In honor of Presidents’ Week, I offer you this fun cartoon of the president and Susan B.. It appeared in 1905 as the result of ex-president Grover Cleveland’s expression of disdain for women’s clubs. Unfortunately for him, he got a lot worse than he gave!
I loved the cartoon when I first discovered it during an in-person visit to the Library of Congress photo archives in 1993. In those days before images were digitized, I enjoyed thumbing through actual pictures. With the LOC’s permission, I included it in my biography of Susan. I believe that its inclusion there was the first time this cartoon had reached the public in many years.
What does it mean?
I pondered it for quite some time. Was it for against woman suffrage?
Lest we fail to recognize the man, the artist gives us his name inside his top hat: “Grover C. ” He is carrying a large book entitled “What I know about Women’s clubs.” (italics mine)
Meanwhile, the woman trying to club him over the head with women’s rights has “Susan B. Anthony” inscribed on her lace collar. Despite her apparent age and knobby joints, she appears quite energetic. She is carrying a newspaper called “Ladies Home Trouble.”
And off in the distance, an equally knob-kneed Uncle Sam is laughing.
I winced a little to see Miss Anthony depicted so unattractively. Even though she was 85 at the time (and only one year away from her death), surely she deserved more respect than this portrait. Didn’t she?
Apparently, she didn’t think so. She laughed and used it to her advantage.
Here’s the scoop. . .
At the turn of the century, the magazine Ladies Home Journal (LHJ) marketed itself to women who were happily domestic and content to remain in the family sphere. Aiming at promoting the status quo, LHJ published many articles against woman suffrage in particular and women’s clubs in general. These female groups encouraged women to become involved in municipal affairs such as education, libraries, child labor, and legal reform.
Ordinarily, such an article wouldn’t have raised any commotion. But a volley of insults began when LHJ printed a scathing commentary on women’s clubs by ex-president Grover Cleveland. Upon its publication, news teams flocked to Susan B. for a comment.
According to Susan’s authorized biographer Ida Harper, here’s how Miss Anthony’s responded: “‘O, yes, she had seen the article, it had been sent to her from every point of the compass. What did she think of it? Ridiculous! Pure fol-de-rol!’” Elsewhere Susan called his arguments “just hash, hash, hash of the same old kind.”
Scores of cartoons ensued, poking fun at Cleveland. One showed him as a waiter “fairly staggering under a great dish of hash that he was about to serve” to the seated Miss Anthony. The above cartoon appeared soon after.
Harper closed her account of the event by saying, “For weeks the newspapers kept up a fusillade of humorous and caustic paragraphs at Mr. Cleveland’s expense.” 1
Meanwhile, Miss Anthony’s stature in public opinion was growing across the country. In Kansas, Susan’s sister-in-law Annie Anthony devoted herself to municipal affairs such as the Orphans Asylum and a public library. Over the years, she increasingly supported Susan’s work, and in 1886 served as the vice president of the Leavenworth County Suffrage Association. 2
- Harper, Ida Husted. Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony. Salem, New Hampshire, Ayer Company, Inc., reprint 1983, p. 1358-9.
- Brown, Mary Ann and Poirier, Samantha.The History of Women’s Suffrage in Leavenworth County, Kansas. Leavenworth, Kansas: Leavenworth County Historical Society, 2020, p. 96.