A while back, David Dismore posted about his archive of suffragist postcards, which appeared in the early 1900s as part of the campaign for women’s right to vote. The postcards got the messages of the movement across in short, clear, and often humorous ways.
Those opposed to women’s suffrage also used postcards to get their message out to the public. The Palczewski Postcard Archive at the University of Northern Iowa, sent to us by Katrin, has a number of great examples that illustrate the frames used to present women’s full political participation as threatening.
For instance, a 12-card series produced by Dunston-Weiler Lithographic Company presented suffrage as upending the gender order by masculinizing women and feminizing men. Suffragists, the postcards tell us, cause women to abandon their household duties and become aggressive and unladylike:
In an effort to win her own rights, then, women make their families suffer — a message complete with visuals that don’t seem out of place among stock images of crying babies and their working mothers today, as Katrin pointed out:
Equality in voting rights is clearly presented as female domination:
Postcards issued by other groups reflect these same themes. The clear message is that giving women the right to vote threatens men, the family, and the entire natural order of things:
The archive has a bunch more examples, categorized by various themes — including Cats and Suffrage, because lolcats are timeless.Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.
hopeless shade — November 8, 2012
Oh gods. How dare that lady kiss that man! How dare that man be a father to his children!
The best part is that they're framing housework and childcare as absolute, unbearable drudgery and backbreaking labor--for men. For women, it's presumably all of those things as well, but nobody gives a damn because they're SUPPOSED to do it!
Vintage Anti-Suffragette Postcards « Feminist Philosophers — November 8, 2012
[...] Images has posted some interesting postcards that were campaigning against women’s [...]
Missmaia — November 8, 2012
Anyone else sensing a guilty conscience?
"Oh no! My wife will start treating me the way I've been treating her!"
bhb007 — November 8, 2012
Wonderful (and disturbing) collection that will be presented in the courses I teach post haste!!!
PDS — November 8, 2012
Like Missmaia, I can't help looking at them with an ironic eye. "Look this is the life of a woman, would you like to have it?"
grumbley — November 8, 2012
Hey, who knew they'd be right about "what" would happen, but not about how they would feel about it? Oh yeah, the Suffragettes.
Rishi — November 8, 2012
Well, to be fair the logistics of women voting are daunting. How do you get voting machines to all those kitchens?
Taylor — November 8, 2012
I think it is interesting the interpretations of power which comes with the right to vote. While voting is a form of power given to citizens these cards interpret it as power in family life rather than just power for the people to select who represents them. It is amazing how the gender roles are instilled into the people to the point where it becomes their argument against women's suffrage. Supposedly women would be switching their roles with men. These cards acknowledge the way women were treated and their argument is men will have to experience the horror of "women's work." While the the cards are an obvious exaggeration of the creator's argument, they are using the idea that women's voting rights somehow empowers women over men.
Alex51324 — November 8, 2012
What I think is interesting here is how many of these images show things that we think of as normal and even desirable: the "Suffragette Madonna" and "What Is Home Without a Father," (available through the "12-card series" link) for example, show us fathers...participating in childcare. Others show women expressing opinions and wearing trousers ("Electioneering" and "Pantalette Suffragette") in ways that are free of anything that looks to my modern eye like misogynistic imagery. (The "Pantalette Suffragette" girl, in her overalls and big picture hat, looks really cute!) If these images were presented without context, a modern viewer might assume that they must be *pro* women's suffrage images, because they depict things that are consistent with mainstream values today.
Other images in the same collection (the 12-card series) do have imagery that would read as misogynist today, like the woman in police uniform brandishing a rolling pin while the man behind her looks alarmed, and the man emasculated in an apron doing laundry with a sign behind him reading, "Everyone works but Mother--she's a suffragette." These images, too, show us things that we consider normal and desirable today--women police officers, men doing housework--but they include signs that we can easily read as indicating that the viewer is meant to consider these images threatening to the social order--a man in woman's apparel, the rolling pin as a symbol of domestic tyranny.
I think, based on the juxtaposition, that both sets of images--the ones that look positive to us (to me, anyway) and the ones that look misogynistic--were intended to be viewed as equally threatening. A girl in pants is threatening, even if she's cute. A woman talking to other women about politics is scary, even if none of them are hideous or hectoring. A man taking part in domestic life is emasculated, even if he isn't wearing a garment associated with femininity. I believe intellectually that that must have been the intended reading, but as a 21st century viewer, I can hardly grok it.
