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The Progressive Era, 1890-1920 • Moral Reform
Classroom Activities

Objective: Use political cartoons to compare and contrast viewpoints on women voting during two different decades.

Key Questions:

  • The Woman's Christian Temperance Union eventually endorsed suffrage for women. What do you think is the relationship between women's suffrage and Prohibition?

Notes on Implementation:

  • To extend the activity, have students create their own political cartoon about present-day women's issues.

Student Activity: Students can access the below activity in The Progressive Era Topic Center within the American History database.

Student Activity:

During the Progressive Era of the late 19th century and early 20th century, women organized into a mass movement that lobbied hard for suffrage, or the right to vote. There are many primary sources that illustrate this time period. Political cartoons are a great, and humorous, resource for understanding political and social perspectives.

In this activity, you will analyze two political cartoons to compare and contrast viewpoints on women voting during two different decades.

Resources:

Apply:

  • Identify the symbols, images, and the caption in the cartoon
  • Explain how the political cartoon defines gender norms and perspectives of women suffrage
  • Compare and contrast the message of each cartoon

ANSWER KEY:

Key Understandings:

  • Racial and ethnic groups have fought to obtain civil rights and liberties
  • Government accountability relies on a politically engaged populace
  • Society's idea of morality changes over time

Possible Answers for Activity:

Age of Brass

  • Identify the symbols, images, and the caption in the cartoon

    • Caption -"The Age of Brass" or the triumphs of Woman's rights

    • Sign in the center title, "Vote for the Celebrated Man Tamer, Susan Sharp Tongue"

    • Table on the far left with Ballot Box, sign titled, "For Sheriff Miss Hang Man" and women holding book titled Rights for Women

    • Woman in front dressed in undergarments of the time period

    • Man holding baby while a woman appears to scold him

    • All the women appear absorbed in their organization efforts

  • Explain how the political cartoon defined gender norms and women suffrage

    • The symbols and caption suggest that if women obtain the right to vote they will take on stronger roles in the public sphere and will challenge traditional gender norms.

    • The sign in the center that states, "Vote for the Celebrated Man Tamer, Susan Sharp Tongue" indicates that if women gain the right to vote they will use it to control men, and they will be more likely to speak on their views.

    • The sign next to the Ballot Box that states, "For Sheriff Miss Hang Man" indicates that women will fill occupations typically held by men, and they will use the power of these new roles to oppress men.

    • The woman who is dressed in undergarments suggests that if women obtain the right to vote they will become sexually promiscuous and "unlady-like."

    • The cartoon suggests that the women will be absorbed with organizing and will no longer serve in their traditional role of homemakers, which is also supported by the woman scolding the man with the baby.

Suffrage movement political cartoon

  • Identify the symbols, images, and the caption in the cartoon.

    • The woman is dressed in fashion typical of a man

    • The caption is "Election Day"

    • The man is wearing an apron that is typical of what women would wear during this time

    • The woman is leaving the house, while the man stays behind to care for the children

    • There is a broken dish and the babies are crying

    • A sign in the top right corner proclaims "Votes for Women"

  • Explain how the political cartoon defined gender norms and women suffrage

    • The woman and the man's dress indicate that she will become more "masculine" and he will become more "feminine" in nature, which was a challenge to the social and gender norms of the time.

    • The caption, "Election Day!" suggests that on election day women will abandon the home and leave men to vote. This is supported by the additional sign, "Votes for Women"

    • The body language of the woman and man reinforces a perspective that the woman is abandoning the home. She looks ready for a hasty exit while he appears concerned and overwhelmed.

  • Compare and Contrast

Compare-Similarities Contrast-Differences
  • The topic is women's suffrage
  • Women are depicted leaving the home once they obtain the right to vote
  • Men are emasculated once women obtain the right to vote
  • Even though the cartoons were created 13 years apart, the critique of women voting is the same

  • The Age of Brass was created in 1896
  • Election Day! was created in 1909
  • The Age of Brass shows women in a public forum united as a group
  • Election Day! depicts women in the home leaving to vote

ABC-CLIO

MLA Citation

"Moral Reform." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2019, historyhub.abc-clio.com. Accessed 25 Aug. 2019.

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