arguments and spirited demonstrations of the injustice of excluding them from public rights they aroused the conscience of the people. From the first they obtained the sympathy and support of the Labour parties and a good many of the Liberal party. Proposals for granting the parliamentary suffrage to women were repeatedly submitted to the Storthing, and in several divisions obtained considerable support; but as the reform involved a change in the Constitution, and a majority of two-thirds was therefore required, it was long before the measure could be carried.
The opposition to the vote for women was based upon the principle that woman's place is at home, and that her participation in public life is not conformable or consistent with woman's nature and capacity. The adherents of the reform, on the other hand, maintained:
That the woman's vote would not interfere with her duties as wife and mother;
That the interests of the family would be strengthened by husband and wife having two votes instead of one in cases where both were agreed upon great public questions, the vote being thus, in a sense, a reward for domestic political concord;
That in all countries the industrial system has forced a very large number of women to take a prominent part in producing the wealth of the community;
That women as a whole, married and unmarried, have quite as great, important, and heavy duties to perform towards mankind and society as men have;
That the women's vote would develop the social and public spirit of women, and thus prove a valuable educative force, as manhood suffrage had proved in the case of men;
That the general welfare of the people would be promoted by
the exercise of the peculiarly womanly interests, faculties, and opinions;
That, as the people consist of women as well as men, the principle of self-government requires the equal admittance of all citizens, regardless of sex, for the purpose of influencing the Government and its legislation; and
That the admission of women into the body of voting citizens is, therefore, only a simple act of justice.
When the universal parliamentary franchise for men was carried in 1898, the attitude of the Conservatives was somewhat altered. Many of them were now induced to support the women's vote as a Conservative force in public life. When the universal municipal franchise for men was carried three years later, in 1901, the grant of a limited municipal vote for women followed, enfranchising for municipal purposes three-fifths of all married and unmarried women over twenty-five years of age. The women have now exercised their right to vote at municipal elections since 1901, and their activity has varied in different parts of the country and chiefly in the towns. In the aggregate, however, it has increased at each election. The number of women voters rose from 78,000 in 1901 to 91,000 in 1907. The proportion of actual women voters to the total number of enfranchised women rose in the towns from 48 per cent. in 1901 to 63 per cent. in 1907, the last figure being considerably greater than the percentage of men who went to the poll in 1901. About 150 women have been elected as members of County Councils. Women are members of all the school boards, and often sit on juries.
The granting of the municipal vote to women facilitated the carrying of women's suffrage for Parliament. The women were now a real political power, whose good will every party was anxious to gain, because local government is of great importance in Norway, the municipal elections being, as a rule, on political lines, their issues having considerable bearing upon the general political situation of the country.
Presently an event occurred which gave the women an opportunity to press their claim still more closely upon public opinion. When the union between Norway and Sweden was broken in 1905 it was resolved by the Storthing to ascertain by means of a referendum whether the people were prepared to sanction the dissolution of the union. This referendum was an answer to the pretension of the Swedes that the Storthing had resolved upon the dissolution against the real will of the Norwegian people. The question was then submitted to all the parliamentary voters in the country. The women were consequently excluded. This did not satisfy them. They established a referendum of their own. In all the towns and most of the parishes throughout the country the