A small group from one feminist organization wanted to highlight those new state laws. That group organized a small “parade” of female suffragists. That group walked down the streets of New York City, bearing a sign that read as follows: “We Were Voters Out West! Why Deny Our Rights In The East?”
Now it so happened that a man intent on spreading teachings that supported the equality of men and women visited the U.S. in 1912. He arrived in New York City in the early spring of that year. One day that visitor, a man named Abdu’l-Baha, met with Annie Besant, President of the Theosophical Society.
Abdu’l-Baha knew that Annie Besant supported the sign-carrying members of the City’s feminist organization. He wanted to learn why she supported that group of female protesters. He said to Ms. Besant, “Give me your reasons for believing that women should have the vote.”
Ms. Besant, aware that she spoke on behalf of all the women in the City’s feminist organization, said, “I believe that humanity is a divine humanity and that it must rise higher and higher, but it cannot soar with only one wing.”
Abdu’l-Baha liked that answer, but he also realized that someone opposed to giving women the vote could find a weakness in Ms. Besant’s argument. Abdu’l-Baha therefore wanted the Society’s President to be aware of the weak link in her chain of support for woman’s suffrage. The visitor asked, “But what will you do if one wing is stronger than the other?”
Annie’s answer suggested that she had heard at least one other question of the same nature. She seemed quite ready to continue her defense of the goals proclaimed by the City’s feminist organization. This is the answer that Annie Besant gave to Abdu’l-Baha: “…we must strengthen the weaker wing; otherwise the flight will always be hampered.”
Annie Besant gave to Abdu’l-Baha and to future feminist organizations a very useful allegory. It was an allegory that could facilitate the promotion of equal status for both sexes. Ms. Besant’s reference to the two wings of a bird could be used to introduce the concept of gender equality in the classrooms of young school children.
Perhaps the membership in a present-day feminist organization could undertake to develop materials that encouraged young children to design paper models of birds. Perhaps they could find a poet who had expressed a willingness to compose short poems about birds. Young children could be shown such poems and then provided with the materials needed for creating illustrations for those same poems.
While working on those illustrations, the children might be told the comments made by Annie Besant almost a century ago.