In the early 20th Century, anti-suffrage propaganda suggested that if women obtained the right to vote, they would not stop there; soon they would displace males in society and become the dominant gender relegating males to secondary status in society, that is, the subservient role previously occupied by females.
For example, an anti-suffrage postcard asked, “What will men wear when women wear (trousers)?”
A German postcard provided the answer. Titled “Modern Marriage,” it depicts a female wearing trousers standing besides a male wearing a dress. The female is holding a hairbrush in an intimidating manner as if she is threatening her spouse to keep him in line, meanwhile, the man is nursing a baby.
Another German postcard titled “Pictures from the Women's State,” portrays various scenes as the matriarchy makes progress in a post-suffrage world.
The left side of the postcard contains images of wives disciplining hapless husbands. In the upper image, a wife threatens her husband with a carpet beater, while he stands in the middle of broken crockery. In the lower image, a wife has her husband over her knee and is spanking him with a shoe, while their smiling daughter looks on being educated about the relationship of females and males in the post-suffrage world.
The caption accompanying the image in the center of the postcard reads, “While the women will wear trousers, the men will wear none at all.” The accompanying drawing shows two dapper women wearing suits with trousers. The women also wear hats (one a top hat, the other a felt hat), carry canes, smoke (one a cigar, the other a pipe), and have short hairstyles. Also, the cigar-smoking woman wears a monocle.
Standing nearby are two post-suffrage males in ankle-length dresses. One male wears a picture hat that matches his dress, which is trimmed with ruffles and lace. He also carries a purse. The other male is lifting the side of his dress slightly to reveal a blue petticoat (blue is for boys).
The scenes on the right side of the postcard depicts further role reversal. The upper image shows a female in a suit with a bowtie carrying her top hat and cane in one hand and a smoking pipe in the other. She is dressed like a professional and is either on her way to the office or returning home. Her husband stands by wearing a yellow blouse and red skirt while holding a baby.
The lower image shows two female chimney sweeps. Perhaps one is married to the househusband in the scene or maybe they have been hired by the househusband’s wife to clean the chimney. The househusband, in a white blouse and red skirt, stands over a wooden tub doing the laundry.
Postcards predicting the ascent of females and the fall of males were typical of the era. I have seen hundreds of postcards from that era sending the same message, but the postcard on the right kind of says it all:
Woman is doing the work of man,
So She’ll wear the trousers, if she can,
And it’s quite easy to prophecy,
What Pa will look like, by and by.
As you know, the anti-suffrage propaganda did not work. Females got the vote.
Folks viewing the propaganda today may find it quaint and amusing. But before you dismiss the anti-suffrage message consider the modern image on the right. Except for the updated wardrobes, there’s not much difference with the postcard above it, is there?
(Part 2 of "What Will Men Wear When Women Wear Trousers?" will appear here tomorrow.)
And, by the way, you can click on any image to enlarge it.