Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Voice in postcards related to the woman’s suffrage movement in the United States in the early 20th century

Voice in postcards related to the woman’s suffrage movement in the United States in the early 20th century

Jami Van Alstine

Cartoons which have a voice, an audience, dual-semiotic meanings have been a part of socio-political discourse in the United States since prior to the American Revolution.  Similarly, postcards, sharing these characteristics were an inexpensive and widely shared media in the early decades of the 20th century that often reflected the attitudes, pastimes, sentiments, and tastes of the American people.  By analyzing the voice, audience, and dual semiotic meanings in a small random sampling of pro- and anti-Woman Suffrage postcards in circulation between 1890 and 1920 in the United States we are able to show that women, both suffragettes and remonstrants, were active agents of change in the claiming and use of their voice in the period leading up to the adoption of the 19th Amendment.



April 2, 2018 - Posted by | abstract


  1. I wonder how much publisher or artistic bias could be observed within this study. How did the American values translate through the artist? I wonder what kind of remnants can be found today that reflect these pro and anti woman suffrage attitudes in artwork? Really cool stuff!!

    Comment by Haley Scott | April 16, 2018 | Reply

  2. Do you examine who created the post cards? Were there post cards that were created by men in backlash to women seeking agency in such a difficult time period. Was there a post card war between the genders? Very interesting stuff here!

    Comment by Ashley Johnson | April 20, 2018 | Reply

    • While not the focus of the paper, the publishers and artists are identified for each of the postcards where possible. While women stood on both sides of the Suffrage movement, the pro-Suffrage postcards sampled were more likely to be created by women or pro-Suffrage organizations. I can’t tell you with any certainty without returning to the data as to whether their was a majority gender associated to the production of the anti-Suffrage postcards sampled. This could be an avenue to explore in the future.

      Comment by Jami | April 20, 2018 | Reply

  3. This was such an interesting topic, and not one that I would have thought of. I really enjoyed reading your paper and thought that the links you made between the speakers/audience and the messages being conveyed were very powerful.

    Comment by Samantha Spolarich | April 23, 2018 | Reply

  4. I think that your topic was very unique, I never would have thought to view the Women’s Suffrage movement through the publication of postcards. I also liked the correlation you made between the postcards used in your research from that time period and the use of memes in today’s society. Your analysis of the Women’s Suffrage movement in this manner also makes me think of how we interpret and view the Me Too movement taking place today.

    Comment by Kelsey Mckoy | April 26, 2018 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: