1915 saw the decades-long battle for women’s suffrage move to New York State: In January the legislature forwarded to the voters a referendum on a constitutional amendment, which if passed would grant all women full voting rights. Success would have been a huge milestone in the suffrage movement, as New York would have been the first state east of the Mississippi to do so. Alas, the so-called Empire State Campaign failed in November at the ballot box, though the amendment passed when it was brought up again in 1917. Less than three years later all American women—or at least all Caucasian women—achieved full suffrage with ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Puck magazine went all-in on the first New York referendum, and in February 1915 produced a special “Woman Suffrage” issue under the editorial aegis of state and national suffrage organizations. This was filled with opinion pieces, articles and images supporting the cause, but the undoubted showstopper was The Awakening, a magnificent centerfold pictorial map highlighting the west-to-east progress of women’s suffrage across the nation:
“Lady Liberty, wearing a cape labeled “Votes for Women,” stands astride the states (colored white) that had adopted suffrage. She holds aloft her torch, bringing “enlightenment” to women in those states still in the dark. The faces of these women are turned up to the light, and some reach out in hope. (Many have fashionably short hair and hats, reflecting the middle and upper class core of the suffrage movement.) ….
Below the illustration is a poem by Alice Duer Miller, a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, member of the Algonquin Hotel Round Table and “popular poet of tremendous range and skill.” Miller was an active and tireless feminist who produced a substantial volume of “defiant, witty suffrage verse.”” (PJ Mode)
The Awakening is the most dramatic of the millions of maps produced by the suffrage movement and disseminated in books, magazines and newspapers, and as flyers, posters, postage stamps and tchotchkes of all sorts. Like the Awakening, most used white to indicate states granting women full voting rights, with states granting partial rights (e.g., voting in primaries) gray or shaded, and those granting no rights in black… the color of ignorance and evil. Indeed, one of the catchphrases of suffragists was “Make the map all white!”
This phrase, and the exclusively Caucasian faces of the Eastern women gazing up at Lady Liberty reveal the compromises and limits embedded in the movement: In the hope of selling the former states of the Confederacy on women’s suffrage, movement leaders did not merely ignore the restrictions these states placed on the voting rights of all African-Americans, but even emphasized them as a selling point. Consider for example this text from a suffrage broadside I handled earlier in 2020:
“Because the Federal Suffrage Amendment, when in operation can only prevent the States from disfranchising ALL women “because THEY ARE WOMEN.” But it CANNOT prevent the States from imposing such RESTRICTIONS upon WOMAN’S VOTE as EACH STATE NOW IMPOSES upon the MAN’S VOTE, namely, the POLL TAX, RESIDENTIAL QUALIFICATION and the ABILITY TO READ and WRITE.
“There is NOW no negro domination UNDER MALE SUFFRAGE in the counties in Virginia where white people are in the minority, and there will be NO NEGRO DOMINATION with MEN and WOMEN VOTING. The SAME STATE RESTRICTIONS which NOW APPLY to the MAN VOTER will also APPLY TO THE WOMAN VOTER, when the Federal Suffrage Amendment has been ratified.”
Rarity and references
Puck was, and is, an icon of American publishing, but by 1915 it was on its last legs, and circulation had dwindled to perhaps 10,000 copies, the vast majority of which would have been read and promptly disposed. Hence the great rarity of this issue in general and The Awakening in particular. This is the first time I have seen it on the antiquarian map market. One of the most diligent and resourceful “finders” of persuasive maps I know has told me it took him five years to locate his copy.
Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Collection, #1176. Background from a pre-publication draft of Susan Schulten, ““Make the map all white:” the meaning of maps in the prohibition and suffrage campaigns”, University of Colorado Law Review, volume 92 (2021).