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An Autobiography

lakes which supply only a few fish. My Zurich friends told me that it was by their
unremitting industry and exceptional thrift, but others said that the foreign visitors who
go to the recreation ground of Europe circulate so much money that instead of the prayer
"Give us this day our daily bread" the Swiss people ask, "Send us this day one foreigner."
In Italy I saw the most intense culture in the world--no pleasure grounds or deer parks for
the wealthy. The whole country looked like a garden with trellised vines and laden trees.
Italian wine was grown, principally for home consumption, and that was immense.
Prohibitionists would speak to deaf ears there. Wine was not a luxury, but a necessity of
life. It made the poor fare of dry bread and polenta (maize porridge) go down more
pleasantly. It was the greater abundance of fruit and wine that caused the Italian poorer
classes to look healthier than the German. In Germany, which taxed itself to give cheap
beet sugar to the British consumer, the people paid 6d. a lb. for the little they could afford
to use; and in Italy it was nearly 8d.--a source of revenue to the Governments, but
prohibitive to the poor. There were no sweet shops in Italy. England only could afford
such luxuries. I visited at Siena a home for deaf mutes, and found that each child had
wine at two of its daily meals--about a pint a day. It was the light-red wine of the country,
with little alcohol in it; but those who warn us against looking on the wine when it is red
will be shocked to hear of these little ones drinking it like milk. Those, however, who live
in Italy say that not once a year do they see any one drunk in the streets.
I reached South Australia on December 12, 1894, after an absence of 20 months. I found
the women's suffrage movement wavering in the balance. It had apparently come with a
rush--as unexpected as it was welcome to those whose strenuous exertions at last seemed
likely to be crowned with success. Though sympathetic to the cause, I had always been
regarded as a weakkneed sister by the real workers. I had failed to see the advantage of
having a vote that might leave me after an election a disfranchised voter, instead of an
unenfranchised woman. People talk of citizens being disfranchised for the Legislative
Council when they really mean that they are unenfranchised. You can scarcely be
disfranchised if you have never been enfranchised; and I have regarded the
enfranchisement of the people on the roll as more important for the time being than
adding new names to the rolls. This would only tend to increase the disproportion
between the representative and the represented. But I rejoiced when the Women's
Suffrage Bill was carried, for I believe that women have thought more and accepted the
responsibilities of voting to a greater extent than was ever expected of them. During the
week I was accorded a welcome home in the old Academy of Music, Rundle street,
where I listened with embarrassment to the avalanche of eulogium that overwhelmed me.
"What a good thing it is, Miss Spence, that you have only one idea," a gentleman once
said to me on my country tour. He wished thus to express his feeling concerning my
singleness of purpose towards effective voting. But at this welcome home I felt that
others realized what I had often said myself. It is really because I have so many ideas for
making life better, wiser, and pleasanter all of which effective voting will aid--that I seem
so absorbed in the one reform. My opinions on other matters I give for what they are
worth--for discussion, for acceptance or rejection. My opinions on equitable
representation I hold absolutely, subject to criticism of methods but impregnable as to
principle.
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