In the words of Laura McLaren: The health of the nation
Laura McLaren of Bodnant Garden believed that supporting women was key to keeping a nation in good health, from cradle to grave.
"We plead that the guardian of life should have a hand in the making of our laws. Even today nearly half our children die, either perishing before birth or failing to reach maturity. Picture this endless procession of little coffins bathed with mothers’ tears, sapping half the vitality of mothers to fill up graveyards. Surely this is a grave indication of masculine government, whose own medical officers tell them that the municipal neglect of cleanliness is the chief cause of this waste of infant life?
"Never has the State interfered, except within the walls of the workhouse, to help the mother who from poverty was not able to feed her child. Never has any Government effort been made to secure for her the conditions necessary for healthy infant life. Never has any public money been devoted to such an end. Turn from the child to the girl and ask what care any masculine Government has taken to watch over the tender feminine flower who is the source and hope of national life. Our laws allow marriage at the age of 12 years of age, many are married at 14, and by Act of Parliament every girl over the age of 16, or younger if she looks 16, is allowed to be the prey of any man base enough to deceive her.
"It is because we want to mother all these children and young girls that we demand to have some share in the making of laws. In vain we have pleaded for raising the age of consent, for the attendance of midwives free in necessitous cases, for creches, for pure-milk, and for more definite responsibility placed upon fathers. In vain we have pleaded for the dower of the widow, for the status of the illegitimate child and for the white slave. This is a nation of which two-thirds is composed of women and children. Is the last word on all laws to be given by the minority of adult men who do not know or even pretend to know about such feminine problems?
"We are willing, very willing, to work in the garden of the nation, to tend to its flowers, but to do so we must have tools for the purpose. If a person goes to sow corn and is obliged to dig in the ground with his own fingers before he can plant the seed, he will have but a small harvest. If he is armed with a spade, he will be able to till more deeply and get a wider return for his labour, but if he has a plough the wide acres will show a golden harvest enough to be the food of thousands. So with the national work of women. Through the history of the world they have been working each almost alone, without any effective tool, without political power or public money. It is the Parliamentary Franchise alone which will bring feminine influence to bear upon the rulers of this country. Then only will women come into her kingdom as “guardian of life” armed with power to help and save." - The Times (April 1912)