womens suffrage movement

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Women in Menswear, 1900

Mashable has a cool story about two Norwegian photographers and their gender bending experiments in the late 19th century. Between the years of 1895 and 1903, Marie Høeg and Bolette Berg operated a small commercial photography studio in Horten, a town in Vestfold county, Norway. During their off hours, they’d dress up in men’s clothing, or put on fake mustaches while wearing dresses, as a way to explore the boundaries of gender. An except:

Høeg was an active and outspoken suffragist, and used the studio as a meeting place for fellow activists and women interested in the suffrage movement. (Women won the right to vote in Norway in 1913.)

More than three decades after Høeg’s death in 1949, a box of the partners’ glass plate negatives marked “private” was discovered on a farm where they once lived.

[…]

Høeg’s defiant suffragist spirit shines through the images, her costume choices allowing her to occupy traditionally male roles and personas as she campaigns for women’s right to an equal place in society.

You can see the rest here. 

(story via Christina Binkley)

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I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this, to be honest. Do these women realize the irony of the fact that they wouldn’t even be ALLOWED to state their views this way had women before them not fought, starved, suffered, and died for their right to do so? That’s what feminism is, you poor, deluded fools.

If it wasn’t for feminists these women wouldn’t be allowed to vote, drive, work, or educate themselves. At all. Everything they have and enjoy in what makes up their life, every single right that these spoiled young women take for granted, their grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and great-great-grandmothers fought relentlessly for so that we wouldn’t be denied what was denied them. I’m appalled that the history of the Suffragettes and the women’s rights movement isn’t taught in schools alongside black history or the Holocaust. It should be a mandatory part of any curriculum because clearly, it’s needed.

And you may not want to “politicize your gender”, but guess what, sweetheart? That is done FOR you the second you are born whether you want it to or not. That’s kind of part of the whole problem. Someone needs to sit these women down and teach them what their parents clearly failed to teach because my God…they have no clue.

EDUCATION + WOMEN = LESBIANISM

The idea of “romantic friendship”, love between young women, was considered the norm and even encouraged because it was believed to “constitute the richness, consolation, and joy of their lives.” In western society, this long-standing tradition that can be traced back to the Renaissance came to an abrupt end in the latter part of the 19th century; when sexologists began to suggest that love between women was abnormal. Interestingly, this coincided with increasing militancy of 19th-century feminists who were agitating together for not only suffrage but also for more opportunities in education and the job market. More than other phenomenon, education may be said to have been responsible for what eventually became referred to as lesbianism.

How does the math add up?

  • As historian Lillian Faderman eloquently puts it “there was no male measuring sticks around to distract, define, or detract” at all women’s colleges, allowing them to form a peer culture unfettered by parental and societal dictates, to create their own hierarchy  of values, and to become their own heroes and leaders. 

  • Although romantic friendships were still common outside of women’s colleges, sheltered from the “real world”, these passions were encouraged to be explored in academic settings as females could now meet each other in larger numbers. To add to this, colleges afforded them the leisure and the time necessary to cultivate those relationships. At colleges, romantic friendship was now called “smashes”, “crushes”, and “spoons”.

  • By the time they it was time for them to leave and face a hostile world that was not yet prepared to receive them, sex solidarity became a necessity. They were not welcomed by men whom perceived it to be their own territory. They had to rely on each other for support and encouragement. These “crushes” are believed to have developed into life long friendships or love-relationships.  

  • Conservative criticism against higher education for females argued that women became “masculinized” and rendered them attractive to one another:
    • They were right in some aspects. Statistics corroborate that females who attended college were far less likely to marry than their uneducated counterparts: while only 10% of American women in general remained single between 1880-1990, about 50% of American college women remained single at that time. 

    • This could be partially attributed to that most men feared educated females and would not take them as wives.

    • However, this statistic may also be explained by that many pioneering females with ambition understood that marriage would seldom be feasible for them; running a home and raising children would prevent them from pursuing other goals as there were few husbands who could be expected to sacrifice their historically entrenched prerogatives to revolutionary female notions. 

= By the end of the century, ambitious women of the middle class who loved other females had the opportunity to escape from marriage. No longer economically constrained to give up their female lovers they began to resist social pressure toward marriage. For the first time in American history, large numbers of women could build lives with other women. They shared vast excitement and a sense of mission about their mutual roles of creating new possibilities for women. In same-sex households (”Boston Marriages”) they banded together against a world in that was still largely hostile to the opening of education and professions to women. Exactly how unlikely is it that such excitements would lead to passionate relationships at the time when there was not yet widespread stigma against female sex-relationships?

Source: Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers - a History of Lesbian Life in 20th-Century America by Lillian Faderman

4

An Illustrated Ode To Jessie Craigen: A Queer, Ugly, Working-Class Suffragist

Jessie Craigen was a mess. She struggled to support herself financially, inspired snickering comments about her appearance and nursed an embarrassingly unrequited love for another woman. She was vocal in her passions, unrelenting in her judgment and fierce in her loyalty. Today, she’s lucky if she’s mentioned in a footnote about working-class women in the British suffrage movement.


To me, she’s a hero.

Suffragettes were members of women’s organization (right to vote) movements in the late 19th and early 20th century, particularly militants in Great Britain such as members of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Suffragist is a more general term for members of suffrage movements, if radical or conservative, male or female. Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst (picture) used violent tactics in Britain as members of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU)

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In New York State, women were denied the right to vote until 1917. That was two years after these broadsides were produced by the Woman Suffrage Party of New York. It wasn’t until 1920 that voting rights were extended to women in every state via the 19th Amendment. 

Woman Suffrage Party of New York City. Broadsides. 1915. New-York Historical Society.