If you are ever tempted to think that women’s voting rights, or women wearing pants, weren’t controversial, I urge you to look through the covers of the satirical magazine Puck at the Library of Congress. In this late nineteenth century cover, we see both issues combined. The artist Charles J. Taylor portrays the achievement of equal rights for women as an apocalypse for men. Above the three women ringing the bells for equal rights we see the phrase “Strike out the word male.”
This imagined new world has truly been turned upside down. Legions of uniformed women in bloomers on bicycles police the area. The new symbol of the nation is a hen that lays eggs. And the national heroine is the first woman to wear breeches.
We can only see the faces of two women clearly, the young and old bell ringers. While the younger woman does not look pleasant, it is the older woman who comes in for the most satire. Her gray hair is in unstylish, girlish ringlets, we can’t see her eyes because of her dark glasses, and her gleeful gaze looks positively diabolical. And contrary to most evidence on contemporary fashion trends, it is the older woman who is the fashion rebel and has taken to wearing pants.