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“Fine Dignity, Picturesque Beauty, and Serious Purpose”:

The Reorientation of Suffrage Media in the Twentieth Century

Emily Scarbrough, Author

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Little Suffragists

The use of children in the suffrage media campaign may appear counter intuitive to a modern audience because children are envisioned as politically insignificant. However, likening little girls to woman suffragists helped suffrage appeal to men who believed suffrage to be threatening. By comparing woman voters to cute little girls, the suffrage movement was able to win a lot of commercial support. This was especially true for suffrage postcards which often employed the use of children or even babies. 

The cause enlisted the hugely popular images of Kewpies -- an army of cherub-like babies whose dimples and diapers endeared the American public. Created by Rose O'Neill, the Kewpies were a huge commercial success through poetry published in national magazines, mass-produced bisque dolls, and charming postcards. O'Neill lent her famed Cupids to the suffrage cause, as she was a supporter of woman's enfranchisement.

O'Neill and other illustrators additionally suggested that children demanded the votes on behalf of their mothers who needed the vote to help regulate all things concerning childcare. Female suffragists also thought that the use of girls in their images helped to frame woman's suffrage, not only as an issue concerning adults, but the lives and futures of female children.

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