19th at 100: Commemorating the Suffrage Struggle and Its Legacies in Northeast Ohio

Suffrage Theater

Suffrage drama was a form of dramatic literature which emerged during the British women's suffrage movement in the early twentieth century. Organizations such as the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) viewed theater as an effective way to highlight women’s issues and spread pro-suffrage sentiment. Suffrage plays primarily aimed to expose the obsolescence and inaccuracy of gender stereotypes which traditionally justified denying women the vote. 

Pro-suffrage dramas often featured strong female characters who were intelligent and well-informed voters. Such characters spent the majority of their stage-time dispelling stereotypes perpetuated by the anti-suffrage movement. Other plays directly attacked anti-suffragists, labeling them as uneducated and narrow-minded individuals who opposed progress. Many of these plays were practically written, often requiring no set and few props. This cost-effective strategy allowed suffrage dramas to be more widely performed, with groups often invited into private drawing rooms and community theaters. 

Following this tradition, Margaret Barker and Julia Harmon, both former students of the College for Women and executive members of the Equal Suffrage League, took it upon themselves to write a pro-suffrage play about the antics of anti-suffragists. Titled "The Taming of the Anti," the script features dialogue between Herbert and Gertrude Jones about the perils of female suffrage.

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