Ashburton Guardian Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. SATURDAY, MARCH 7, 1914. A SOCIAL PROBLEM.
It is a matter of general knowledge that women's influence on certain varieties of social legislaton in New Zealand is not inconsiderable., Yov instance, no ,one can have any honest doubt that the progress of temperance reform ''owes its remarkable impetus during the past decade to the votes of women, legislation .in the interests of women and children has been similarly affected, and the attempts to suppress bookmakers and barmaids are also directly traceable to women's [initiative. And whatever may be the general opinion as to.thesej measures, it must be counted ,to the women leaders of-the social reform movement that they are wondrously enthusiastic and sincere to the last degree. The annual conference of the Women's Christian Temperance . Union, which is this year being, held at Gisborne, provides an opportunity for the public-. criticism of the more prominent of the social evils which it is the mission of the . Union to combat. And though the president, in her opening address on Thursday, did not break any new ground, she had something interesting to say on a variety of topics. Those who recognised the splendid work that women are doing in many directions -will be disappointed at the president's remarks with regard to the gambling evil. Year after year this subject is brouglit up at the Union's Congress, and invariably its existence is . deplored .and a decision arrived at to "use' all legitimate means to eradicate the gambling evil from the Dominion and to abolish the totalisator."- On this occasion, the president advised the members to "do as our late president advised vs —continue to protest against any effort for lessening the restrictions on gambling." And , next year's president will offer the same advice, and all the time the evil will go on flourishing. The reason for this is not far to seek. While the influence of women can be made effective in directions in which men recognise reform is needed and can be achieved by legislation, on the question of gambling the human element is entirely ignored. The instructions of the president of th.c Women's Christian -Temperance Uiiion are to "eradicate the gambling evil from the Dominion." Bui there is; no suggestion as to^ how this is to. be done, nor is a substitute even hinted at. And to contend that nothing would be needed to takp the place of facilities for speculation or gambling (the terms are synonymous), is to ignore the facts'of life. It. is splitting hairs to attempt to dissociate one form of speculation from, another, and some of the good ladies who lump every form of " gambling" together and describe.;"it as. a ["•social cancer" might be tempted jto recant if they analysed the methods by which their lifepartners have won to affluence and social prominence. There is, of course, a great deal that is sordid, and degrading, and vicious in various forms of gambling, but these attract tho class of men and women who, if this safety-valve was not provided for them, probably would be engaged in a form of crime seriously harmful to society. This statement may be regarded as needing qualification, but any conception of society that overlooks the inevitableness of human flotsam and jetsam is not a true reflex of actual conditions.