ABSTRACT

A mother holds her baby in one arm and in the other a picket sign that reads, “There shall be no abridgement of the franchise because of sex” (Figure 3.1). A soldier, holding a bayoneted rifle, replies to her placard via the caption, stating “But madam, you cannot bear arms.” To this the mother replies, “Nor can you, sir, bear armies.” The two figures resemble each other visually, creating a symmetric balance. Both are tall and lean. While the soldier stands at attention, he nevertheless has a sway to his back that mirrors the curve of the suffragist/mother’s hip. By creating a visual equivalence between the two figures, the artist places them on equal footing. Both are equally deserving of the franchise. The cartoon, drawn by (Annie) Lou Rogers and published in the suffragist publication The Woman’s Journal in 1915, engages in World War I-era debates over suffrage that posited men’s ability to defend the nation as central to their citizenship and their right to vote, by responding that women, too, participate in national defense via the (re)production of soldiers. During this period, these gendered ideas about citizenship fueled not only the arguments for women’s enfranchisement, but also suffragists’ relationship to the peace movement that opposed US entry into World War I. The woman’s retort to the soldier eloquently inverts the rhetorical use of bearing arms as a benchmark of citizenship. While some argued that women should not vote because they do not fight wars, suffragists countered by claiming that women should indeed vote because they mother soldiers.