Ken Follett, Fall of Giants, 2010
Her angry feminism had set as hard as concrete during years of living alongside the tough, hard-working, dirt-poor women of London's East End. Men often told a fairy tale in which there was a division of labor in families, the man going out to earn money, the woman looking after home and children. Reality was different. Most of the women Ethel knew worked twelve hours a day and looked after home and children as well. Underfed, overworked, living in hovels, and dressed in rags, they could still sing songs, and laugh, love their children. In Ethel's view one of those women had more right to vote than any ten men.
She'd been arguing this for so long that she felt quite strange when votes for women became a real possibility in the middle of 1917. As a little girl she had asked: "What will it be like in heaven?" and had never got a satisfactory answer.
Parliament agreed to a debate in mid-June. "It's the result of two compromises," Ethel said excitedly to Bernie when she read the report in The Times. "The Speaker's Conference, which Asquith called to sidestep the issue, was desperate to avoid a row."
Bernie was giving Lloyd his breakfast, feeding him toast dipped in sweet tea. "I assume the government is afraid that women will start chaining themselves to railings again."
Ethel nodded. "And if the politicians get caught up in that kind of fuss, people will say they're not concentrating on winning the war. So the parliamentary committee recommended giving the vote only to women over thirty who are householders or the wives of householders. Which means I'm too young."
"That was the first compromise," said Bernie. "And the second?"
"According to Maud, the cabinet was split." The War Cabinet consisted of four men plus the prime minister, Lloyd George. "Curzon is against us, obviously." Earl Curzon, the leader of the House of Lords, was proudly misogynist. He was president of the League for Opposing Women's Suffrage. "So is Milner. But Henderson supports us." Arthur Henderson was the leader of the Labour Party, whose M.P.s supported the women, even though many Labour Party men did not. "Bonar Law is with us, though lukewarm."
"Two in favor, two against, and Lloyd George as usual wanting to keep everyone happy."
"The compromise is that there will be a free vote." That meant the government would not order its supporters to vote one way or the other.
"So that whatever happens it won't be the government's fault."
"No one ever said Lloyd George was ingenuous."
"But he's given you a chance."
"A chance is all it is. We've got some campaigning work to do."
Douglas Kennedy, The Pursuit of Happiness, 2002
Predictably, my parents tried to block my move there. When I announced − around three weeks before my graduation − that I had been offered a trainee job at Life, they were horrified. I was home for the weekend in Hartford (a trip I made deliberately to break the job news to them, and also to inform them that I wouldn't be accepting Horace's marriage proposal). Ten minutes into the conversation, the emotional temperature within our household quickly hit boiling point.
"I am not having any daughter of mine living by herself in that venal, indecent city," my father pronounced.
"New York is hardly indecent − and Life isn't exactly Confidential," I said, mentioning a well-known scandal sheet of the time. "Anyway I thought you'd be thrilled with my news. Life only accepts ten trainees a year. It's an incredibly prestigious offer."
"Father's still right," my mother said, "New York is no place for a young woman without family." "Eric's not family?"
"Your brother is not the most moral of men," my father said.
"And what does that mean?" I said angrily.
My father was suddenly flustered, but he covered up his embarrassment by saying, "It doesn't matter what it means. What matters is the simple fact that I will not permit you to live in Manhattan."
"I am twenty-two years old, Father."
"That's not the issue."
"You have no legal right to tell me what I can or cannot do."
"Don't hector your father,' my mother said. "And I must tell you that you are making a dreadful mistake by not marrying Horace."
"I knew you'd say that."
"Horace is a splendid young man," my father said. "Horace is a very nice young man – with a very nice, dull future ahead of him." "You are being arrogant," he said.
"No – just accurate. Because I will not be pushed into a life I don't want."
"I am not pushing you into any life…" my father said.
"By forbidding me from going to New York, you are stopping me from taking control of my own destiny."
"Your destiny!" my father said, with cruel irony. "You actually think you have a destiny! What bad novels have you been reading at Bryn Mawr?"
I stormed out of the room. I ran upstairs and fell on the bed, sobbing. Neither of my parents came up to comfort me. Nor did I expect them to. That wasn't their style.
Where and when is the scene set (country + year)?
What were the living conditions of most of the women Ethel knew? Pick out 6 words or groups of words to justify your answer
Does men's vision of "the division of labor in families" correspond to reality?
Consequently, what is Ethel's opinion concerning votes for women?
What fears have persuaded the government to allow a debate in Parliament on women's suffrage?
What are the War Cabinet politicians' positions about the vote for women? Copy out and complete the grid: tick the correct box for each politician.
In view of these positions, how has the government decided to organise the vote in Parliament?
So what must Ethel do now?
Is the result of the debate in Parliament likely to give Ethel the right to vote?
Explain the situation (identify the characters, how they are related and what they are talking about).
What arguments does the narrator use to try to convince her parents? Find two arguments.
Using elements from both texts, show to what extent the two female protagonists are feminists and how this could change their lives for the better.