The Transnational Visual Culture of Women’s Suffrage in the United States and Australia

Saturday, January 9, 2016
Galleria Exhibit Hall (Hilton Atlanta)
Ana Stevenson, University of Pittsburgh
In 1912, American suffragist Lou Rogers drew a cartoon entitled “Tearing off the Bonds,” which depicted a disenfranchised white woman bound in ropes, for the satirical magazine, Judge.  Such imagery was not limited to the visual culture of American women’s suffrage.  During the late nineteenth century, the women’s suffrage movement exhibited simultaneous and symbiotic transnational connections.  Suffragists depicted the freedom women purportedly experienced in the transnational locales in which they were enfranchised alongside the oppression of the disenfranchised majority, but the representational strategies of colonial and ex-colonial states had further similarities.  In the United States and Australia, justifications for women’s suffrage often relied on rhetoric associated with the colonial institutions of chattel slavery and convictism, respectively.  The influence of this rhetoric emerged at the locus of suffrage visual culture: cartoons.  Where American suffragists invoked the idea of chattel slavery in their cartoon depictions of disenfranchised women, suffrage cartoons in Australia appropriated the antipodean legacy of convictism.  Yet these visual metaphors of slavery and imprisonment were fraught in that they did not engage with the structural racism and classism that enabled chattel slavery and convict transportation.  Instead, white suffragists appropriated the imagery of these colonial institutions for the benefit of white women’s suffrage.  A poster presentation enables a focus on these women’s suffrage cartoons, as well as the global exchange of cultural and rhetorical structures in which they existed at the turn of the twentieth century.  The analysis of these comparable images enables reflection upon those connections beyond the nation which reified the inclusion of white women and exclusion of non-white women from the global narrative of women’s suffrage.  The visual culture of women’s suffrage thus reveals the way the transnational histories of white settler societies informed the visual commonalities between women’s suffrage movements.
See more of: Poster Session # 1
See more of: AHA Sessions