Suffrage graphic by B.M. Boye shows idealized woman looking almost angelic. Notice the use of gold and the sunburst behind the woman's head to create a "halo."

IDEALIZED WOMEN IN SUFFRAGE GRAPHICS

In general, images of women produced by mainstream suffragists were positive, strong, competent, capable, protective, righteous, and sometimes mildly indignant. Two widely circulated images that were made into cards and used on magazine covers and as graphic illustrations were the idealized "Votes for Women" by B. M. Boye, and "Give Her of the Fruit" by Evelyn Rumsey Carey.[25] Using art nouveau styles that romanticized women, the forms softened and neutralized their political content.

This classic suffrage graphic, "Give Her of the Fruit," uses an idealized woman classically clothed, the color gold, and a biblical passage for its text. The graphic appeared in a variety of formats║on posters, magazines, pamphlets, etc.

As Paula Hays Harper has pointed out in her study of British and American suffrage posters:

"Suffrage graphics are most interesting and important to us as a group of visual political documents. They reveal . . . the ideology of the faction they support. . . . The poster artists for women's suffrage . . . (chose) styles appropriate to their persuasive art by using modes of either illusionism or stylized realism. . . . The forms of art nouveau influenced commercial art . . . into the 1920s. . . . Art nouveau styles . . . romanticize women. They are "feminine" styles not created by women but carrying connotations of what constitutes femininity from a masculine point of view. The choice of styles of the suffrage posters seems to be politic; their forms soften and neutralize the content."[26]

Typical, idealized suffrage graphic circulated on postcards.

American suffrage images were iconic, creating and elevating traditionally accepted and culturally positive images of women. Suffrage materials displayed excellent, imaginative graphics; yet, they are idealized, "contained," and restrained, like the mainstream suffragists themselves. The images, like the movement, never seriously questioned, challenged, or attacked woman's role in society or the capitalistic economic order. Mainstream suffragists correctly perceived that if the suffrage drive were to succeed it must be couched in terms making the vote a necessary tool to competently maintain woman's proper sphere. Woman's purpose was to redeem the nation through social ministry and bring it to greater righteousness through reform and uplifted politics, by protecting home, children, and society. Much of the imagery demonstrates that suffrage had become, ultimately, a mainstream political movement.

Idealized motherhood depicted after women get the vote. Notice classical clothing, the torch which becomes a banner, and mainstream suffrage's political ideals for women: Justice, Equality, and Service (to the political state and her community).

No more fitting symbol could be found for the mainstream suffrage movement, at the time of the final drive to pass the constitutional amendment, than the banner carried by the National American Woman Suffrage Association in a 1916 parade in Chicago preceding the Republican National Convention. It read:

For the safety of the Nation
To the Women Give the Vote

For the hand that Rocks the Cradle
Will Never Rock the Boat!
[27]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2007 National Women's History Museum.