Among the MPs who opposed Herbert Samuel’s resolution to allow women to become MPs in 1918 was this man:
This is Admiral of the Fleet Sir Hedworth Meux MP, much better known for his naval career than his Parliamentary career, which is perhaps just as well. His contribution to this Parliamentary Debate includes the following:
I say that no woman is fit by her physical organisation to stand the strain of Parliament….what about all-night sittings, sitting up till two or three in the morning? “Who goes home?” It will be a question of “Who will take me home?”
and this from a later speech, arguing that even the proposer of the bill (Lord Robert Cecil) did not really want to see women MPs:
Perhaps he will explain what class of women he wants. He certainly does not want the noblest class of women, the women who are producing children…and the ambition of every right-minded woman when she is married is to produce a beautiful child, a boy more beautiful than her husband or a girl more beautiful than herself…
In case you wonder, Meux himself was married but had no children. Also, I find it rather ironic that he had changed his surname in order to gain an inheritance from a woman. Previously Hedworth Lambton, he changed his name to Meux in 1911, because of this woman:
This beautiful portrait is Harmony in Pink and Grey, Lady Valerie Meux by Whistler. I once admired the original painting in New York, at the Frick which is one of my favourite museums ever, and even bought a small print of it. At the time I had no idea who the woman in the portrait was, or that she was connected to Admiral Meux! She was much older than this by the time she met Hedworth Lambton and decided to make him her heir, on condition he changed his name to hers.
Hedworth Meux’s opinions on the suitability of women to be MPs were in the minority; the bill passed and became an Act. I’ll say a bit more about this subject in my next post. I might also post some more about MPs who supported gender equality legislation, and those who opposed it.