Vintage Sexism: Anti-suffrage pamphlet warns of “petticoat rule”

Vote No on Women's Suffrage pamplet

Click here for larger version.

Oh, this is just so perfect.

The vague warning against some undefined “evil which may occur” paired with the rather contradictory argument that women’s suffrage wouldn’t actually change anything because “votes of women can accomplish no more than votes of men” (LOL, what?), so why do you you even care, it’s such an expense, ugh. I particularly love the amazingly dumb point that “80 percent of the women eligible to vote are married and can only double or annul their husbands’ vote.” Well, yes, precisely: They can double or annul their husbands’ votes. Double…or…annul. What isn’t clicking here?

Like many an entitled young feminist, I tend to take for granted the battles our predecessors already won and spend more time thinking about the huge and complicated problems we’ve yet to solve. But damn, sometimes it’s nice to take a moment to appreciate how far we’ve come in a not-so-long time. I mean, you guys, less than 100 years ago, actual women had to spend time and energy responding to these “arguments”! Those women were indeed heroes, and I will be forever grateful that I wasn’t one of them.


Atlanta, GA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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  • Sam

    Dibs on “The Petticoat Rule” as my next grrl rock band name. Perhaps our first album will be an early 20th century period piece.

    • Corey Turner

      I like it. First customer here.

  • Claire

    This pamplet is incredible to read and reminds me of how fortunate we are to be able to stand on the shoulders of the incredible women who fought for our rights before us.

  • Cade DeBois

    Wow. I mean, I know the arguments against it were insanely sexist and stupid (logic dictates) to be see how people actually made to effort to make them, wow. Rhe presumptions here are just remarkable and laughable. Indulge me here:

    1. Because men couldn’t bother to listen to women = women “do not care”

    2. Women being treated like chattle = “co-operation”

    3. A woman’s vote is only valid as something that either improves a man’s vote or “annuls” it (oh, the horror that a man’s vote be made null! It would be like taking HIS right to vote away and turning him into a…woman!)

    4. Girly votes are expensive!

    5. They outnumber us! Be afraid, you manly men!

    6. Well, you know, Eve and the apple and all that…

    As for the blurb on the front–yep, that’s a gem:

    Remember, boys, femininty = inefficacy…and that every man that has ever walked the planet did so because a woman gave birth to him and that civilization is built upon how women taught men the basic concepts of cooperation and reciprocity doesn’t count toward anything resembling what men can acchieve!

    OK, I’ve had my fun.

  • AJ

    “Petticoat Rule” should be a blog title.

  • Joy Fairfield

    Do we have a date on this pamphlet? Feminist historians out here are curious…

  • natasha

    I see some similarity with the arguments made here and the ones made today. In particular, the women don’t want it/don’t care and the idea that it promotes competition with men instead of cooperation.

  • Emily

    What I find interesting about the pamphlet, in addition to everything that has already been said, is that it bases its arguments on devaluing the vote. It neglects the notion that voting is a value and a right in itself (and maybe even one of the reasons why that whole American Revolution thing was fought. You know, lack of representation and a voice in government though subjects had to pay taxes or something). It also sees things in the binary: that people can only vote out of two choices for their leaders or yes or no on one ballot referendum, and not that a ballot presents each voter with several possibilities and combinations. Interesting, since even though we’re mostly a two party system (now at least), the parties have changed. (The internet is telling me that Lincoln, as a Republican, was a third party candidate when he won the election.)