The website Atlas Obscura recently did a piece about “Vinegar Valentines,” the mean-spirited and downright evil way spurned lovers and haters communicated their feelings on this day of loving appreciation.
But to me, the most interesting angle was how women who fought for their rights were put down and ridiculed by love ones. It was hard for politically determined women to get love on this day in the Victorian era. Have we made progress?
(Source: Atlas Obscura)
The women’s suffrage movement of the late 19th and early 20th century brought another class of vinegar valentines, targeting women who fought for the right to vote. While only a small percentage of mean-spirited cards were devoted to suffragists, Kenneth Florey argues in American Woman Suffrage Postcards that “it is clear from their context that an interest in women’s rights was an inherent part of one’s distorted personality,” depicting such women as ugly abusers. It isn’t known whether these were sent directly to troll women’s rights activists or if they were sent to like-minded friends who disagreed with the movement.
Valentine to a Suffragette. NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY DIGITAL COLLECTION/PUBLIC DOMAIN
Suffragists did have their own pro-women’s rights valentines to pass around on February 14. Florey wrote that one threw shade on anti-suffragists with the phrase “no vote, no kiss.” But, in light of the supposed unattractiveness of suffragists according to men, many 19th-century woman enticed would-be lovers by sending cards that denied support of the women’s rights cause. One of these cards, quoted by Florey, depicted a pretty woman surrounded by hearts, with a plain appeal: “In these wild days of suffragette drays, I’m sure you’d ne’er overlook a girl who can’t be militant, but simply loves to cook.”
Here are some wonderful cards from the Victorian era as posted by The League of Women Voters:
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