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Book of the Week — Science and Suffrage

front cover with image, title, and author
“The most advanced philosophy of the day holds as one of its cardinal tenets that constant reiteration of an idea, whether embodied as fact or dogma, will so influence the mind as to make it a concrete reality for the person holding it, with most potent consequences for good or evil. Such repeated affirmations in the broader scope of national affairs produce like results on civilization, and so we have ideals crystalized by centuries of insistence into laws and customs so deep-rooted as to be ineradicable save by generations of growth toward newer conceptions. The innate egoism of man, acting and reacting through this principle, has imbued every nation and every civilization with the conviction that it alone represents the highest pinnacle of advancement yet attained on the earth. Patriotism may be tolerated in other nations as a harmless delusion, but every country insists that for it only can the sentiment be logical and justified.”

Science and Suffrage: An Inquiry Into the Causes of Sex Differences
Ora M. Brashere (1879-1942)
Salt Lake City, UT, 1909
HQ1121 G47 no. 349

What’s in a name?

Ora M. Brashere was born to Thomas Duley and Emily Haines on October 9th, 1878 in Beloit, Kansas. In June 1897 she married Charles P. Madsen in Salt Lake City.

In January 1906, Ora Madsen married Frank Free Brashere in Riverside, California. In the 1910 Illinois census, Charles P. Madsen, an electrical engineer, is listed as “divorced” and Ora M. Brasher, in Utah, as “divorced.”

In the 1903 Salt Lake City Directory, Mrs. Ora D. Madsen gives her occupation as “organizer.”

While living in Salt Lake City, Mrs. Ora M. Brashere proposed creating gardens in empty lots in Ogden to help the needy and reduce the cost of living. Salt Lake newspapers wrote approvingly of the idea, called “City Gardens Association.” The proposal included five hundred acres, overseen by “business and real estate men,” and was presented as “a money-making” “scheme” as well as “a philanthropic move.” An article published on January 13, 1910 in an Ogden newspaper stated, “The promoters assert that if the Retail Merchants’ association of Salt Lake will take the matter up that the cost of living could be very largely reduced and still leave the dealer a greater profit than he now receives. Should the retailers decline to handle the truck then there would be opportunity to expand the idea and put in a big establishment where people could buy provisions at the minimum cost and deliver the goods themselves.”

The article continued, “The big empty centers of blocks in the outskirts and even in the heart of Ogden, like the vacant lots in Salt Lake, should be made to serve some good purpose, and why not convert this idle land into gardens of productivity? The plan presented by the Salt Lake woman seems practical…”

Ora Madsen Brashere was an activist.

She was also a writer and newspaperwoman. She was the editor and publisher of the Escalon Exponent, San Joachin, California when she sued her competitor, Oscar H. Neil, the editor of the Escalon Tribune, for libel in the amount of $10,000. The Tribune had published an article stating that she was “a lady carrying the name of two living husbands.”

This pamphlet, published in Salt Lake City in 1909, was inspired, wrote Ora M. Brashere, “when the dispatches informed us a little while ago that even Finland, erstwhile down-trodden corner of the Czar’s domains, had distanced us on this point to the extent of electing a large representation of women to seats in the national Parliament on an absolute equality with the male members, even our unsympathetic press was shocked into taking serious notice of an unpopular cause.”

Science and Suffrage makes a bio-anthropological argument for the superiority of females “By Nature” and that women were the “Original Rulers of Race.” “Since under many primitive conditions the power of choosing her mate was the undisputed prerogative of the female, the male was obliged to conform closely to her standards to gain her favor…Woman constituted the chief authority in most rudimentary states and in the family…It is supposed that she held this authority until it was ultimately modified by the institution of marriage and the individual ownership of property.”

On the “Causes of Male Supremacy” Brashiere wrote, “Women remained in the ascendancy until restrictions on marriage and other causes, chiefly tribal wars, no doubt, led to the forcible capture of the women of other tribes for wives. A man could not rule the women of his own clan because they were his equals or superiors, but when he captured a foreign woman and tor her away from her natural protectors, his innate selfishness and passion inevitably led to his claiming her as his individual property…Progress received a check and ages of darkness ensued. Women were sex and manual slaves over whom their fathers, brothers, or husbands held even the power of life or death.”

Nonetheless, Brashere wrote, “In spite of opposing forces on every hand, women have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to do all of the things that for thousands of years is was almost universally asserted they could not do. Where educational barriers have been demolished, women are sufficiently trained in a single generation to compete successfully with men, and there is absolutely nothing to indicate that they may not be of as much value to the future state. Even during her long ages of bondage and degradation, woman has given more of good than of evil to the world, and none dare assert that her nature will reverse itself if given unimpeded scope.”

In 1925, Ora Duley Madsen Brashere married John F. Van Der Schott, in California. She did not take his name and is listed as “Ora Madsen Brashere” in the California Death Index. As a writer and working woman, she kept the name she had when she was first published.

 

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