Like people today, people in the early 20th century used political cartoons and humor to make a point. However, unlike current political activists, those in the 20th century did not have access to the Internet to spread their message. Instead, the postcard was a simple, affordable, and easily accessible way for anti-suffragists to express their concerns about what suffrage could mean for the United States.[1] “I Love My Husband, But – Oh You Vote,” was one such postcard. The image and the caption tell the viewer that it is voting rights that turns women from loving wives and mothers into promiscuous and absent figures.

Postcard

“I Love My Husband, But – Oh You Vote” Postcard, 1911, paper, L: 5 1/2 x W: 3 1/2 in. Cooperstown Graduate Program, Cooperstown, New York, Purchase, Teaching Collection, T15.45d. Photograph by Sarah Phillips.

The woman pictured is holding a ballot and wearing a red dress with the hem lifted. The contemporary viewer would have seen the vibrant red color and the raised dress showing her feet and ankles as an indicator of sexual promiscuity. The provocative red dress and the exposed petticoats belong to woman who is acting immorally. The addition of the ballot shows the viewer that voting is the reason the woman is changing from an upstanding and loving wife into something negative.

Additionally, a woman in a red dress appears many times throughout this series of postcards. Other postcards show: men watching children while a woman in a red dress leaves, a woman in a red dress kissing a man, and a man wondering where is wife is while a woman in a red dress is out giving speeches.[2] The repetition reinforces the viewer’s understanding of the fear displayed by this postcard. This fear of a sexually promiscuous woman replacing the “angel in the house,” incited anti-suffragists to use these postcards to explain their concerns over voting equality in an attempt to stop suffrage.[3]

The caption further reinforces the message sent by the image. “I Love My Husband, But – Oh You Vote,” tells the viewer that a woman cannot both love her husband and vote. The “But” in the caption implies that the actions depicted in the two phrases cannot coexist. It is the very act of voting that removes the woman from the house and her duties as a wife and mother. If she truly loved her husband, she would trust him to vote in her stead while she stayed home and cared for the house and children.

The concern that women’s voting rights would lead to absent mothers and promiscuous wives is seen in the caption and image of the anti-suffrage postcard “I Love My Husband, But – Oh You Vote.” The postcard, easily spread and affordable, provided a simple way for anti-suffragists to spread their fear of suffrage and try to influence the fight for voting rights.

 

By Amanda Belli

 

[1] Catherine H. Palczewski, “The Male Madonna and the Feminine Uncle Sam: Visual Argument, Icons, and Ideographs in 1909 Anti-Woman Suffrage Postcards,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 91, no. 4 (2005): 384.

[2] Catherine H. Palczewski, Palczewski Suffrage Postcard Archive, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA, https://sites.uni.edu/palczews/NEW%20postcard%20webpage/Dunston%20Weiler.html.

[3] Palczewski, “The Male Madonna and the Feminine Uncle Sam,” 374.

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