1914 Suffragette Joke

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, January 13, 1914:  Ditto

Source: Ladies Home Journal (January, 1914)

The Start for Her

“My Dear Girl” said a father to his daughter, “what do you suffragists want anyhow?”

“Why Dad, we want to sweep the country.” Replied the daughter.

“Do you?” said the father, “Why, now, suppose you take a broom and start with this room.”

Ladies Home Journal (January, 1914)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

The previous day Grandma wrote that it was cold outside. Since she didn’t have much to say a hundred years ago today, I’ll share a joke (and the illustration) about suffragettes in the January, 1914 issue of Ladies Home Journal.

Women didn’t get the right to vote until 1920. It’s somewhat shocking how little support a women’s magazine in 1914 showed for women’s rights.

48 thoughts on “1914 Suffragette Joke

  1. What a great story! Having come of age in the ’70’s, I grew up when a woman ‘s job was to be “barefoot and pregnant” according to my own Dad! To his dismay both his daughters got college educations! Of course, we were teachers–didn’t know we could do more! Or believe.

  2. With all the garbage about beauty secrets and winning a man in today’s women’s magazines, it seems to me that precious little has changed in 100 years. Except for that tiny little “voting” deal. I’m keeping that.

    1. I tend not to be quite as pessimistic as you. For example, a hundred years ago women could only get jobs in a few areas (teaching, nursing, seamstress, etc.), now all career fields are open to women.

  3. Intriguing to read a suffragette joke. I wonder if they continued to print that sort of joke even after 1920; that is did the Journal reflect the times rather than lead with ideas?

        1. @Sheryl: do you have physical copies of the magazines you reference in this blog? I’m curious as to the people on the editorial staff as well as ownership of the publishing house. My guess is the vast majority of the publication was written and edited by men at that time, with a couple of female contributors and possibly a female columnist.

          LHJ of my lifetime always struck me as old-guard and interested in only minor gender role adjustments. Most ladies’ magazines today seem to continue this is a slightly more veiled but still heavily gendered way. I’ve not been able to relate to much of the content in most of them at any point in my adult life, nor can I relate to most of the more recent publications claiming to be feminist. It’s probably because I accidentally have led a life that didn’t fit any of the major roles: not a wife, not a mother, not a high-powered executive. I never cared for the executive role but want to succeed at my entrepreneurial and academic pursuits. Would happily do the wife/mother bit if I found the right person to embark upon having family with. Yet all of these media seem to address a woman my age as if her life is settled into either a family-only or career-only pattern, and that someone in my situation better get used to being single and childless and just settle for “career only” instead of “career and” because the imaginary expiration date on our foreheads has passed a while ago.

          I’ll stop now! But I’d still love to know what the editorial board looked like 100 years ago…

          1. I use physical copies of the magazines. I am very fortunate to have easy access to a really good library that has lots of old magazines. I take pictures or make digital copies of pages that I want to use in this blog. Based on my memory, I’m almost certain that some of the contributors were women–but I have no idea about the gender of the editors. The next time I’m at the library I’ll try to remember to check and see who was on the editorial board in 1914. (It might be at least a couple weeks until I check because I just recently was at the library and probably won’t go again for awhile.)

            Your questions led me to do a Google search, and I discovered that Cyrus Curtis founded Ladies Home Journal in 1883, and that the first editor was his wife, Louisa Knapp Curtis:


            I also struggle to relate to modern women’s magazines–and find the hundred-year-old issues much more interesting from a historical and sociological perspective. I’m also often surprised at how difficult the reading level was in the old magazines. Most women must have had very solid reading skills back then.

            1. Thanks for checking that, Sheryl. I read a lot of older publications in my research, using primary sources as much as possible for context to round out my presentations. My antique school books, copies of newspapers, docunents and deeds, and even the old catalogues, all make it clear that reading was a lot more demanding on every level several generations ago. I suppose we should expect it since the emphasis in education was always reading, first, and above all else. The more subjects we add to our education, the less time we have for studying literature for its own sake; so, I believe this expansion of subjects has contributed heavily to the lowered reading level of modern publishing. It’s a shame, though.

          2. I finally got to the library and, as you suspected, the editors and publisher were male. Here are the names which were listed in the March, 1914 issue of Ladies Home Journal:

            Publisher: Cyrus H. K. Curtis
            Editor: Edward W. Bok
            Managing Editor: Karl Edwin Harriman

    1. You’re probably right that instead of leading, the magazine reflected the times. I wonder what held the magazine back–advertisers? .. . their readers perspectives? . .

    1. I don’t either. . . What I find amazing (in a sad way) is that readers of Ladies Home Journal a hundred years ago apparently found it funny.

  4. I have some history about this in my family. Gladys Pyle, a distant cousin, led the way in South Dakota.
    Gladys Pyle lived by her conviction and was politically active her entire life. Born October 4, 1890 in Huron, SD, she grew up with examples of political careers held by both of her parents. Her father, an attorney and politician who also served as the state’s Attorney General, died when Gladys was 11. Her mother and sisters were involved with the Women’s Suffrage movement, successfully helping to bring women’s voting rights to South Dakota. After her father’s death, her mother taught school and later served on the Huron College Board of Affairs.

    As an adult, Gladys broke ground time after time. After graduating from Huron College, Gladys took a position as teacher and basketball coach for both the boys’ and girls’ teams at nearby high schools. She taught for six years before becoming the superintendent of schools for a small school district near Huron, possibly the first female district superintendent in the state.

    She decided to enter the political fray, becoming the first woman member of the state House of Representatives in 1923. Her entry into the position only came after demanding a recount after a very close vote. In 1927 she became Secretary of State, the first woman to be elected to statewide office. A Republican, she ran for governor in 1930. There were a number of men in the race, as well, and it was a hard fought primary battle between them, the men virtually ignoring Gladys. Going into May’s convention, Gladys had the lead in balloting. But after deal-making, the man with the fewest votes going into the convention won the party nomination, going on to become governor.

    Though she didn’t win the governorship, she next was appointed to the state securities commission from 1931-33, the same period when federal securities laws were enacted to improve stability of the financial system.

    In 1936 one of South Dakota’s senators died after a long illness. A successor was appointed, but state law allowed the appointee to serve only until the next scheduled general election, in November of 1938. In addition, the law would not allow a candidate to appear on the ballot twice, so the man nominated for the general election, to be sworn in the next January, could not be elected to the slot open from the time of the election in November until January. Gladys was “the man” for the job.

    Senator Gladys Pyle filled the vacant Senate seat from November 9, 1938 until January 3, 1939. She was the first woman elected to the Senate without having been appointed first. Also she was the first woman Republican to serve in the Senate.

      1. It makes me wonder ‘what if’ she had been governor, or senator for a full term. I wonder now aren’t we ready for more women in these positions? I am ready for a woman to be my president.

    1. You may be right. I suppose that many women were dependent upon using money their husbands gave them to buy the magazine. . . Whew, it’s hard to get my head around how little power women had back then.

  5. You are so right when you call it shocking. It’s also shocking that women today have no clue about what the Suffgrattes went through to give us the right to vote! In the same way that women shy away from the word Feminist, when what it means is equality!

  6. It wouldn’t have been easy to be a non-voter by law would it. We would be the silent majority because statistically there’s more woman in the population than men (except maybe in Alaska or the Yukon).

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