MOTHERHOOD AND SOCIAL HOUSEKEEPING

This graphic, which originally appeared in the New York Evening Journal, October 1915, was reprinted in the National Woman's Party Suffragist magazine, a rare use of the motherhood claim by the NWP.

How far from the mainstream these images of prison actually were, however, can be gauged by examining the predominant imagery of the suffrage movement. Mainstream suffragists, represented by the NAWSA and its state affiliates, developed a powerful range of images that stressed the nurturing and redemptive qualities of motherhood and social justice. Emphasizing women's role in the home, the guardianship of children, and the building of communities, NAWSA distributed a variety of propaganda - postcards, cartoons, fliers, buttons, and banners - that transformed women's role as homemakers and mothers into a compelling political rationale.

A sub-set of images under the categories of Motherhood and Woman as Enlightener were: Woman as protector and guardian - of children, home, and society; and Woman as an instrument of social justice and Women moral arbiter for the nation. Unlike the British suffrage movement, mainstream American suffrage stressed "social housekeeping." Drawing parallels between housekeeping and politics, women extended their influence outward from the home into the public sphere, employing images promoting protection of the home, and the "cleaning up" of "dirty politics" through "social housekeeping." As Jane Addams would announce, "Politics is housekeeping on a grand scale."

Mainstream suffrage postcard touting women's ability to clean up the "Dirty Pool of Politics," combining an appeal for the vote based both on women's presumed "higher moral nature" and their greater abilities at "social housekeeping."

Suffrage postcards and cartoons were widely circulated depicting a mother protecting her family and home from the evils of an all male political system based on greed and corruption. Pro-suffrage cartoons emphasized woman's ability to "clean up politics." Cover pages of The Woman Citizen, official organ of the mainstream NAWSA, pictured a woman using her political power to keep "booze," "vice," and "corrupt politics" from "the home."

 

 

 

 

 

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