Men of the early 20th century couldn’t be intimidated by the fear of being “outdone” by women. But that didn’t stop paranoid propagandists from creating postcards that were designed to do just that.
In a time when women’s suffrage was just starting to gain traction in the United States, these wacky and outrageous postcards, dating from 1900 to 1914, were designed to scare men into thinking that the suffragettes would soon have every man in America sitting down to pee.
Like any change, the transition from a male-dominated society to a society which valued gender equality scared a lot of people. The suffragists were seen by some as a threat to family values and to man’s place in society. Some of these are clearly acts of satire, but others reflect a genuinely comical paranoia that gripped men with the fear of being “sent back home to care for the children.”
They reflect a fear that women who become more politically independent might no longer wish to do work around the house. Consider, for example, the boy bent over a washtub seeming to glare at the “camera,” with the caption reading: “Everyone works but mother, she’s a suffragist.”
Other postcards depict female suffragists attacking policeman or towering over men, as the men are forced to scrub floors or feed babies. Some mock suffragists as loud, hyper-masculine and unweddable loudmouths who need to be silenced.
A few postcards even depict violence, including one of two men “waterboarding” a suffragist with hot soup, and another picture features a woman with her hands tied and her head in a vice. As clever and humorous as some of these postcards are, they were no match for the valid arguments published by the suffragists.
For example, in 1910 the National American Woman Suffrage Association condensed their best arguments into a series of postcards entitled: “Think It Over.” One such argument was that if the Declaration of Independence was created and signed by men who were tired of taxation without representation, women should either be free from paying taxes or granted the right to representation through voting.
As it turns out, the suffragists got what they wanted, proving that civil arguments eventually win against wacky propaganda.