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FEATURE: Anti-Women’s Suffrage Cartoons

Today is Election Day in the United States, when Americans cast votes for presidential, congressional, state, and local elections. Art and politics are rarely separated for long; one form of art, editorial cartoons, feature a long history of engagement with politics.

One of the fallacies often said of art is that art is always positive. Art can indeed be edifying, like anything the devil is in the details.

Today, women’s suffrage in the United States is 96 years’ old; just a century ago, women lacked the right to vote in federal elections and did not have the right to vote in many state elections. Here’s a look back at some of the innumerable editorial cartoons created to combat the women’s suffrage movement. Some things have changed, but others have not – note, for example, how wives are portrayed in many of these cartoons.

This cartoon uses images of domestic disorder to portray women voters and suffragists as irresponsible. The replacement of "woman" with "man" in several classic quotations was intended to trivialize women's asserting a right to vote as absurd.
This cartoon uses images of domestic disorder to portray women voters and suffragists as irresponsible. The replacement of “woman” with “man” in several classic quotations was intended to trivialize women’s asserting a right to vote as absurd.
"The Anti-Suffrage Quartette". The singers' music is entitled "Women do not want the vote" and their repertoire is listed as including "Protect the home," "Sweet women's sphere's the home," "Keep your dear mother out of politics," "Oh, leave things as they be," "Let the woman mind the baby," and "Let 'em use their influence."
“The Anti-Suffrage Quartette”. The singers’ music is entitled “Women do not want the vote” and their repertoire is listed as including “Protect the home,” “Sweet women’s sphere’s the home,” “Keep your dear mother out of politics,” “Oh, leave things as they be,” “Let the woman mind the baby,” and “Let ’em use their influence.”
Regional divisions were alive and well during the suffrage movement, with each side decrying the actions of the other, unenlightened region.
Regional divisions were alive and well during the suffrage movement, with each side decrying the actions of the other, unenlightened region.
This cartoon was designed to make men feel emasculated by women's emancipation and suffrage. Note the stern expressions on the women's faces – part of a concerted campaign to portray suffragettes as ugly, mean spinsters.
This cartoon was designed to make men feel emasculated by women’s emancipation and suffrage. Note the stern expressions on the women’s faces – part of a concerted campaign to portray suffragettes as ugly, mean spinsters.
The use of children in this cartoon was used to portray women's suffrage as infantile.
The use of children in this cartoon was used to portray women’s suffrage as infantile.
This cartoon uses its iconography to present a dangerous "slippery slope," using thinly veiled references to lesbianism to stoke fears of male emasculation, playing on the social tensions from American women having entered traditionally male trades during World War I.
This cartoon uses its iconography to present a dangerous “slippery slope,” using thinly veiled references to lesbianism to stoke fears of male emasculation, playing on the social tensions from American women having entered traditionally male trades during World War I.
A common anti-suffrage theme was to portray women lobbying for voting rights as part of a fringe element opposed by the silent majority of mothers.
A common anti-suffrage theme was to portray women lobbying for voting rights as part of a fringe element opposed by the silent majority of mothers.
Twin Cities Arts Reader
The Twin Cities Arts Reader is an arts and lifestyles magazine whose coverage examines arts and selected activities in the state of Minnesota and across the country. It provides Minnesota's largest source of in-depth, critical theatre coverage, and reaches more than 275,000 readers per year.
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