US suffragette parodies the opposition

// 20 September 2010

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Marie Jenney Howe was a campaigner for women’s enfranchisement in the US and wrote a funny satire of the arguments put forward by those who were against extending the vote to women.

PhDork at the Pursuit of Harpyness described this as the best thing she’s read all week, and it is almost immediately obvious why.

Howe constructs a series of “anti-suffrage couplets”, hilariously juxtaposing the contradictory arguments of her opposition:

My first argument against suffrage is that the women would not use it if they had it. You couldn’t drive them to the polls. My second argument is, if the women were enfranchised they would neglect their homes, desert their families, and spend all their time at the polls. You may tell me that the polls are only open once a year. But I know women. They are creatures of habit. If you let them go to the polls once a year, they will hang round the polls all the rest of the time.

Some of the viewpoints Howe satirises are not unfamiliar today:

Have you ever known a successful woman governor of a state? Or have you ever known a really truly successful woman president of the United States? Well, if they could they would, wouldn’t they? Then, if they haven’t, doesn’t that show they couldn’t? As for the militant suffragettes, they are all hyenas in petticoats. Now do you want to be a hyena and wear petticoats?

One last quote:

It comes down to this. Some one must wash the dishes. Now, would you expect man, man made in the image of God, to roll up his sleeves and wash the dishes? Why, it would be blasphemy. I know that I am but a rib and so I wash the dishes. Or I hire another rib to do it for me, which amounts to the same thing.

See also Womanist Musings’ post last month on the history of women’s suffrage in the US.

Photo of New York suffragettes, holding umbrellas painted with ‘Votes for Women’ slogans, dating from 1910-15. Shared on Flickr by the Library of Congress, no known copyright restrictions

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