The push for full woman’s suffrage gathers steam in 1912-1913

VOTES FOR WOMEN …. WOMEN HAVE FULL SUFFRAGE IN…. Why Not Makes Yours A White State, Too? New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association, late 1912/1913.
Broadside with red overprinting, 12”h x 9”w at sheet edge, illustrated by a 5 3/8”h x 8 1/8”w map. Toned, with a faint tidemark, short edge tear and a bit of chipping at right.

Only the second known example of this broadside, ca. 1912-13, arguing for the expansion of woman’s suffrage in the United States and celebrating recent state-level victories in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan and Oregon.

The focal point of the broadside is a persuasive map of the country, with each state shown in simple outline and shaded according to the political status granted by its men to its women: black for no suffrage, shaded for partial suffrage, and white for full suffrage (Freighted as it is with epistemological moral and racial connotations, the choice of black to indicate states where women lacked the vote cannot have been an accident.) Black stars are overlaid on Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon and Wisconsin, indicating states where full woman’s suffrage was on the ballot in November 1912. Below the map a table lists the six states—all in the West—where women already had full voting rights as of the close of 1911, followed by the slogan “Why Not Make Yours A White State, Too?”

What makes this broadside remarkable is that it has been repurposed—likely in late 1912 or early 1913—by overprinting it in red to celebrate successful votes for full woman’s suffrage in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan and Oregon. Note the discrepancies from the earlier list: Ohioans rejected full suffrage on Election Day 1912, and indeed the state did not approve it until it ratified the 19th Amendment in June 1919; while Arizona only achieved statehood in February 1912, and woman’s suffrage had not been put on the ballot until July of that year. The strangest inclusion, however, is Michigan, where woman’s suffrage was actually rejected in November 1912 and not enacted until 1918. How the error made it into print is not known, but probably goes a long way to explaining the rarity of the broadside.

By 1900 only four lower-population states in the West had enacted full woman’s suffrage, most recently Idaho and Utah in 1896, and the national push for voting rights was flagging. But a new generation of leaders revivified the movement, introducing new tactics such as the widespread use of persuasive maps. The breakthrough came with a map by journalist Bertha Knobe, which first appeared in the December 1907 issue of Appleton’s and was soon syndicated elsewhere. Knobe’s innovation was to abjure a simple black-and-white differentiation of states with and without full suffrage, and rather to use shading to indicate states with at least some degree of suffrage, such as in municipal or school board elections. Thus, instead of emphasizing just the four full-suffrage states, her map showed that more than half of the country (at least as measured by landmass!) had enacted some degree of suffrage.

“Knobe’s decision to highlight these partial voting rights reflected a new strategy of the larger movement: rather than insist on equality in all areas, as Stanton had, many suffragists at the turn of the century embraced more limited and achievable gains that respected regional customs and gender roles…. Knobe mapped this strategy by identifying any progress of woman’s suffrage, such as the right to vote in school elections or presidential primaries…. Seen in this light, her map is as much an act of aspiration as of reporting, an effort to boost the movement by marking minor victories that many suffragists considered inconsequential or even detrimental.” (Schulten, pp. 37-38)

Knobe’s map caught on, and the woman’s suffrage movement ultimately saw to the printing of millions of maps “on billboards, posters, parade floats, pageants, silent films, window cards, newspaper ads and articles”. Indeed, the ever-shifting landscape of suffrage, with its seemingly endless process of votes at the state and local level, created a serious financial burden for the movement, which found itself having to revise and reprint its maps in huge numbers. (Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Collection, #1193) The broadside offered here, with its red overprinting to capture recent events—and the resulting error regarding Michigan—is a case in point. One imagines that hundreds, perhaps thousands, were run off before the mistake was noticed, necessitating an all-new print run.

OCLC 26104345, locating only the Univ. of Virginia example (Dec. 2020). Not in Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Collection. 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).