Saturday, January 26, 2013

22. Jack's Delight: Ridicule as Humor

Jack's Delight by
Becky Brown

Jack's Delight with its spiky points can remind us of how humor has been used to maintain the status-quo. 
"My Wife's Joined the Suffrage Movement.
I've suffered ever since!"
Postcard, about 1910

Many of these images are from postcards, a craze that peaked about a hundred years ago in the midst of the public discussion of voting rights for women. Historian Catherine Palczewski estimates that about 4,500 suffrage-themed postcards were published. We also find earlier anti-female political cartoons by Thomas Rowlandson, Thomas Nast and Honore Daumier.

Woman Cleansing the Ballot Box by Thomas Nast, 1869
Nast insults the Irish (a favorite target) as well as women

Joke aficionados will tell you there are very few jokes in the world and most can be traced back for thousands of years. Anti-female visual art has a few consistent themes. As in the cartoons above and below, one theme is the unattractiveness of women, particularly those who push the edges of convention.

Honore Daumier. The Blue-stockings (intellectuals)
Postcard about 1910

Postcard about 1910

The unattractive woman with an unattractive personality---a bore, a moralizer, a scold or a busybody.

  Italian Postcard: Necessary Operation ---Ouch

Just as popular is the theme of a sissified man dominated by a behemoth of a woman who forces him to switch roles with her.
A Railroad Accident, 1870

A lesser theme is the idea that women are too distractible or too dumb to vote.

"Her First Vote:"
Can't vote---too self-absorbed!

"Dear, What was that candidate's name who kissed our baby?"
Can't Vote---Too easily swayed.

And if too incompetent to vote, far too incompetent to govern---

One of an anti-suffrage series by 
Walter Wellman in English suffrage colors

There is also the age-old warning that women who push the boundaries are promiscuous...
1789, Thomas Rowlandson,
 The political Duchess of Devonshire secures votes

1869 The Age of Brass
Currier & Ives

...Or as Rush Limbaugh might put it "sluts".
An evil alternative:
Christabel Pankhurst as a witch 1912

Cartoons weren't the only format for anti-female humor. In 1914 Charlie Chaplin made a strange little movie in which he dressed as a woman. "A Busy Day or The Militant Suffragette" incorporated several classic themes. Watch it here:
Jack's Delight by
Dustin Cecil

Jack's Delight by
Georgann Eglinski

 BlockBase 2846
The sawtooth block was published as Jack's Delight by Massachusetts columnist Clara Stone a little over a hundred years ago.
Cutting an 8" Finished Block
A - Cut 2 squares 4-7/8".
Cut each in half diagonally to make 2 triangles. You need 4 corner triangles.

B - Cut 5 squares 5-3/16" Cut with 2 diagonal cuts to make 4 triangles.
You need 20 triangles.

C - Cut 1 square 4-1/4".

Cutting a 12" Finished Block
A - Cut 2 squares 3-1/2".
Cut each in half diagonally to make 2 triangles. You need 4 corner triangles.

B - Cut 5 squares 3-7/8" Cut with 2 diagonal cuts to make 4 triangles.
You need 20 triangles.

C - Cut 1 square 6-3/16".

Jack's Delight by
Becky Brown

See the Catherine H. Palczewski Postcard Archive at the University of Northern Iowa by clicking here:
Another collection of anti-suffrage humor:
Read Gary L. Bunker's "The Art of Condescension," for an in-depth look at political cartoons and the 19th century women's movement.

"Maria, I won't wash another dud."
Stereograph photos were another format for anti-female humor, 
here predicting an unthinkable role reversal.


  1. Thorougly enjoyed the Charlie Chaplin movie, what a treasure!!!!

  2. They still use all the same jokes; keep an eye out and you'll see them.

    What gets me is that there is a tacit admission in there: if men will suffer horribly when the status quo is reversed (women on top) then they must understand on some level that the status quo as it is (men on top) means women are suffering horribly. It has to be built on that assumption or the dire effect of role reversal doesn't make any sense.

  3. Also Charlie, son, I am disappoint.

  4. Thanks for this post. It was interesting to see it from a historical viewpoint. I've heard some of it from older relatives who were around when women were finally granted suffrage, but this goes back farther and is more objective reporting. Love the blocks with the print middles, especially.

  5. Why are women who are independent and capable so threatening to men? The same arguments are used today that were used for hundreds of years, how sad.

  6. The sad thing is, things aren't any better since women have had the vote. A lot of women are guilty of throwing away their votes on stupid causes and stupid candidates.