Monthly Archives: September 2012

Votes For Women & Sexual Morality

Excerpt from ‘Votes for Women’ (Paula Bartley) Hodder Education

The Contagious Diseases Act & The Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a number of women were dismayed by the sexual double standard whereby women had to remain virginal before marriage and faithful inside it. On the other hand, a blind eye was turned if men had sex with more than one partner. One of women’s greatest victories was the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts (CDAs). These Acts, the first of which had been passed in 1864, allowed police in a number of garrison towns and naval ports the right to arrest women suspected of being common prostitutes and require them to be medically examined for sexually transmitted diseases. If found infected, women could be detained for treatment. This, according to feminists, was unfair, because it blamed prostitutes for the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, not the men who used their services. Under the leadership of Josephine Butler, the Ladies’ National Association led a campaign to repeal these acts and eventually succeeded 22 years after they had been passed.

The success of this campaign prompted feminists to launch a crusade against the sexual exploitation of young girls. In 1885 they achieved a victory when the Criminal Law Amendment Act, which raised the age of sexual consent to 16, was passed. Feminists and others founded the National Vigilance Association to ensure that this act was put into practice and to promote equal high moral standards between the sexes. Edwardian feminists, such as Christabel Pankhurst, took up the social purity cause and demanded that men improve their moral code by remaining chaste outside marriage. Although feminists achieved a small victory in repealing CDAs, the campaign to raise moral standards can be considered to have failed miserably. Today sex before marriage is accepted by the majority of people living in Britain, a fact that would have dismayed these early reformers.

The Suffragettes and Sexual Morality

Until the work of feminist historians in the 1970’s, most history texts ignored the emphasis placed on sex and morality by the suffragists and suffragettes. The few historians who did mention it ridiculed the suffragettes. For instance, the suffragette slogan ‘Votes for Women and Chastity for Men‘ is seen as an amusing peculiarity by George Dangerfield in the 1930’s and Roger Fulford in the 1950’s and as an example of spinsterish eccentricity by Andrew Rosen in the 1970s. However, the relationship between sexuality and the vote has enjoyed a long history in the annals of women’s suffrage. Both the suffragists and the suffragettes placed women’s franchise within the wider context of sexual politics and took the question of sexuality very earnestly indeed. For some suffrage campaigners such as Millicent Fawcett and Christabel Pankhurst the vote was as much about improving men’s sexual morality as it was about improving women’s working conditions.

