A.D. 1915, with Puck's Apologies to the "Coming Woman"

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A.D. 1915, with Puck's Apologies to the "Coming Woman"

Editorial cartoon

By: Fredrick Burr Opper

Date: 1895

Source: Opper, Frederick Burr. A.D. 1915, with Puck's Apologies to the "Coming Woman." © Corbis.

About the Artist: Fredrick Burr Opper (1857–1937) was a cartoonist for Puck, America's first successful humor magazine. Published from 1877 to 1918, it was known for its colorful cartoons that satirized the political and social issues of the day. Opper left Puck in 1899 to draw weekly cartoons for William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal. Vision problems forced him into semiretirement in 1932.


American women began formally agitating for the right to vote in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention. Seventy-two years later, the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution gave women the ballot. The fight had been long and bitter.

Almost as soon as the woman's rights movement got underway in the mid-nineteenth century, negative visual images of women activists began to appear in the popular press. Such images typically showed suffrage activists as aggressive, cigar-smoking, pants-wearing shrews who neglected their children and forced their men into domestic drudgery. Men who supported woman suffrage were portrayed as being forced to baby-sit, cook, or wield a mop, usually making a mess of all these tasks. By conveying the message that women seeking to change traditional gender roles would harm society's moral and political structure, this pictorial rhetoric slowed down the political advance of women.

Until the suffrage battle, women were generally excluded from the world of cartooning. Visual satire was created by men and focused on the world of men. In the U.S., humor magazines, such as Puck, did not become popular until the last years of the decade. They used humor as social commentary to guide their readers to a particular point of view.



See primary source image.


By the start of the twentieth century, the campaign for woman suffrage had won a few victories, but only in the West. The majority of Americans were either indifferent to the idea or openly hostile to it. In response, women activists decided to turn the tables and use cartoons for their own advantage. They began to harness the power of images to work for their side of the suffrage argument.

Pro-suffrage cartoons used two persuasive techniques. Some of the cartoons presented the vote as a means to end the historical oppression of women. Most of the images pointed out that civilization lost ground by excluding women from active citizenship. The cartoonists contended that women voters, given the chance, would improve humanity. To a Progressive era audience eager to use the power of government to fix society's ills, it was a powerful argument. This message combined with women's contributions during World War I to persuade men to grant women the ballot in 1920.



DuBois, Ellen Carol. Feminism and Suffrage: The Emergence of an Independent Women's Movement in America, 1848–1869. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1978.

Sheppard, Alice. Cartooning for Suffrage. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994.

Wheeler, Marjorie Spruill, ed. One Woman, One Vote: Rediscovering the Woman Suffrage Movement. Troutdale, OR: New Sage Press, 1995.