The fight for the right to vote challenged deeply rooted gender roles. Victorian America saw a woman’s proper role as wife and mother. However, by the end of the 19th century, there were more women attending college and entering non-traditional professions. The women who embraced the suffrage movement were portrayed by opponents of the cause as mannish, unattractive and single. The original Old Maid in the card game was a suffragist.
The men who supported suffragists were looked down on for surrendering their superiority to women and were depicted as being henpecked. To win over men to their cause, suffrage leaders realized they needed to rewrite the narrative and create marketing materials that presented the suffragist as a confident and attractive woman, less threatening to men.
Men had been part of the women’s suffrage movement since Seneca Falls, where 32 men, including escaped slave Frederick Douglass, signed the Declaration of Rights and Sentiments. The husbands of many of the first generation of suffragists supported their wives and were committed to the cause of female enfranchisement. However, these men were in the minority in 19th-century America. In the early 1900s, the suffrage movement gained the support of prominent men, including Theodore Roosevelt, whose advocacy led more men to the movement. It may have taken 72 years, but in the end, the suffragists successfully convinced men to support and ratify the 19th Amendment.