American Feminism Timeline

Courtesy of End-Hate

Feminism Timeline
1756 Lydia Chapin Taft voted in three New England town meetings, beginning in 1756, at Uxbridge, Massachusetts.
1776 Declaration of Independence. Men were not allowed to vote unless they owned property. By 1850 nearly all requirements to own property or pay taxes had been dropped. (Alexander Keyssar, The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States (2nd ed. 2009) p 29)
1776 New Jersey gives the vote to women owning more than $250. (source) Other states and territories followed.
1800 “Suffrage: This term means the right to vote. The history of suffrage in the United States is about the removal of various limitations on voting for citizens. In the Colonial era church membership (in early New England) and property qualifications limited suffrage, and it was considered a privilege rather than a right, as it is today. Some colonies disfranchised males owning less than 50 acres in land, Jews, free blacks, Catholics, and dissenting Protestants until around 1700. It was not until after the American Revolution, however, that states began removing property qualifications on white males for voting. In 1800, five states allowed male taxpayers to vote for most offices. Still, over half the adult population was excluded from voting when the new nation moved into the nineteenth century: property-less men, women, the enslaved, most free blacks, apprentices, indentured laborers, felons, and those mentally incompetent.” (from The History of the Supreme Court)
1865 The American Civil War resulted in the deaths of an estimated 750,000 men (source) According to the 1860 Census, there were 13,849,087 white men and 13,115,843 white women in the United States and territories in 1860. (source) If the vast majority of men who fought in the Civil War were white then more than 5% of white American men died in the Civil War. In 1860 there were 733,244 more white men than white women in the United States. This suggests the entire excess of white men died in the Civil war.
1873 Founding of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), the oldest feminist organization. According to the WCTU website, “The WCTU was organized by women who were concerned about the destructive power of alcohol and the problems it was causing their families and society.” “The WCTU was very interested in a number of social reform issues, including labor, prostitution … The first president of the organization, Annie Wittenmyer, believed … that it should not put efforts into woman suffrage” (wikipedia) The WCTU’s second president, Frances Willard, perhaps the most famous feminist of the 19th Century, argued that women were “the superior sex” (wikipedia). “In the U.S., leaders of the feminist movement campaigned for the abolition of slavery and Temperance [prohibition of alcohol] prior to championing women’s rights.” (wikipedia) Suffrage (voting) was not a WCTU priority because, at the state level where American political power was concentrated, many women already had the right to vote.
1910 WCTU feminists successfully lobbied Congress to pass the Mann Act, prohibiting prostitution. Naturally, this did not stop women from marrying men with money and avoiding men without money.
1913 Congress passed the Sixteenth Amendment, giving federal government the power to collect income taxes and reflecting a gradual shift of political power from state governments (many of which allowed both men and women to vote) to the federal government.
1913 Congress passed the Seventeenth Amendment, removing the power of state legislatures to elect senators and reflecting further shift of political power from state governments (many of which allowed both men and women to vote) to the federal government. Note that the ability of women to vote at the federal level became more important as political power shifted from the states to the federal government.
1919 WCTU feminists successfully lobbied Congress to pass the Eighteenth Amendment, prohibiting alcohol. It was repealed in 1933.
1920 Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote. Since women already had the right to vote in many states, the main effect of this amendment was to allow women more influence over the relatively small federal government. The federal government at the time was a tiny fraction of its current size.
1947 “the National Association of Women Lawyers (NAWL) voted to draft and promote a bill that would embody the ideal of no-fault divorce” and “The most prominent advocate of this position was feminist law professor Herma Hill Kay” (wikipedia)
1965 Voting extended to all adult citizens (except some felons) of the United States (Voting Rights Act of 1965)
1969 California becomes the first state to enact no-fault divorce. Other states follow.
2012 More than half of marriages now end in divorce and millions of children are deprived of the opportunity to know their own fathers.

Anti-Suffragette Postcards Posters & Cartoons

A collection of cartoons and posters mocking the suffragette campaigns for votes for women :

Suffragette Plain Things

suffragette plain things

Suffragettes Who Have Never Been Kissed c.1910 UK

suffragettes who have never been kissed

Origin and Development of a Suffragette


When Women Wear Pants, c.1915 USA

suffrage pants what will men wear

We Want the Vote 1910 UK

we want the vote

Woman’s Rights 1910 USA

anti suffrage womans rights

Did I Save My Country For This?


Flapper 1925 USA anti-feminist postcard

suffrage flapper

We Don’t Know What We Want But We’ll Get It

anti-suffrage post card

Anti-Suffrage postcard, unknown date


Nobody Loves Me

nobody loves me suffragette

Home for Lost, Stolen or Strayed Suffragettes

the suffragette girls I didn't marry

age of brass triumph of womans rights 1869

anti suffrage cartoon

chicken crow

suffragettes fun

house that man built

queen of the polls smaller

the suffragette i told you so

The Suffragette. “I told you so.” [Postcard]
Copyright 1909, by Walter Wellman

The poster reads:
“The Morning Suffragette Bulletin.
A New Era of Prosperity at Hand.
With the news that a suffragette has been elected as our next presidentess, several flatiron and rolling pin factories have resumed on full time.
It is stated that 10,000,000 faltirons have been ordered by the new War Department alone.”

anti suffrage postcard your valentine

Card reads:
“If you will only marry me you can have all woman’s rights
Such as staying up on evenings when I’m out late at nights
And should such things not satisfy the longings of your soul
You can wash up all the dishes and carry all the coal
As a really model husband I feel I’m bound to shine
So say that you take me to be Your Valentine”

A Procession of Suffragettes

a procession of suffragists

Suffragists On The War Path

suffragists on the war path

Suffragettes Attacking House of Commons

suffagettes attacking house of commons

Call of the Wild

call of the wild

The Wild Rose

the wild rose

What I Would Do With The Suffragists