The Nineteenth Amendment The Fight for Women's Suffrage as seen through 'The Woman Citizen'

Domesticity and Womanhood


The Woman Citizen and its parent organization, the National American Woman Suffrage Association, appealed to moderate white middle-class women. They wished to distinguish themselves from radical suffragists’ aggressive agitation and civil disobedience. Moderate suffragists “evinced strong attachments to femininity and womanhood. While demanding personhood and their full rights as citizens, they extolled woman’s natural capacity for nurturance and spirituality. … Woman’s suffrage is urged with arguments detailing the benefits for woman’s participation in public life. It is alleged that woman’s vote will purify politics, prevent war, end the liquor problem, and civilize legal and judicial practices.” (Campbell 1973)

“Particularly during the 1910s, suffragists incorporated modern methods of advertising, publicity, mass merchandising and mass entertainment into their fight for voting rights.” (Finnegan1999).

The Woman Citizen embodies all of these trends; the eye-catching illustrations, many by prominent artists, depict idealized women, some clad in classical Greek garb, leading the charge against such societal evils as child labor and alcohol consumption, and advocating for better pay for women, more financial independence, and, of course, suffrage. Both editorial content and advertising featured fashion, home economics, and the role of women as mothers.

When Herbert Hoover, as head of the United States Food Administration, urged Americans to conserve food and adopt "Meatless Mondays” and "Wheatless Wednesdays," The Woman Citizen responded by producing a "Food Issue" on August 11, 1917, full of recipes and information about home canning and dehydrating. The Woman Citizen appealed to its Southern readers for cornbread recipes, assuming that Northern women would not be familiar with cooking without wheat.


The "New Woman"

That The Woman Citizen appealed to a more rarified readership can, perhaps, be evidenced by the many striking covers which featured a highly idealized "new woman" illustrated by artist C.D. Batchelor. In a June 5, 1920 issue, the artist describes this idealized woman: "She has today that assurance and confidence born of a changed and changing economic status ... I would hope for the reader to say, 'I saw that girl on Fifth Avenue yesterday ... I cannot imagine her but intelligent and of aggressive opinion...'"