And finally, these anti-women-suffrage artists were essentially correct, about the facts if not about the feelings. They predicted that women's suffrage would lead to a world in which men were expected to take part in childcare and housework (whether they enjoyed it or not; many women don't enjoy it either), in which women might be leaders in politics (one of the postcards shows a woman wearing a tag reading, "District Leaderess," with campaign signs bearing the names of women candidates behind her), and in which women would hold jobs formerly reserved for men. And all of these things have occurred. It's just that the idea that these things are desirable is now the mainstream view (for example, even men who try to avoid housework and childcare as much as possible pay lip service to the idea that they should do more). This collection of postcards essentially shows us the world that we live in.
Sara — November 8, 2012
Couple more from the same period: http://scenesofeating.com/2012/07/30/force-feeding-unruly-women-at-the-turn-of-the-20th-century/
There's another sort of cutesy one featuring geese, but it becomes a little scary in comparison to another cartoony-looking postcard which depicts men gleefully force-feeding a suffragette--something that was done to the ones who were arrested and then went on hunger strike to protest. That's startling to remember: when we say these women fought for the vote, we sometimes forget that they were physically brutalized in that fight.
But like any sexist joke, the more "innocent" postcards in this post are points on the same continuum with violence and dehumanization.
Rad Hall — November 8, 2012
Ye gods, the hypocrisy! As thick as a whale omelette ...
Patrick Ingram — November 9, 2012
It's always when people seem to view civil rights as a precious resource like platinum or oil. Thus, if some people have more, others have to make do with less.
Vadim McNab — November 9, 2012
My god, the war on men has been going on for a longer time than I thought.
Laurel 6 — November 9, 2012
Absolutely unbelievable. I'd love to see Romney do some useless housework while Obama does the important stuff.
LeilaM12 — November 9, 2012
These pictures are not as 'retro' and bygone as you might think. Present day American misogynist websites who want to strip women of the vote are reposting them right now. Like this one: http://patriactionary.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/humour-interlude-offend-a-suffragette-edition-2/
Stripping women of the right to vote is a relatively constant topic on many rightwing websites (and of course on all misogynist websites), in part because women lean more towards the Democrats (this election, 67 % unmarried women voted for Obama).
ididthatonce — November 9, 2012
I cannot wait until the next nerd convention so I can dress up as one of these!
I know these images are supposed to scare the menfolk, but I love them as a modern woman. They're so wonderful in a look-how-far-we've-come-but-how-little-has-changed kind of way.
tattooed_mummy — November 9, 2012
i love how the men are 'suffering' when expected to do what, presumably they expect their 'little woman' to do every day! and yet they see nothing wrong with the image. "We can make women work like dogs and suffer in the home" they seem to say "but if we had to do it , it would be terribly cruel"
LeilaM12 — November 9, 2012
Different day, same shit:
From the Christian Men's Defense Network (via gawker)
For more on this view (common in the right-wing): http://manboobz.com/2012/11/06/election-day-open-thread-plus-some-inane-crap-from-heartiste-on-the-single-white-woman-vote/
pduggie — November 9, 2012
They almost seem "ironic" because the portrayals are so humorously over the top. They're not like political cartoons vs the Irish or something: there's almost a warmth.
I wonder if they were taken super-seriously, or if these were produced in a "this is inevitable and ok, but lets have some fun along the way" attitude.
Nicole Leiva — November 9, 2012
Oh, poor men, having to run household chores! How degrading.
mimimur — November 10, 2012
Interesting to think that: 1. The women's life is painted as awful, showing some awareness of the trials pf being a woman at the time- but the logic never extends understanding the suffgragettes. 2. Beyond tyat the post cards seen ridiculous by today's standards. "woe is me for having ot take care of my own children and household!" 3. On a more depressing note, they're still using these arguments 100 years later.
Stemrecht voor vrouwen zet wereld op z’n kop « De Zesde Clan — November 10, 2012
[...] van politieke ansichtkaarten, sociaal gezien even belangrijk als Tumblrs of internet memes nu. De politieke boodschap van dit type postkaart liet niets aan de verbeelding over. Alleen lelijke alleenstaande vrouwen willen [...]
FYouMudFlaps — November 11, 2012
I love how all these ads depict things that are downright awesome, with the pathetic framing that they are bad.
[image] Vintage anti-suffrage postcards « slendermeans — November 12, 2012
[...] here: sociologicalimages] [share]ShareEmailFacebookTwitterTumblrPinterestStumbleUponLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. [...]
Stephen Paul West — November 18, 2012
The media has always been the media. These prints were designed to be exploitative then as now.
