In 1920, This Campaign Ad Told Women to Vote ‘For Your Own Good’

Oh, how times have changed. Or have they?

National Journal
Marina Koren
April 24, 2014, 9:06 a.m.

Barely three months be­fore the pres­id­en­tial elec­tion in 1920, politi­cians sud­denly had mil­lions of new voters to win over: wo­men.

The race to draw fe­male voters to the polls was on. The Re­pub­lic­an Party, polit­ic­ally dis­sim­il­ar from its mod­ern-day ver­sion, went with a straight­for­ward mes­sage to at­tract wo­men, who had gained the right to vote that Au­gust with the rat­i­fic­a­tion of the 19th Amend­ment.

“Wo­men!” pro­claimed an ad­vert­ise­ment from the Re­pub­lic­an Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee in the Novem­ber is­sue of Needle­craft Magazine (whose old is­sues you can buy on eBay). “For Your Own Good Vote the Re­pub­lic­an Tick­et.”

Wo­men may have fi­nally won the abil­ity to elect their rep­res­ent­at­ives, but those rep­res­ent­at­ives were still go­ing to tell them what was good for them. You can view the full ad here.

The ad ap­pealed dir­ectly to moth­ers just slightly re­moved from World War I, say­ing that Demo­crat­ic policy un­der then-Pres­id­ent Woo­drow Wilson would “put rifles in the hands of their sons” and send them to war. Here’s the plea from the Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial tick­et of War­ren G. Hard­ing and Calv­in Coolidge, who would go on to win the elec­tion by a land­slide:

Amer­ic­an wo­men are be­ing asked in this cam­paign to vote for the Demo­crat­ic can­did­ate for Pres­id­ent be­cause he is pledged to the Treaty of Ver­sailles and the Cov­en­ant for a league of na­tions con­tained therein. They are told this cov­en­ant cre­ates the league of peace of which good and great men have dreamed through many cen­tur­ies. They are told it is a cov­en­ant of peace that will end all war.

Four years ago the same party asked for votes for the Demo­crat­ic Pres­id­ent be­cause “he kept us out of war.” He got them and five months later the United States entered the world war.

Is it wise to re­call that, now that we are asked once more to vote for a Demo­crat­ic can­did­ate be­cause he will com­mit us to a cov­en­ant that will keep the world out of war?

The ad sur­pris­ingly — giv­en the gender role ex­pect­a­tions of the time — re­cog­nized wo­men as fin­an­cial pro­viders:

You know how doubly hard it has been for you as man­ager of the fam­ily funds. Yours has been one con­stant struggle try­ing to keep the home and the table sup­plied — try­ing to pay big bills with little dol­lars.

It even prom­ised that the Re­pub­lic­ans would im­prove wo­men’s em­ploy­ment pro­spects, with this quote at­trib­uted to Hard­ing:

I be­lieve in hold­ing fast to every for­ward step in un­shack­ling child labor and el­ev­at­ing con­di­tions of  wo­man’s [sic] em­ploy­ment.

But, un­sur­pris­ingly, wo­men were viewed as moth­ers and wives first, and voters and cit­izens second:

Your in­terest as a wo­man, your in­terest as a moth­er, your in­terest as a cit­izen, your in­terest as the fin­an­cial man­ager of the home, com­bine to re­quire the re­turn to Re­pub­lic­an prin­ciples.”

An es­tim­ated one-third of eli­gible fe­male voters voted that year, com­pared with two-thirds of eli­gible male voters.

Such a con­des­cend­ing call to the bal­lot would re­ceive tre­mend­ous back­lash today (ima­gine the tweets). But nearly a cen­tury later, politi­cians are still tar­get­ing wo­men voters based on tra­di­tion­al roles, such as mar­riage status, as Na­tion­al Journ­al‘s Alex Roarty re­cently re­por­ted. The Demo­crat­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee is us­ing a new na­tion­al voter mod­el that will help it identi­fy single wo­men and cre­ate the best mes­sages to reach them. Con­ser­vat­ives, on the oth­er hand, have been blast­ing TV ads aimed at mar­ried wo­men.

And nearly a cen­tury later, some of these at­tempts can go wrong. A re­cent in­fograph­ic ex­plain­ing the White House’s ini­ti­at­ives on equal pay pic­tured two wo­men who wouldn’t look out of place on the set of the 1960s-era show Mad Men: Both wore mod, brightly colored dresses and high heels; one car­ried a hand­bag. “It screams Sex and the City, not 9 to 5,” wrote The Wash­ing­ton Post‘s Nia-Ma­lika Hende­r­son of the pain­fully out­dated de­pic­tion.

Let’s hope it doesn’t take an­oth­er 100 years to get voter out­reach for Amer­ic­an wo­men right.

What We're Following See More »
1.5 MILLION MORE TUNED IN FOR TRUMP
More People Watched Trump’s Acceptance Speech
20 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Hillary Clinton hopes that television ratings for the candidates' acceptance speeches at their respective conventions aren't foreshadowing of similar results at the polls in November. Preliminary results from the networks and cable channels show that 34.9 million people tuned in for Donald Trump's acceptance speech while 33.3 million watched Clinton accept the Democratic nomination. However, it is still possible that the numbers are closer than these ratings suggest: the numbers don't include ratings from PBS or CSPAN, which tend to attract more Democratic viewers.

Source:
×