I have already written about Anti-Suffragette imagery in postcards but the Suffragette movement were determined to fight back with positive images. The Suffrage leaders recognised the importance of visual imagery to reach potential supporters and set about challenging some of the anti-suffrage stereotypes and replacing them with something better.
This was helped by the invention of the real photo postcard (c 1904-1905) which allowed the Suffrage organisations to show the public what the leaders of the movement really looked like.
They had the opportunity to portray the leaders as sensible, feminine women looking intelligent and rational. Christabel Pankhurst who was a Manchester University Law graduate was often shown in her graduation gowns. Christabel became something of a pin-up for the Suffragettes as she was attractive, stylish and charismatic and her photograph was used on many of their postcards, such as the one shown here.
Postcards of marches and processions became very popular as they demonstrated the strength of support for their cause, but also to show the types of women who stood for it. Members of the public could see that the women in suffrage parades were not the man-hating ugly shrews depicted on the Anti-Suffragette postcards. They were disciplined and passionate, but also stylishly dressed and exuding femininity.
They also helped to show the vast numbers of women involved in the processions. 13,000 women marched in the Procession of Women march organised by the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies in June 1908 which was able to show that counter to some Politicians claims, women really did want the vote!
The Artists’ Suffrage League (AFL), was established in 1907 to produce artwork for the “Mud March” in February of that year organised by the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). They were responsible for some of the most beautiful banners and posters used by the NUWSS in future marches.
One of their most iconic images is the “Bugler Girl” seen here, which was used to call women to demonstrations. In 1909, they organised a poster competition and the artist Duncan Grant won the competition with his poster, “Handicapped!”
The Suffrage Atelier, was established in February 1909. They were mainly illustrators who could produce work quickly in support of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Their most famous design and probably one of the most effective is the postcard called “What a Woman may be, and yet not have the Vote”, pictured here. Both the Suffrage Atelier and the Artists’ Suffrage League used their members’ skills to great effect to galvanise sympathy and support for the cause.