These Seem Disturbingly Sexist Today, But They Were Once Published Everywhere

Our country was founded on the principals of equality. However, as anyone can tell you, it”s been a long, hard journey to that goal, and one that continues today. Today, we look at the time in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when women were fighting for the right to vote. Unfortunately, other people were fighting back.

These illustrations come from the Victorian period, when women struggled for the right to vote. Anyone reading this today likely does not remember a time when a person couldn”t vote simply because of their sex. However, prior to 1920 in the U.S., that”s exactly how it was. Women were once considered to be essentially too hysterical and feeble-minded to make such a serious decision. Thus, voting was left to men (and only men) to decide the fate of not only themselves, but women, too.

If you can”t imagine anyone being against women voting, they were. While both men and women were for the suffrage movement, other men–and even some women–were virulently against it. They thought that if women got the vote, they would abandon their children, become violent, abuse drugs and alcohol and, well, generally act like men. At this time, gender roles were strictly enforced, with men as the leaders and workers and women relegated to the home. It should be noted that this was for the middle and upper classes. Lower class women did work outside the home, but poverty wasn”t considered ladylike, so their realities were often ignored in publications like the ones below.

This illustration appeared in a 1908 issue of Puck magazine. It was an imagining of what the world would look like if women had the vote.

This image suggests that the suffrage movement stems from women not being able to find a husband. This is still an “argument” lobbed at the feminist movement. The suggestion is that women should be “little pets” or “little coquettes.” That is, exist in relation to someone else.

Even though the suffragettes were blasted for being “old,” “ugly,” and “man-hating,” accusations of using overt sexuality were also pointed at them. How they could be all things at once makes no sense, but neither does sexism.

The fear seemed to be that, should they get the vote, women would sit around and drink, smoke, gamble, and badmouth their spouses. In other words, they”d act like men did.

Everyone knows that girls wearing pants is a harbinger of the downfall of civilization.

Another image of the seemingly widespread male fear of partaking in housework. It seems that men”s greatest fear is being treated the way they treated women.

In these times, and more recently, men remained distant from their children. It was considered weird for a man to exhibit affection towards even the smallest children.

The punishing wife and the meek husband seemed to gain a lot of ground with these.

The most common (and cheapest) insult aimed at suffragettes was that they were ugly. Suggesting they were undesirable to men was supposed to appeal to their “natural” inclination towards motherhood (or something). People still do this, and it still makes them look dumb.

This actually happened. Force feeding of jailed or institutionalized suffragettes was a common punishment, meant to force the women into submission. But it”s nice to know that there were people who thought this was amusing.

If these images seem bizarre, upsetting, or outlandish to you, congratulations! You”re a reasonable person. During the 1890s and early 1900s, thousands of images like these were published. It showed the suffragette as a harpy-like figure, berating and sometimes abusing her husband (if she wasn”t a bitter spinster), and ushering in a nightmarish society of brutal female dictators and brow-beaten men. However, to talk to the often abused women of the time, the “wrong” world promised by the illustrations was already a reality, just with the genders switched. If you think about it, these pamphlets seem to say that while the abuse of men was unthinkably wrong, this behavior towards women was acceptable.

Via MessyNessy Chic