Today is Election Day and no doubt it promises to be a historic one. No matter what the outcome, it will mark a first for America, whether it is Sen. Barack Obama elected as the first African-American to the White House, or Gov. Sarah Palin as the first woman. And, this election also promises to bring out record numbers of voters. After all, it’s our duty as citizens in a democratic government, right? … Right?
Well, if you were a working woman in the 1920s, not necessarily.
Some things never change and just like today, politics can become bitter and divisive. The pamphlets and posters that were distributed attacked the opposite party or satirized them. One that stands out is a poster supposedly coming from the Committee of Fargo Society Women, which was portrayed as thinking it was just better if voters didn’t get to the polls – especially if the voters weren’t “Society Women.”
“ATTENTION WORKING GIRLS!” read a notice from the Committee. “We, the Society Ladies of Fargo, … advise you to keep away from the polls election day, and if possible, keep your Working Men friends away too… What do you want to bother with the vote for? … Stay at home election day and rest and we’ll do the voting.”
It’s hard to say if this poster, which is on display in the Heritage Center in Bismarck, is really from representatives of the Independent Voters Association or satire put out by an opponent. Regardless, they used issues that are still important to women today to evoke emotions: working environments and equal pay.
“The Eight Hour Law [is a bad law],” read the poster. “…We ladies want you women to work at least 16 hours. Then, with your ‘over time’ you could ‘buy ribbons and bonnets and lots of little things,’ …The minimum wage law is also a bad law. $16.50 cents a week is too much for any working woman or girl. We think $5.50 would be plenty and then you could make the balance in your ‘overtime.’ … So girls, keep away from the polls. Don’t bother about voting. We Society Ladies will do the voting for the Women. Keep your men away, too.”
As we wait today to see if a woman will become the nation’s first vice president, we can see things certainly have changed, and you can bet we encourage every woman to vote, “Society Lady” or not.
Oh, and let your men come, too!
“Bright Dreams and Hard Times.” North Dakota Heritage Center. 612 E Boulevard Ave, Bismarck, ND 58505-0830. 2 Aug. 2008.