Her Hat Was in the Ring!

U.S.Women Who Ran for Political Office Before 1920

Cartoons, postcards, and other images of women participating in electoral campaigns

From the early days of the woman's rights movement, cartoonists and satirists made fun of the women and their goals. The cartoons, comic images, and postcards depicted here all concern the possibility of women gaining access to elected political offices. These images cover a forty-year period, with similar themes re-occuring over and over again throughout that time. If women gained access to the franchise and political office then all traditional roles would be overturned. Women would take on the worst behaviors of men in politics, becoming sexualized, coarse, and unethical; men would become feminized and domesticated. In the images shown here political women are either parodied as men or as exaggerated women. The "masculine" women are dressed (at least partially), in male clothing, appear in male bodily positions-arms crossed, legs crossed, fists raised, and smoking a cigar or cigarette. Alternatively women have large hairdos, over-sized hats, and extra flounces or ribbons on their clothes. Often the politics or political positions of these overly "feminized" women candidates are trivialized-for example, calling for a reduction in tariffs on Paris gowns, in the 1909 Walter Wellman postcard "The Suffragette for Senatoress." The issues women's rights activists were fighting for: access to the franchise and elected office; equal rights in marriage; access to education and job training, the professions and skilled worked; economic independence, equal rights to, and protection for their children, were often made to appear ridiculous, trivial, and extremist.
A few positive images of women as pariticipants in the political system, in elected office, or as actual politicians did also appear in magazines and newspapers of the day.
For further suffrage and election images online, see the Palczewski Suffrage Postcard Archive at the University of Northern Iowa and Women Suffrage Memorabilia site by Kenneth Florey.


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"The Age of Brass: Or the Triumph of Woman's Rights," Lithograph Print, Currier and Ives, 1869
Library of Congress
"Miss Hang Man" is running for Sheriff and "Susan Sharp-Tongue, the Celebrated Man Tamer" is running for an unspecified office

Photographic self-portrait of Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1896, looking similar to the candidate "Susan Sharp Tongue" from "The Age of Brass," in 1869, with skirts raised, legs exposed and crossed, in the "masculine" ankle on knee position, and each woman is smoking.

Cartoon of Belva Lockwood during her 1884 campaign for President of the United States
on the front of the September 1884 issue of Puck. For additional cartoons and images of Lockwood click here
Library of Congress

"The American Woman in Politics"*
In 1884 when Lockwood ran for President, some women had local suffrage rights, and a very few had equal suffrage with men. Most women were forced to act through men. Click for larger version of this page.
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, September 30, 1884


"Sorosis, 1869"
Sorosis, a women's political and professional organization, was founded by Jane Cunningham Croly and other professional women the previous year. Women on the right side of the cartoon are selecting nominations for "Governess"

from Harper's Weekly, May 15, 1869
drawn by Charles G. Bush

for a larger version of this cartoon click here

Supporters of woman suffrage believed women would clean up "dirty" politics. Some anti-suffragists believed women would become corrupted by the process. Here a woman campaigner pays for votes. Note too the differences in age and class between the "Suffragette" and the women she is paying.

Postcard from the Dunston-Weiler Suffragette Series


Women would run campaigns with "frivolous" concerns.
Even this comic postcard noted women's work in establishing a juvenile court system, in the first decade of the twentieth century, advertising Miss Spinster's race for Justice of the Children's Court.

