Today is Women’s Equality Day, the 93rd anniversary of the 19th Amendment granting women the vote. It’s a moment to remember not just the activists who doggedly worked to include women in the democratic process, but also that process’s unfinished business–and those who stood in the way. Below, a compendium of caricatures and cartoons (from the Library of Congress) envisioning the dystopia that female voters would create.
There’s a particular resonance to marking this day on the week commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, and at a time when voting rights are being actively curtailed in many states. For many, these are overlapping struggles. Take 102-year-old Desiline Victor, who waited in line for hours and had to make two visits in order to vote in the last election, and who was a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama at the last State of the Union address, or 92-year-old Rosanell Eaton, who is the plaintiff in the NAACP’s lawsuit against North Carolina’s voting restrictions. As MSNBC’s Zachary Roth recently wrote, Eaton persevered to vote during Jim Crow but would face significant barriers under the new law.
The intersections between the voting rights of women and those of people of color weren’t always recognized; on the contrary, League of Women Voters founder Carrie Chapman Catt openly assured the powers that be that ”White supremacy will be strengthened, not weakened, by women’s suffrage.” These days, though, the League of Women Voters is fighting voter suppression measures that disproportionately affect people of color. And while women are the majority of the American electorate, political representation lags, and getting to 20 women in the Senate last year counted as a major milestone.
As you’ll see below, these drawings were made at a time when those who would keep political power in the hands of a few white men saw no reason to hide their true intentions.
The worst possible outcome of women’s suffrage: Men forced to be manicurists.
“The only way we can gain women’s suffrage is by making our appeal through our charm, our grace, and our beauty.” It wouldn’t be the last time that women’s rights activists would be called ugly.
Women shouldn’t vote because they wear funny hats.
Each of these caricatures shows women doing horrifying things: “drinking; voting for handsome candidates; driving ugly men from the polls; and a domestic scene showing a man taking care of children,” per the Library of Congress.
“Wouldn’t it put too much power in the hands of Brigham Young, and his tribe?” Think of the unfair advantage a polygamist has in directing wifely votes.
“Your husband wants to see you, Mum. He says the baby’s tooth is through at last, and he had to come and show it to you, Mum!”
When the devil removes the lid of “Society,” women get to ride horses, drive cars, gamble, smoke, and get divorced.
“When our national guard is feminized.” Nostalgia, indeed.