10 collectible suffrage posters
2018 marks the centenary of British women achieving suffrage – the right to vote. Two years later, their American cousins would join them.
It had been a long struggle, as these 10 evocative and highly collectible posters reveal.
Women’s Social & Political Union poster
In the UK, Emmeline Pankhurst was the most vocal campaigner for women’s suffrage. Her activism and that of thousands of other women finally got its rewards in 1918.
The Women’s Social & Political Union (WSPU), founded by Pankhurst in 1903, was the highest profile suffrage group in the UK, and the most militant. Physical and verbal attacks on politicians were commonplace, and broken windows on government buildings became a familiar sight. Several suffragettes went to prison. There, many went on hunger strike. Many of those were force fed.
The cat and mouse act
The public outcry over the force feeding of suffragettes in prison led the British government to pass the Prisoners Temporary Discharge for Health Act in 1913. This saw the release of hunger-striking prisoners whose health was suffering. The prisoners were returned to prison once they had regained their strength. Some dubbed it the “cat and mouse act” for the way cats release mice before recapturing them.
US cartoonist Rose O'Neill’s Kewpies were everywhere in the first years of the 1900s. A supporter of the suffrage movement, O’Neill gave permission for the National Woman's Suffrage Publishing Company to use her comic strip creations in advertising. This poster is thought unique today.
1913 – and a long way to go
Until the nationwide 19th Amendment of 1920, US women gained the right to vote on a state by state case. This 1913 broadside reveals that less than 10 countries had granted full suffrage to women.
Artists Suffrage League poster
In the US, the Artists Suffrage League published this nuanced take on the suffrage argument. Despite undertaking the same task (ie life), the woman does not have the same tools as the man.
The anti-suffrage movement
There was a strong backlash against the suffrage movement.
This circa 1910 poster warned men what they can expect to come home to if their wife becomes a suffragette.
Woodrow Wilson opposed (at least publicly) suffrage when he became president in 1913. His view had changed (at least publicly!) by 1915 in this poster ahead of a vote (by men, of course) in his home state of New Jersey. The motion was defeated.
West coast state of mind
The older states of the US were later advocates of women’s suffrage than the free thinkers on the west coast, as this poster testifies.
The Great War
The outbreak of World War One saw suffragette groups in the UK and US call a halt to militant activities in order to support of the war effort. However, Emmeline Pankhurst relentlessly campaigned for women to be given men’s roles during the conflict.
This sign adorned a US trolley bus during the Great War.
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