Art in the women's suffrage movement in the United States

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Art in the women's suffrage movement of the United States played a critical role. This movement was social so propaganda was crucial to its success.[1]

The women's suffrage movement began in America in the 1840s[2] with the purpose to gain full voting rights for women.[3] Suffragists in the United States succeeded in their effort to receive voting rights on August 26, 1920, when the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified by state legislatures.[2] This amendment stated that voting rights could not be restricted or denied due to the gender of the citizen.[4] There were men and women on both sides of the Women's Suffrage Movement, and opposition by other women was an issue the suffragettes faced throughout their campaign.[5]



Postcards were a very prominent form of propaganda during the Women's Suffrage Movement, as they were very popular from the years 1902 to 1913. Within that eleven year period over 900 million postcards were sent and received. The period between 1898 and 1917 is referred to as the "Golden Age of Postcards." The worldwide trend was in part enabled by the lower costs to create and send these postcards.[6]


The popular poem turned song "Battle Hymn of the Republic" written by Julia Ward Howe and later put to the tune of "John Brown's Body" was adapted to many causes, including the cause of women's suffrage. In 1890 Catharine Weed Campbell added her own spin on the song as it became "The Battle Hymn of the Suffragists". Other notable songs of the movement include: “Woman's Rights” (1853), “She's Good Enough to Be Your Baby's Mother and She's Good Enough to Vote with You”, and “Daughters of Freedom the Ballot Be Yours” by the Poet George Cooper. Each of these songs were extremely supportive of the Suffragettes. Music is often powerful, catchy, and persuasive so it played a notable role in furthering the women's suffrage movement.[7]

An example of the Bloomers worn by early Suffragettes


In the early 19th century women's fashion was physically restrictive due to a strong focus on emphasizing feminine figures, with tight waistlines and restrictive sleeves. These features in women's everyday fashion made it difficult or even impossible for women to participate in the same or similar activities that men could. As the suffragette movement progressed, a type of clothing called Bloomers grew in popularity. They allowed women to have more freedom of movement while still remaining relatively modest. They were popularized mainly by Suffragette leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucy Stone. Eventually, the popularity of Bloomers became a distraction to the main purpose of the Suffrage movement, so women wore them less and less.[7]

American Suffragettes oftentimes wore specific colors convey a specific meaning. They often wore white, purple and yellow to their public meetings; the color white symbolizing purity.[8]


As Motion Pictures, nickelodeon theaters, and other ways to create and share films became popular, these methods were most commonly used by Anti-Suffragettes. Motion Pictures produced by these groups often portrayed women abandoning their families, acting in inappropriate or "unladylike" manners, and forcing their husbands to step into the role of motherhood they had abandoned. Pro-suffragette films were produced after the many anti-suffragette films had been created, often as a response to the anti-suffragette films, and played a critical role in restoring the image of the suffragettes as strong, feminine, and educated women.[7] Suffragettes have been recognized as some of the first to harness this art form to create social change. Many suffragette films were meant to challenge stereotypical gender roles.[9]

Cartoon by Nina Allender featuring the "Allender Girl"


Cartoons were visible all across America on buildings, newspapers, and posters. The cartoons created by Suffragettes were largely made with the purpose to provide a different perspective to the negative portrayals of suffragette women in anti-suffragette cartoons. Nina Allender was one of the notable cartoonists of this era, and after being enlisted by Alice Paul, worked to create the image of the "Allender Girl". Educated, youthful, and feminine, the Allender Girl would showcase the suffragette movement in a positive way. Cartoonists and the women they depicted in their cartoons were mainly white, despite the existence of many colored women in the movement. This may be due to the strategy of the suffragettes to appeal to men and white supremacists, whom may have opposed to the participation of colored women.[10]


Victory by Nina E. Allender

Nina E. Allender[edit]

Nina Allender was the official cartoonist for the National Women's Party. She was an American artist and supporter of the women's suffrage movement.[11] She aided the movement in many ways, she drew cartoons to be used as propaganda, she was the artist for a periodical titled, The Suffragist[12] and she designed a commemorative pin for the women who had been imprisoned to further the movement.[13] One of her famous drawings was titled, Victory. This drawing shows a woman standing tall and holding a banner with the word victory written on it.[14]

Julia Ward Howe[edit]

Portrait of Julia Ward Howe

Born in New York in 1819, Julia Ward Howe was raised by her aunt who played a role in introducing Julia to the literary arts. She was publishing literary works anonymously at age 20, and went on to write The Battle Hymn of the Republic. She took part in founding several Suffrage organizations in the US, including: The American Woman Suffrage Association (AWSA), The New England Suffrage Association, and The Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dolton, Patricia F.; Graham, Aimee (2014). "Women's Suffrage Movement". Reference & User Services Quarterly. 54 (2): 31–36. doi:10.5860/rusq.54n2.31. ISSN 1094-9054.
  2. ^ a b "Woman Suffrage Timeline (1840–1920)". History of U.S. Woman's Suffrage. Retrieved April 4, 2021.
  3. ^ HISTORY.COM EDITORS (October 29, 2009). "Women's Suffrage".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ "United States of America 1789 (rev. 1992) Constitution – Constitute". Retrieved April 5, 2021.
  5. ^ Miller, Joe C. (2015). "Never A Fight of Woman Against Man: What Textbooks Don't Say about Women's Suffrage". The History Teacher. 48 (3): 437–482. ISSN 0018-2745. JSTOR 24810524.
  6. ^ Florey, Kenneth (2017). "Postcards and the New York Suffrage Movement". New York History. 98 (3/4): 441–464. ISSN 0146-437X. JSTOR 26905071.
  7. ^ a b c Creativity and Persistence: Art that Fueled the Fight for Women's Suffrage. National Endowment for the Arts. 2020. ISBN 978-0-578-71425-7.
  8. ^ O'Brien, Alden (March 7, 2013). "Part I: Great strides for the "New Woman," suffrage, and fashion". National Museum of American History. Retrieved April 14, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ LUMSDEN, LINDA J. (2020). "Historiography". In STEINER, LINDA; KITCH, CAROLYN; KROEGER, BROOKE (eds.). Historiography:: Women's Suffrage and the Media. Front Pages, Front Lines. Media and the Fight for Women's Suffrage. University of Illinois Press. pp. 15–41. doi:10.5406/j.ctvxkn5tp.5. ISBN 978-0-252-04310-9. JSTOR 10.5406/j.ctvxkn5tp.5. S2CID 243058146. Retrieved April 4, 2021.
  10. ^ Diamond, Anna (August 14, 2020). "Fighting for the Vote With Cartoons". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 14, 2021.
  11. ^ "Nina Allender (U.S. National Park Service)". Retrieved April 5, 2021.
  12. ^ "Nina Evans Allender (1872–1957) – Find A Grave..." Retrieved April 5, 2021.
  13. ^ "Collections Search Center, Smithsonian Institution". April 27, 2015. Archived from the original on April 27, 2015. Retrieved April 5, 2021.
  14. ^ "Imagery and Propaganda". History of U.S. Woman's Suffrage. Retrieved April 5, 2021.
  15. ^ "Julia Ward Howe". National Women's History Museum. Retrieved April 14, 2021.