Cartoline antisuffragiste del primo Novecento | Archivio Caltari — November 18, 2012
[...] via Sociological Images [...]
Suffragettes, A Collection of Images | P.a.p.-Blog, Human Rights Etc. — November 27, 2012
[...] (source) [...]
Lucina Sandoval — November 30, 2012
American men back then really did not want to take care of their kids or help their wives. At least according to these ads.
lel — January 6, 2013
Oh, I see. You'd really hate to be told that you aren't good for anything except homemaking, wouldn't you? That's how we feel.
A brief moment for Beyoncé « blogjake — February 5, 2013
[...] It reminds me of arguments I’ve seen before. Motherhood is a strange thing, and deeply tied to the very idea of what that means to be a woman. I don’t get what’s so threatening about women choosing to reject motherhood, though. Where is the nobility in a thing like motherhood if it’s not a choice? Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. ← Previous post RSSjakeRSS - Posts twitterjake [...]
Happy Valentine’s Day: Links and Love | Scenes of Eating — February 13, 2013
[...] love, while others took the opportunity to send satirical or mean-spirited cards. Brainpicker and Sociological Images both have longer posts that showcase a number of Victorian valentines meant to shame or ridicule [...]
What’s So Funny About Sexism, Racism and Harassment? — February 25, 2013
[...] been forcefully infused with negative connotations. Students of women’s history learn how cartoons and other forms of humour have been a key means of demonizing suffragists and feminists, reinforcing negative perceptions of women seeking equal [...]
The ball busting feminist stereotype - Page 18 — March 13, 2013
Scott Davis — May 14, 2013
Yes, scaring men with women's work and role shows just how oppressed women were. Isn't it something they couldn't conceive of how good it would be to work together, many hands making light work of house chores? I do feel we've made progress. I know we haven't arrived, but look where we've been!
And The Men Were Terrified | motherhood is magic — November 8, 2013
[…] Vintage Anti-Suffrage Postcards. […]
quick hit: Vintage anti-suffrage postcards | feimineach — December 30, 2013
[…] [More here: sociologicalimages] […]
Meet The Postcard Press (and the woman behind it) | On This Miserable Paper — February 16, 2014
[…] and their opponents here: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/11/08/vintage-anti-suffrage-postcards/), although postcards had their dark side, too—they were used to spread images of lynchings, for […]
Mulheres que dirigem — March 8, 2014
[…] É uma homenagem e serve para lembrar à luta das mulheres pela afirmação de sua dignidade e por tratamento igualitário. É incrível pensar que em um passado recente foram realizadas campanhas contrárias a participação das mulheres nas eleições por meio do voto. Imagens praticamente inacreditáveis foram lançadas como cartões postais de grupos contrários à ideia de que as mulheres poderiam votar em eleições, conhecidas como campanhas “anti-suffrage” (veja aqui em inglês). […]
feimineach.com — April 25, 2014
[…] Vintage Anti-Suffrage Postcards (sociological […]
Ian Rocha — April 27, 2015
I did all that, except the the last one.
And no — I won’t be pledging allegiance to your bra, either. | coffee and a blank page — June 14, 2015
[…] Pro-tip: “Equal rights, schmequal right — just gimme a pretty bra!” is perhaps not the best approach for an ad. Unless you meant to make me think of anti-suffrage postcards?? (via) […]
Why Should We Call Ourselves Feminists | laurachinh — July 8, 2015
[…] branded as unloved, manly old maids or mothers who neglected their families. One caption on an anti-suffrage advertisement reads, “Everyone works but mother: she’s a suffragette.” Hardly anyone today would consider […]
Why We Need Feminism | laurachinh — July 27, 2015
[…] branded as unloved, manly old maids or mothers who neglected their families. One caption on an anti-suffrage advertisement reads, “Everyone works but mother: she’s a suffragette.” Hardly anyone today would […]
Black Flags are always Cool | SINMANTYX — July 27, 2015
[…] organized campaigns against feminists are not new, one thing I haven’t seen before is black flag […]
The First Wave Feminist Movement | Female protests, media and the city — February 25, 2017
[…] (http://mashable.com/2016/09/03/anti-suffrage-propaganda/)(http://mentalfloss.com/article/52207/12-cruel-anti-suffragette-cartoons)(https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/11/08/vintage-anti-suffrage-postcards/)(http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2236694/War-women-Propaganda-postcards-suffragette-era-fierce-battle-fought-American-women-vote–Obama-thank-job.html) […]