Postcard from the Dunston-Weiler Suffragette Series

"Would You Vote for Me For Mayor? I'll Show You the Town if You Foot the Bill." The idea of women in public office is full of sexual innuendo in this postcard. By 1910 over 25 women had campaigned for the office of Mayor.
This postcard was part of a series depicting scantily clad women, "running" for a variety of public positions on the "Suffragette Ticket". The women were always depicted with the same leering, "small" man
circa 1910.*
Suffragette Ticket Series, #94

"Would you Vote for Me for Judge? A Woman is the Best Judge of a Man. Her Sentences are Always Easy. Don't you want to be tried before me?"
Another card in the Suffragette Ticket Series
Circa 1910
By 1910 about 8 women had campaigned for positions as police court judge and probate court judge.*

The reverse of this "business" card satirizes woman's rights organizations and calls for equal suffrage and legislative equality. It is also full of double meanings and sexual innuendo-from "friction through our combinations" (a term for underwear as well as organizations), to "being placed on the floor of the House" and the call for "Up With Petticoats" and "Down With Pants".*

Women's rights supporters in Lawrence, Kansas in 1912.
Women in Kansas had the right to vote in school elections in 1861. In 1887 they could vote in local and state races. After a long campaign they gained full suffrage rights in 1912. By 1912 over 700 women in the state had been elected public officem making it the leading state in the nation. In this photograph women are campaigning for full suffrage rights and supporting women running for public offices. The sign on the windshield of the car reads "Votes for Women", but the other two signs read with the more imperative phrase "Vote for Women".
Kansas Historical Society

Click here to see a similar image of British Women campaigning, at about the same time.


"Another Declaration of Independence"* (click here for a larger version),
a positive view of women claiming their political rights appeared in Harper's Weekly,
almost one hundred years after the famous oil painting by John Trumball,
"The Declaration of Independence," was placed in the U.S. Capitol in 1819.

"Sigining the Declaration of Their Indpendence" by Samuel D. Ehrhart
appeared the following year, published in 1911 in Puck. The declaration on the table reads: "When in the course of female events it becomes necessary for women to have the ballot they're going to get it".
Courtesy of the Library of Congress

The new female Suffragette Presidentess of the United States in 1909, makes domestic "butter" rather than "guns" a priority of her new administration. This policy is of rolling pins and flat irons is treated as a farce. In the last quarter of the 19th century both Victoria Woodhull had Belva Lockwood had run for U.S. President.

Postcard Walter Wellman Suffragette Series

Although by 1909 women were serving in state legislatures
and many other elected offices, opponents pictured female public officials
as only concerned with "feminine frippery."

Postcard Walter Wellman Suffragette Series

Another negative deptiction of a woman in a powerful poltical position is seen in this postcard. Sexual politics in the home were conflated with politics in the House [of Representatives].
Postcard Walter Wellman Suffragette Series

There were continued fears that once women gained power in elected positions, their concern would focus on "women's issues," such as marriage. If women were to gain power, men would be diminished, depicted in this comic postcard quite literally
Postcard Walter Wellman Suffragette Series
1909 *

"Let Women Run the Government"
There were popular fears that men would be"feminized"
and relegated to child care, if women were elected to public office.
here to see the British version of this postcard.
Postcard from the Dunston-Weiler Suffragette Series

Cover of the October 1913 cover of Good Housekeeping Magazine pictured a woman (judge?) with a gavel in her hand. This issue of Good Housekeeping contained a story by writer Corra Harris, who, in 1915, would publish a novelThe Co-Citizens about women winning the municipal vote in a fictional Southern town.
Cover by magazine artist Coles Phillips *

"When Women Vote"*
Mrs. Jones has been elected Sheriff and is surrounded by her female supporters, in this drawing, which appeared in Life magazine (circa 1910). The seated man and young boy look completely downcast, and the "Gibson Girl" seems unsure if she supports the new sheriff. [Click here to see a larger version]

"The Mayoress or When Woman Rules"
Sheet music for a comic opera, copy righted 1910.
Courtesy of Kenneth Florey
"Woman Suffrage Memorabilia"


This postcard of a young woman with political ambitions has its comic aspects.
Postcard, circa 1913*

Hannah G. Solomon was perhaps the first Jewish woman in the U.S. to campaign for a political office. This flyer comes from her 1914 race for University Trustee. Solomon ran for the same office in 1904. For more on Solomon click here.
Campaign flyer, 1914*

