"Everybody said so, and what everybody says must be true...."
- Charles Dickens

unch, the famous Victorian journal, published in London, assured a name for itself in the engraved annals of Great Britain's history with its reputation for distinctive political cartoons. Mr. Punch and John Bull touched upon many a political figure and issue in their journey toward journalistic pre-eminence within the homes and societies of middle-class Victorians. During the latter half of Queen Victoria's reign, a feminist movement began to emerge, reaching across the sea from the Colonies to have an impact on the patriarchy of all patriarchies, the Empire of Great Britain. Public discontent and parliamentary debate canvassed the issue in public forums and behind closed doors for over fifty years before property-owning women above the age of thirty were granted the right of franchise in 1918. Much has been studied concerning the depiction of women in Victorian literature such as that written by Dickens and Thackeray, and in new modes of art during the period, but little focus has centered upon portrayals of women during the suffragette years in mainstream popular Victorian periodicals. Thus, this exercise intends to survey briefly a number of cartoons appearing in the widely circulating London Punch magazine.

"If you multiply folly and prejudice a thousand million times, the result is an exceedingly large quantity of folly and prejudice; and because there is a great deal of it, it does not become one whit more like wisdom and reasonableness." - Mrs. Millicent Fawcett
The talented cartoonists of Punch magazine enjoyed a secure position among the political elite. Free to express their opinion on virtually every topic concerning the fate of the Empire, Sir John Tenniel,, du Maurier, W. Ralston, Charles Keene, and their colleagues did just that. These cartoonists of Punch were clearly opposed to the women's suffrage movement, but there are surprisingly few depictions of suffragettes as 'she-males,' or hideous political savvies--although images of this sort do exist. On the contrary, the disapproval and scorn directed at the suffragettes by these men is infinitely more subtle in its discriminatory propagandizing. Women are depicted primarily with their offspring, and on the occasion they are conversing with adult males, frivolity characterizes the best, hysteria the worst. In the penciled faces of capricious intellectual vacancy, prejudice represents the quintessential Victorian woman. With hair neatly groomed, clothed in becoming dresses and pleasing countenances, these two-dimensional females portray the "normal," womanly female. The cultural orientation conveyed through the mainstream pages of Punchlent legitimacy to the "almost universal belief that women are unfit to exercise political power," and played a role in perpetuating the disenfranchisement of British women.
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[Victorian initial "P" by Harlan Wallach ©copyright 1994.]