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The New York Times, January 21, 1901

Men Belong to Two "Petrified Parties," the Humorist Declares.
Mr. Clemens Makes an Address Before the Members of the Hebrew Technical School for Girls.

Expressing himself as strongly in favor of woman's rights, in the past, the present, and the future, Mark Twain, at the annual meeting of the meeting of the members of the Hebrew Technical School for Girls, last night said that he believed that if women had the right of suffrage such corruption as is said to exist in this city would be swept away. He predicted that the time would come when women in this city would be allowed to vote, and he contended that it would mean much for the purity of the city when such was the case.

The meeting at which Mr. Clemens made these predictions, in a speech of characteristic humor and wit, was held in the vestry room of the Temple Emanu-El, Fifth Avenue and Forty-fourth Street. Every seat was taken, long before the exercises began, with members of the society and its well wishers. Mr. Clemens entered with Nathaniel Meyers, the President, and as he took his seat on the platform there was a greeting of applause.

Mr. Meyers presented a report in which the progress of the school, which is situated at 267 Henry Street, was outlined in detail. "It is the only society in the city," he said, "which affords a trade education to Jewish girls. It was incorporated in 1884, but the school had existed for three years previous to the time it was incorporated. The board elected a year ago reports progress that is very satisfying. As an illustration of the development of the institution, we now have twenty one typewriting machines, where we formerly only had four. In the new school building we have eight class rooms, a fine assembly room, library, and a roof garden. The walls are hung with pretty pictures, the library is furnished on a plan of comfort, provided with many volumes. Modern ventilating and sanitary features have been introduced throughout the school. Twelve excellent teachers are in charge of the classrooms."

"We are not content with seeming to do work," continued Mr. Myers, "we are determined to do it. We do not insist upon good deportment as a fundamental principle - what we do is to strive to interest the pupils in their work. That being accomplished the deportment will take care of itself. The Assistant Superintendent of Public Schools visited our school not long ago and congratulated us, saying that we were doing a work that would benefit the city. The ambition of our girls is illustrated by the fact that they have formed a club and now issue a paper, the As You Like It. We have avoided everything that would tend to pauperize our children.


Mr. Myers then gave some statistics of the school, which now has 110 pupils in the commercial department and 40 pupils in the manual department. Both classes are provided with physical culture training in the afternoons. Biblical history and ethics are also taught. He read several interesting letters of graduates from the school, all of whom have secured employment at satisfying wages.

"We are free to say," added Mr. Myers, "that we are prepared to start another school as soon as some benevolent person will provide a site.

"There is no such work done elsewhere for Jewish girls, and I believe there is nothing like it for poor Christian girls, except the Grace Institute, established by ex-Mayor Grace, which reflects greatly to his credit. To help the less fortunate to help themselves is the underlying principle of our work. Certainly a trade education lessens the necessity for other forms of charity." After saying that boys who had not been taught a trade were obviously in less danger than girls, and that notwithstanding that fact, boys were thought of usually, whereas the girls were forgotten, Mr. Myers continued:

"There is not the slightest mention in St. Matthew of the parentage of Mary. The origin of Joseph, on the other hand, is told in forty-two generations. Why this difference? Is it because the history was written by man. It's the story of the lion and the painter over again. The painter showed the man overcoming the lion. 'But,' said the lion, 'you know it was a man who painted it. If a lion had been the painter it might have been different.'

"Now, I want to call attention to the fact that our institution has never been mentioned in anybody's will. The Hebrew Sheltering Orphan Asylum Society annually gives $2,500 to the Technical School for Boys. They have never given us anything. I say this not in a spirit of complaint, but it's worth pondering over."

An election of Trustees followed, and then Mr. Myer introduced Mr. Clemens, saying that he was one who had no prejudices against any kind of man and adding:

"In one of his works he says that he has no prejudice, whether a man be white or black, Jew or Gentile, debtor or creditor, old or young. The moment he says he is a man he can't say anything worse. But Mr. Clemens has not told us what he thinks of women. So we have asked him to come here and perhaps he will tell us that. He said he could not resist a request to help our cause."


