One of the most interesting things about the Suffragette campaign was the strong passions that it aroused on both sides of the debate and theese often militant feelings are reflected in the postcards that were available at the time.
Postcards had only been introduced into Britain in the late part of the 19th Century but they did not become seriously popular until 1902 when Britain became the first country to allow both address and message to be written on one side of the card, freeing up the whole of the other for the picture. From that point on they exploded in popularity: with up to seven deliveries a day it was possible to send someone a postcard in the morning inviting a friend to tea that afternoon!
Postcard manufacturers were quick to react and soon produced postcards not only with pictures of places but also reflecting the politics and celebrities of the day. Suffragette postcards were hugely popular and allowed people to express their opinions on the subject by sending either or Pro or an Anti Suffragette postcard.
Most of the Anti-Suffragette postcards were hugely unflattering and now seem either deeply cruel or patronising. The suffragettes were often portrayed as grumpy old women, extremely ugly with little round glasses and sometimes with warts or hairs sprouting out of their chins. They were often spinsters and as such obviously served as a warning to women that if they didn’t watch out they might end up like this as well. The men who were with the suffragettes were also drawn as skinny, little men who looked worried and bullied.
American anti-suffrage postcards often showed suffragettes as little girls pretending to grown- ups and sometimes as little kittens with collars and bows. Alternatively men of course were portrayed as strong and dependable dogs and often as strong looking bull dogs protecting Britain from all this nonsense!
Then there were the postcards that focussed on some of the acts of militancy to show the suffragettes as unhinged and hysterical, smashing windows and setting fire to buildings in an irrational way. Unfortunately, there is no doubt that these anti-suffrage postcards did injure the cause. Read more about how the suffrage organisations fought back in my blog post ‘The Imagery of Pro-suffragette Postcards’.
If you like to know more about this fascinating subject, there are some excellent books available about the propaganda, postcards and photographs from this period.