Punch,15 (March 30, 1867):129

n the above drawing, John Tenniel depicts the first women's suffrage committee petitioning for the right of female enfranchisement to be included in the 1867 Reform Act. The man in the middle is John Stuart Mill, one of the most eminent men to champion the women's cause. His Subjection of Women (1869)`became one of the central texts for the suffrage movement. In it, Mill insisted that marriage was a form of slavery, a direct challenge to the Victorian idealization of the home. At the time Mill's Logic: Or, Franchise For Females appeared, women were taxed but could not vote. When feminists accused the government of taxation without representation, their reply curtailed the issue by stating that women were indeed represented. Under the laws of marriage, men and women become one and therefore wives were represented under their husbands' vote.

Mill's Logic: Or, Franchise For Females is less biased than one might expect. Although some of the petitioning women are far from the perfect Victorian female, the men are also not ideal. The three women in the foreground are mocking representations of the "new woman." The woman in the far left, wearing an oversized shawl and simple bonnet, is from the lower classes. Her long, sunken face and ruddy nose and small stature show signs of arrested development. With this figure, Tenniel is likely commenting on the fact that if women are enfranchised, then the working class women, who may be less informed, will also want the vote. The person in the foreground has the "correct" facial angles, but her large nose and spectacles make her extremely homely.* The woman to her left is very attractive and respectable. This figure has an assured manner that makes her quite visible. She is taller than all the men around her, and thus defies the notion of the ideal passive woman. The men are seen in a more negative light than the women. Mill, in the center, is small and rather impish. The hunched man whose back is towards the viewer has a dumbfounded expression upon his face. He is the male counterpart to the lower-class woman. The other man maybe more respectable, but he has an offish presence. The women's convictions are strong and well founded. Tenniel portrays this by revealing all their faces, as compared to the men who cower in the background with their backs turned. These middle class women appear to have as much a right to vote as lower class men.

* By correct I refer to the standards Victorian cartoonists used to make the ideal figure -- an eighty to ninety degree angle from the ear -- nose -- forehead.
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[Victorian initial "I" by Harlan Wallach ©copyright 1994.]