Title: Radio Speech to the Women’s World Fair
Date: April 18, 1925
Location: Washington, DC
Context: Coolidge opens the Women’s World Fair in Chicago with a radio address delivered from the White House, in which he commends the sponsors of the fair and extols the benefits to be obtained from holding it.
A hundred and fifty years ago tonight Paul Revere made his midnight ride from Charlestown, through the Massachusetts countryside, to warn the people that a movement of troops from the Boston garrison might be expected against Concord. Early next morning the expedition set out and before the day was far advanced a conflict had taken place and Lexington had been the scene of firing the “shot heard round the world.” The American Revolution had begun.
The women of Illinois have chosen on this anniversary to open their Women’s World’s Fair. There are some elements of special appropriateness in their selection of the date. A World’s Fair, conceived, organized, directed, and managed by women and devoted particularly to the interest and activities of their sex, is suggestive of the revolutionary change that has taken place in their status.
With a keen eye for the historic unities that should be preserved on such an occasion, the managers of the fair have arranged to signalize its formal opening, which is this moment taking place, by reproducing the ride of Paul Revere.
Only on this anniversary occasion it has been deemed fitting that the historic ride should be taken by a woman. So Paul becomes Pauline and ambitious feminism appropriates to itself a share in one more field on endeavor claimed exclusively by the men.
It is over thirty years since the World’s Columbian Exposition was held in Chicago. That stupendous presentation of the achievements of civilization has often been referred to colloquially though mistakenly as a “World’s Fair.” It was in fact not a fair, but an exposition.
On the other hand the presentation which is beginning today is not an exposition, but literally and precisely a fair. Its counterpart will not be found in the huge and formal expositions that from time to time have been held in many of the capitals of the world. Rather, its inspiration must be sought in the rich, moving, colorful fairs for which many of the ancient European cities have long been famous, but which have been too little known among the institutions of our American life.
The effort cannot but be accounted as a piece of national good fortune to transplant and perpetuate in our country those vivid presentations of life and living which characterize the famous fairs of Middle and Eastern Europe. The Old World fairs have come to be veritable panoramas of the customs and clothing, the modes and manners, the work and play, the arts and industries, the inspirations and aspirations, of nations and peoples.
I know of nothing more calculated to promote the pride of vigorous community life, the sentiments of self-respecting nationalism, the truest loyalty to high traditions of national character, than these distinctive assemblies of the people. Here they bring together their works and handicrafts, their pleasures and recreations, their household, art and science.
It is a good thing that great communities should thus occasionally be drawn together, to consider themselves and their accomplishments, to realize and appraise themselves to make their members better acquainted, to remind each half of how the other half lives.
It is such a fair, for such purposes, that the women of Illinois have aimed to present. They have wrought their vision of it into an accomplishment of light and loveliness, of music and of movement, of shadow and of substance, of harmonies and of contrasts. They have made it truly a picture of the community which gives it place and setting.
In our American life we have preserved the conception of the Old World fairs only in our agricultural communities. The county, district and State agricultural fairs, of which hundreds are held throughout the nation every year, have developed a unique type.
But the agricultural fair has been an institution of, for and by the people of the open country. The women who have prepared this fair have sought to attain another and quite different object. Their design has been to picture the people and their ways of living, rather than merely exhibit their products, which, after all, make up only the background and setting of life.
People do not live for the mere sake of production. Rather, they produce in order that by possession and consumption they may make their lives fuller, more fruitful, more worthy.
Much of what they produce is designed to be left as an endowment to the future, some as a memorial of the past. Every generation seeks to bestow upon the world more beautiful and useful objects that may stimulate and inspire posterity. But always the purpose is to improve the estate of human kind, to widen the horizons of knowledge, to make progress toward usefulness, sincere harmony, true beauty and the eternal truth.
It was with such high purposes that its founders dreamed of the fair which now has become a realization. What is accomplished this year is expected to be only the promise of larger achievement in years to come. But year by year the underlying aim to bring a great people to know, realize and understand themselves will not need to be changed.
It was Voltaire, I believe, who said that “To know all is to forgive all.” Though our times are not, as historical periods go, far beyond those of Voltaire, yet the complexities of human relations have been vastly multiplied in that brief space.
If we could find means to bring all the people and groups of people truly to know and understand each other I am confident most of our social problems would have been started well in way to solution. It is not intolerance so much as ignorance that leads men and nations into antagonisms.
So I heartily approve the efforts of the women of the Middle West who have undertaken a program of getting all kinds of people better acquainted. They have brought together under the wide roof of the American Exhibition Palace a representation of all manner of activities and interests, with special reference to the part that women play.
There will be a Pueblo Indian woman making and displaying the characteristic wares and weaves of her people; and not far away, I am assured, Mrs. McCormick will be found, personally conducting the feeding, care and milking of the prize cow that she herself bred and raised.
The work of women in the professions, in the most amazing variety of businesses and occupations, will be demonstrated. A model school, a correct hospital, the works of settlement communities, of charity and benevolence, all will be displayed. The National Government has been so far impressed with the value of these efforts that its various departments and activities will be represented with special reference to the large and fast expanding participation of women and their interests in the business of government.
But while I am not competent to tell what the fair will be and will show, I stumbled upon one feature which I cannot refrain from describing, because it makes a particular appeal to me.
It appears that, when this fair was first thought of, the capital behind it consisted entirely of the idea. But, having a sound conception of procedure, the ladies started by establishing a budget. Having so definite an understanding of what they were going to do, it was easier to raise the necessary capital.
As a strictly business proposition, it was sold, so effectively and widely, that when the doors are opened every dollar of expense will have been met and there will be a comfortable balance in bank to guarantee a greater and more impressive fair next year.
The business management whereby such a result was made possible deserves more serious consideration than I am able to give in the few minutes I have to speak. It is enough to say that this financial accomplishment presents a striking contrast to the average project of like character supported in easy fashion out of public funds.
If the people in the daily management of their modest domestic affairs note that the great interests of their Governments, and of their semi-public institutions, are dealt with in a spirit of laxity and a mood of carelessness, they find little inspiration to apply better methods in the management of their own concerns.
The great business operations which are constantly under the public eye ought to be handled so as to make them an example in sound procedure. For managing this fair in exactly that manner the women in control deserve a measure of recognition which I gladly accord.
The importance of sound business methods was never so great as it is today. It is particularly true that Government business should be placed on a basis of rigid economy.
In our modern society, public and private savings are quickly transmuted into capital available for more production. The increased production makes goods more plentiful and therefore cheaper; and at the lower price level the people can afford to consume more.
The real disaster to a modern community comes when easy and ill-considered consumption prevents the storing away of new capital to meet the ever-increasing demands.
But while we are extolling the example of sound business methods that had been here exhibited and praising the opportunity to secure a fuller knowledge of what women have accomplished, let us not forget the deep underlying purpose of it all.
Our country wants its arts and science, its commerce and agriculture, its production and transportation, its education and invention, not merely that they may be used in the market place, the factory and the field, but that they may all be translated into the home. All of these efforts are for broadening the outlook on life, for making better men and women, they all have the purpose to become effective forces at the fireside.
For long ages past, men have gone forth into the world, more recently they have been followed by women. Each are endowed with the same desire, each attempting to contribute to the satisfaction of the universal longing of the human race to bring something better home. By the contribution that it can make to that high purpose, the success of this fair will be measured.
Citation: The New York Times, April 19, 1925.