Beyond Supply & Demand: Duke Economics Students Present 100 Years of American Women’s Suffrage

Arts and Culture

With the power to move and motivate beyond laws and social programs, visual materials and culture arts brought suffragists across the United States together, connecting them with media that was accessible to people of all educational and socioeconomic backgrounds. As seen here, the arts played a significant role in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, from propaganda to humorous poems, pins and banners worn to unify, and movies and plays illustrating satirical or dramatic interpretations of the daily struggles of women.

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These suffrage pins, decorated in white and gold, symbolized purity, light, and life. All of these pins were worn during parades to garner support for legislative action. Specifically, the pin with the word “PENNA” printed on it represents the first national women’s suffrage parade which was held on March 3, 1913 on Pennsylvania Avenue. Participants marched from the Capitol to the Treasury Building.

Poster of painting of a white woman wearing all white on a white horse carrying a partially-obscured banner reading toward into light

Inez Milholland Boissevain: Who Died for the Freedom of Women

Shown here is lawyer, journalist, socialist, reformer and activist Inez Milholland Boissevain, who became an icon and martyr for the suffrage movement. In 1913, on the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, she mounted a white horse and led 8,000 marchers in a suffrage parade. While on a grueling speaking tour she collapsed at the podium in Los Angeles and died days later. In the late nineteenth century, in response to decades of cartoons mocking progressive women in publications like Puck the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) created press and publicity committees, employed professional publicity managers, and hired artists to make images for posters and postcards. The National Woman’s Party (NWP) continued NAWSA’s coordination with the press and production of posters like this one to promote the cause.

Blue metal in the shape of a blue bird with a yellow breast and tail reading "votes for women nov. 2"

Votes for Women Bue Bird Sign

The Massachusetts Women’s Suffrage Association produced 100,000 of these Votes for Women Bluebird tins as a means of spreading information surrounding the Massachusetts suffrage referendum of November 2, 1915, which ultimately failed. Made in a World War I manufacturing facility, the bluebird was a symbol of hope, resilience, and optimism. Note the artistic license taken making the typical red coloring of a bluebird's belly changed to the suffrage yellow/gold.

Yellowed book cover with title and author in white typed ink over a blue box, with two large question marks on either side

Are Women People?

In her work Are Women People? A Book of Rhymes for Suffrage Times, political writer and suffragist Alice Duer Miller combines her expert prose and satirical style to address the issue of unequal rights for women, particularly with respect to voting. After this book was published "Are Women People?" became a popular catchphrase during the suffrage movement and remained in use in feminist movements of the past century.

Postcard with handwritten cursive with a drawing of a woman wearing a yellow dress, yellow hat, and holding a yellow banner reading "votes for women"

Postcard from Laura Wellesley to Lillian Lacy, 1911