The Anti-Suffrage Propaganda (Postcards)

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Why were not all British women supporters of the suffrage movement? There were both male and female groups that opposed the Women’s Suffrage Movement. This blog post will examine the use of postcards by Anti-Suffrage organisations.

One significant postcard was titled “No Votes Thank you: The Appeal of Womanhood” (See Slideshow Banner) [1]. This postcard was designed by Harold Bird for the National League for Opposing Woman Suffrage who were organising an anti-suffrage meeting at the Royal Albert Hall in 1912 [2]. The poster features a ‘Womanly Woman'[3] who is clearly represented as strong and as the acceptable norm of society. She is politely campaigning against suffrage by stating “No Votes Thank you“[4]. However, one can see that behind her is a suffragette, depicted as aggressive and barbaric; she is carrying a hammer and a flag simply titled “Votes“[5]; she is the antithesis of the main figure. This piece of propaganda would have been effective because of the clear juxtaposition of the two women; it devalued the British Suffrage Movement.

Interestingly, Pro-Suffrage Louise Jacobs adapted this postcard to promote Women’s Suffrage in Britain [6] (see slideshow banner). This represented the suffragette as the central figure and in a far more respectable manner as she is fighting for the vote to improve moral problems such as the “Slave Traffic”[7]. The fact that she recreated this postcard indicates that there was a level of hostility between both parties.

Another intriguing anti-suffrage postcard was titled “At the suffragette meetings you can here some plain things – and see them too“[8] (see slideshow banner) . This cartoon was incredibly satirical. It shows a women’s suffrage meeting but again depicts them negatively. It almost feels childish in their attack, the women have teeth far too large for their mouth, their faces are ridiculously red, and they are represented as devious. All of this emphasises the “stupidity” and unreliability of these women therefore suggesting their ideas must be unreliable too. Again, this postcard undermined the British Suffrage Movement.

Furthermore, the “Little rascal where is your mother? She’s gone out voting“[9] postcard is useful to examine (see slideshow banner). Again, satirical. The cartoon features a baby playing with inappropriate toys including an axe, a gun and a bottle of wine. The cartoon hints that the mother was more concerned about gaining the vote for women than caring for her own baby. Evidently, they are again attacking the women who supported the suffrage movement by indicating they are immature and have no consideration for family values. The importance of typical family values in the anti-suffrage movement is evident through this postcard. They are suggesting that the mother should have been at home to look after the child rather than the father.

In addition to this, the British Library have evidence of the Anti-Suffrage League distributing badges that pictured a mother looking after her children [10] which reiterates their traditional family beliefs (see slideshow banner). I will explore the badges created by anti-suffrage groups in greater depth for my next blog post.

Clearly, the anti-suffrage groups had traditional ideas when it came to family values and this was reflected in their work. Julia Bush corroborated this, she stated that they believed:

 “differentiated gender roles were essential to Britain’s progress”[11].

Bush’s argument is significant because it demonstrates why not all British women supported the suffrage movement. They thought if women achieved the right to vote it would disrupt the family social system that they believed worked; they were afraid of radical ideas that may damage family life.

So what was the underlying theme of anti-suffrage postcards? Undermining the suffrage movement. It is common throughout the anti-suffrage postcards to notice that rather than explaining why women not being enfranchised was important, they would provoke and attempt to diminish the suffrage movement. Perhaps this was because the suffrage movement desired change whereas the anti-suffrage groups wanted female roles to stay the same therefore it was easier to undermine.

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Bibliography

[1] Harold Bird, “No Votes Thank You, The Appeal of Womanhood: postcard: 1912”, Museum of London, Image Number 001686, (1912), URL: http://www.museumoflondonprints.com/image/211412/harold-bird-j-miles-and-co-no-votes-thank-you-the-appeal-of-womanhood-postcard-1912 (Last Accessed 28/01/17)

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Louise Jacobs, “The Appeal of Womanhood: poster: 1912”, Museum Of London, Image Number 001241, (1912), URL: http://www.museumoflondonprints.com/image/68563/suffrage-atelier-louise-r-jacobs-the-appeal-of-womanhood-poster-1912 (Last Accessed 28/01/17)

[7] Ibid.

[8] The Women’s Library @LSE, “Antisuffrage: At the suffragette meetings you can here some plain things – and see them too” (1907-1918) URL: http://twl-calm.library.lse.ac.uk/CalmView/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&pos=25 (Last accessed 31/01/17)

[9] The Women’s Library @LSE, “International Suffrage”, (1907-1918), URL: http://twl-calm.library.lse.ac.uk/CalmView/GetImage.ashx?db=Catalog&type=default&fname=TWL-2004-1011-20.jpg (Last accessed 31/01/17)

[10] Anti-Suffrage League, “The Opponents View”, Taken from the British Library, URL: http://www.bl.uk/learning/histcitizen/21cc/struggle/suffrage/sources/source7/opponentsview.html  (Last Accessed 31/01/17)

[11] Jacqueline R. deVries, “Popular and Smart: Why Scholarship on the Women’s Suffrage Movement in Britain Still Matters”, History Compass, Volume 11, Issue 3, (2013): p.179

 

 

Images

Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League, “The Opponent’s View” The British Library,(1908), URL: http://www.bl.uk/learning/images/makeanimpact/suffragettes/large12624.html (Last accessed 31/01/17)

The Women’s Library @LSE, “Antisuffrage: At the suffragette meetings you can here some plain things – and see them too” (1907-1918) URL: http://twl-calm.library.lse.ac.uk/CalmView/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&pos=25 (Last accessed 31/01/17)

The Women’s Library @LSE, “International Suffrage”, (1907-1918), URL: http://twl-calm.library.lse.ac.uk/CalmView/GetImage.ashx?db=Catalog&type=default&fname=TWL-2004-1011-20.jpg (Last accessed 31/01/17)

Louise Jacobs, “The Appeal of Womanhood: poster: 1912”, Museum Of London, Image Number 001241, (1912), URL: http://www.museumoflondonprints.com/image/68563/suffrage-atelier-louise-r-jacobs-the-appeal-of-womanhood-poster-1912 (Last Accessed 28/01/17)

Harold Bird, “No Votes Thank You, The Appeal of Womanhood: postcard: 1912”, Museum of London, Image Number 001686, (1912), URL: http://www.museumoflondonprints.com/image/211412/harold-bird-j-miles-and-co-no-votes-thank-you-the-appeal-of-womanhood-postcard-1912 (Last Accessed 28/01/17)

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One thought on “The Anti-Suffrage Propaganda (Postcards)

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  1. This is a real step up in terms of originality and analysis. I really enjoyed the slide show and thought the ability to stop and start the slide presentation worked well. (My only comment is that one images was too small – I was particularly interested in that image of the meeting, with the “Down with Men” poster – so it would have been great to see it more clearly.)

    I think there was scope to say a little more about the context in which postcards were produced in this period. Lisa Tickner wrote a wonderful book on suffrage imagery. Clearly artwork was used by both pro- and anti-suffragists, not just for propaganda purposes but also for enterprise and fund raising. I wonder who bought the postcards of the hideous looking pro-suffrage women?

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