By the 1920s women such as Ruth Hanna McCormick had become veteran campaigners,
reaching for the highest offices in the United States government.
McCormick served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1929-1930, from the state of Illinois.
Her bid for the senate in 1930 was unsuccessful.
Metal campaign clicker from the Ruth Hanna McCormick senatorial campaign of 1930.*

This metal "clicker" might have been handed out to children to make noise at campaign events.
Note that the McCormick campaign organizers reached out to female and male voters.
Metal campaign clicker (reverse) from the Ruth Hanna McCormick senatorial campaign of 1930.*


Cross-Stitched Embroidery, circa 1970
(Stitched by Wendy Chmielewski)
Private Collection

Campaign card for Clara Wood Derr, 1926
Derr was first elected to the Ohio state legislature from 1924 to 1930, representing Cayuhoga County, including the city of Cleveland.
Derr had long experience in politics, having served firstas Deputy Town Clerk in her hometown in Michigan, and later in political circles in Cleveland..*

Great Britain
Great Britain

A British postcard from about 1905 from the "House that Man Built" Series produced by Birn Brothers, "BB".
The "House" referred to in the series are the Houses of Parliament. Birn Brothers produced both pro- and anti-suffrage postcards in this series.
In the pro-suffrage postcards the women are attractive, well-dressed, and ask "reasonably" for equal rights. In the anti-suffrage postcards in this series the women are caricatures, unattractive, and often of a lower-class. They are sometimes pictured with fist or umbrella raised, threatening to charge into the "House", at the expense of rights for men.

Once women received the vote the next step would election to Parliament. In this postcard female MPs would be just as professional as their male counterparts. Male MPs would treat their female counterparts as equals, while remaining courteous. The idea that men and women "sitting late" in the House, might be indulging in risque or romantic flirtations is replaced by professional behaviour.
Birn Brothers, "House that Man Built" Series
Great Britain
Great Britain

Another British postcard from the same Birn Brothers series. In this postcard the artist imagines a time when women are already serving as ministers in the "House", and the men admit that "the ladies have brains". The male and female MPs are all depicted as serious, competent, public officials.The Speaker standing in front of the Sapientia, at the head of the table appears to be female. Betty Boothroyd, Baroness Boothroyd, was the first, and to date, only woman who has served as Speaker of the British House of Commons. She was first elected in 1997. Boothroyd chose not to wear the traditional Speaker's wig. Deputy Speaker Betty Harvie Anderson, Baroness Skrimshire of Quarter, was the first woman to sit in the Speaker's chair, serving from 1970-1973.*

A British postcard from circa 1916, depicting husbands as taking care of children when women become politicians. An American version of this postcard (same wording, different images) was published by a different company, about the same time. Click here to see the two postcards side by side.*

Campaign postcard for Mrs Merry, elected to a position on a county or borough council. The campaign poster in the front windshield of the car reads in part "Vote for Mrs. Merry". On the back of this card Councillor Merry has written "Polled more votes than both my opponents put together". It is likely that the women pictured were part of Merry's campaigning team and helped to get her elected.
British women gained the right to vote in municipal elections and stand for election to county and borough councils in 1907.
Click here to see an image of U.S. women campaigning at about the same time.

A French postcard from the early part of the 20th century depicting a woman as a government minister. This postcard was part of a series showing the "Les Femmes de l'Avenir", or the "New Woman", in a variety of traditionally male jobs or positions.
The women were often dresed in tight-fitting, or form-fitting "masculine" clothing, loosely appropriate for the various occupations depicted.

"Equal Rights of Women"
This postcard shows one of sixteen images created by Soviet palekh artist, Bokarev Konstantin Sergeevich as part of the 1976 series "We Are Living a New Way Now." In this series the artist depicted romanticized views of life in villages in the early years of the Soviet Union. This one shows women as politicians and members of a local council and is titled "Equal Rights of Women". This image would have appeared on a wooden enameled box (palekh)*


*From the private collection of Jill Norgren and Wendy Chmielewski

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