Mr. Clemens said that such help as he was able to give he gave willingly, but it was the kind of help that came from his heart through the mouth.

"Mr. Meyers has conducted this matter with distinguished ability," he continued, "but at the end of this report I noticed a defect. He made such a strong appeal to those people who are going to make their wills. Some of you are here, you know. Such an appeal loosens your purse strings and you want to give. Well, when he was talking I thought, 'Now he's going to do it.' When a man makes an appeal like that he ought not to make it for day after tomorrow. We are all creatures of impulse. It's a great mistake to get everybody ready to give money and then not pass the hat." After the laughter had subsided the speaker went on to tell a little story.

"Some years ago in Hartford," he said, "we all went to the church on a hot, sweltering night, to hear the annual report of Mr. Hawley, a city missionary, who went around finding the people who needed help and didn't want to ask for it. He told of the life in the cellars where poverty resided, he gave instances of the heroism and devotion of the poor. The poor are always good to each other. When a man with millions gives we make a great deal of noise. It's noise in the wrong place. For it's the widow's mite that counts.

"Well, Hawley worked me up to a great state. I couldn't wait for him to get through. I had four hundred dollars in my pocket. I wanted to give that and borrow more to give. You could see greenbacks in every eye. But he didn't pass the plate, and it grew hotter and we grew sleepier. My enthusiasm went down, down, down - $100 at a time, till finally when the plate came round I stole 10 cents out of it. [Prolonged laughter.] So you see a neglect like that may lead to crime."

Mr. Clemens then said that he though the President's description of the Institution as "almost a model school" would be improved by the omission of the word "almost." He added that in the statement of the neglect of the Virgin Mary he recognized the truth, though he had not read it recently.

"Man has made woman what she is," he went on. "He has kept her down in her proper place. Your president sits here in that self-satisfied conceit of his, and assumes that I don't know anything about women. Why, I've been in favor of women's rights for years. I see in this school a hope for the realization of a project I have always dreamed of. Why, do you know, when I looked at my gray-haired old mother, with her fine head and noble thoughts, I really almost suspected, toward the last, that she was quite as capable of voting as I was. He's got the wrong notion if he thinks I don't know anything about women.


"I know that since the women started out on their crusade they have scored in every project they undertook against unjust laws. I would like to see them help make the laws and those who are to enforce them. I would like to see the whiplash in women's hands. The suffrage in the hands of the men degenerates into a couple of petrified parties. The man votes for his party and gets the city in the condition this one is in now - a disgrace to civilization. If I live seventy-five years more - well, I won't - fifty years, then, or twenty-five, I think I'll see women use the ballot. It's the possession of the ballot that counts. If women had it you could tell how they would use it.

"Bring before them such a state of affairs as existed in New York City today and they would rise in their strength at the next election, elect a mayor, and sweep away corruption.

"True, they might sit ten years and never use it, but on such occasions they would cast it. Or in the case of an unjust war. Why, war might even pass away and arbitration take its place. It never will so long as men have the votes."

Mr. Clemens said that the contention that only vicious women would vote was absurd. "How many of our 600,000 women are vicious?" he asked. "Not enough to amount to anything. If women could vote, each party would feel compelled to put up the best candidate it could or take the risk of being voted down by the women. States are built on morals - not intellects. And men would never get any morals at all if the women didn't put it into them when they were boys. If women could vote the good women would all vote one way. Men won't do that. It's a choice of evils with them."

Mr. Clemens then said that he had noticed that the President had said that previous to a year ago the Institution had a lady Board of Managers, but now it had men.

"And now," he added, amid laughter, "he says they have twenty-one typewriters, whereas before they had only four. Oh, I like that modesty. We men are all like that. Well, at any rate I hope a lot of us will die and leave something in our wills."

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