Taking Action: Domestic Limitations

Drawing for Suffrage

Taking Action: Breaking the 'Domestic Sphere' Barrier 

Anti-suffrage organizations, such as the National League for Opposing Woman Suffrage (NLOWS) and the Anti-Suffrage League, published cartoons to counteract the pro-suffrage artwork that restricted women to the domestic sphere.  

“I Want to Vote, But My Wife Won't Let Me, ​​​​​​​1909, Ann Lewis Women's Suffrage Collection

A Suffragette's Home, National League for Opposing Women's Suffrage, 1910, The Guardian

ASL and SA countered ‘domestic sphere’ arguments with posters utilizing domestic metaphors to prove women’s roles as mothers and wives were compatible with citizenship. 

Coming in With the Tide, Carl Mentscael, Artists Suffrage League, Cambridge University Library.  

 A woman in the 'domestic sphere' is unsuccessful in attempting to stem progress with anti-suffrage efforts, represented by a mop. 

Mrs. John Bull, Dora Meeson Coates, Artists Suffrage League 1908, Cambridge University Library

A suffrage-demanding mother capably manages her motherly duties while surrounded by "greedy children" who symbolize organizations taking civil power from women.

One argument emphasized men and women voting together could advance improvements more efficiently, featuring the characters Mr. and Mrs. John Bull.

Why Won't They Let the Women Help, Joan Harvey Drew, Artists' Suffrage League, 1909, Cambridge University Library

Mr. Bull struggles without his wife, and he cannot manage the home or advance vital reforms.

Woman Suffrage, Suffrage Atelier, c. 1909-1914, LSE Library 

Mrs. Bull asks to take the reins because her husband is not moving reform quickly enough.

Pro-suffrage messaging through art helped neutralize the effect of anti-suffrage propaganda limiting women to the ‘domestic sphere.’