Votes for Women a Success

VOTES FOR WOMEN A SUCCESS [:] NORTH AMERICA PROVES IT. New York: New York State Woman Suffrage Party, Sept., 1917.
Small broadside, 9 ¾”h x 6 7/8”w at sheet edge. Acidic paper toned and friable, with some chipping and edge tears reinforced on verso.

A clever handbill arguing for the expansion of voting rights for women in the United States, using a clever persuasive map to highlight the expansion of suffrage across the states.

By 1900 only four states (beginning with Wyoming in 1869) had granted women the vote, and the suffrage effort was flagging. But a new generation of leaders revivified the movement, introducing new tactics such as this handbill and map.

“A prototypical promotional map of the woman’s suffrage movement in the U.S., using the spread of suffrage across the country (or in this case, North America) to “prove” the “success” of votes for women. The use of maps like this to “brand” the suffrage movement effectively has been called “the most extensive use of a single iconic map image for persuasive purposes in the United States.” (Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Collection, #1193)

The handbill features a small map of North America, with the American states and Canadian provinces shown in simple outline, each shaded according to the political status granted to its women (Note the use of black, with its connotations of both ignorance and evil, to indicate states where women had not yet gained the vote.) The general pattern is of full women’s suffrage in the western states and the southern tier of Canadian provinces, with little or none elsewhere. A note at the bottom points out that in 1916-17 five Canadian provinces granted women full suffrage and ends with the exhortation “How long will the Republic of the United States lag behind the Monarchy of Canada?” This version bears the imprint of the New York State Woman Suffrage Party and is dated September 1917, but click here to view a nearly-identical handbill issued just a couple of months earlier by the National Woman Suffrage Publishing Company.

Incidentally, the women’s suffrage movement incurred serious financial problems from the cost of having to revise and reprint its suffrage maps, which according to Mode were “used in billboards, posters, parade floats, pageants, silent films, window cards, newspaper ads and articles.” It persevered however, and in 1920 achieved victory with the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

Though millions of similar handbills were printed and distributed, they are now rare because of their ephemeral nature and often poor paper quality.

OCLC 39093820 gives three institutional holdings (Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Library of Congress, SUNY-Albany).