Sign in or register
for additional privileges

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

The Reorientation of Suffrage Media in the Twentieth Century

Emily Scarbrough, Author

You appear to be using an older verion of Internet Explorer. For the best experience please upgrade your IE version or switch to a another web browser.

The Citizen

            If it was the aim of the National Woman’s Party to turn suffragists into martyrs, it was the aim of the National American Woman Suffrage Association to turn suffragists into citizens. While the NWP camped out on Woodrow Wilson’s doorstep, the members of NAWSA became intimately involved in the war effort. They wanted to prove that women could bear the burden of citizenship and deserved the privileges. NAWSA encouraged its members to join in the war effort. The cover of NAWSA’s premier publication The Woman Citizen often featured allegorical beauties. NAWSA paid particular attention to the way these figures could be used to represent not only the virtuous past, but also the connection to woman’s citizenship. The magazine played often with ideas of justice. The cover of the June 30, 1917 issue delved into this idea of female citizenship by employing an allegorical vision of a woman holding the flag. The caption “The Woman Without a Country” refers to the particular problem of woman citizens who paid taxes, owned property, held jobs, but were silenced politically. Women were denied citizenship, while they held open the door for immigrants. The cartoon definitely plays on older types than those of the NWP, but the nativist message of the illustration reflects a very modern concern for white, middle-class Americans in the Progressive Era. The native vote would be overrun by the influx of new American citizens who were born abroad. NAWSA suggested that women voters could easily combat this foreign influence. NAWSA members supported the war as a means to legitimize their own citizenship. Because of the efforts of NAWSA Woodrow Wilson came out publicly in support of woman’s suffrage on September 30, 1918. Wilson asked Congress, “We have made partners of women in this war. Shall we admit them only to a partnership of suffering and sacrifice and toil and not to partnership of privilege and right?”[1] As a result of this mutual appreciation of the United States government and the national woman’s suffrage movement, the cartoons of The Woman Citizen are remarkably patriotic in the war years. In December, 1920 after votes for women had become a reality the NAWSA publication printed “Suffrage Won – Forward March!” The cartoon features a rather modern looking woman with bobbed hair poised in front of the United States Capitol building. The woman embodies the militancy of citizenship with the title of the cartoon and the red, white, and blue colors she wears play off the patriotic spirit of American women as they embark on full citizenship. NAWSA played with a number of other tropes in addition to the citizen, but the dutiful service of women during the war dominated the themes of The Woman Citizen.

[1] Elizabeth Frost-Knapmann and Kathryn Cullen-DuPont, Women’s Suffrage in America (New York: Facts on File, 2005), 424.

Comment on this page

Discussion of "The Citizen"

Add your voice to this discussion.

Checking your signed in status ...

Previous page on path Chapter Three "Our Hat is in the Ring", page 7 of 9 Next page on path