March 2016 – More Parliamentary Balls – Donald McGill postcards, after 1928

'When Father says 'Vote' - we all vote' postcard, after 1928If in the 1920s you went to the seaside, titillation would often come in form of a postcard.  And back then the sauce king was illustrator Donald McGill, whose risqué images proved hugely popular with holiday makers.  The museum has recently purchased two McGill postcards for PHM’s collection as part of our Voting for Change project, but they don’t feature his usual double entendres.  Instead they comment on the passing of the Equal Franchise Act in 1928, the moment when men and women could vote on equal terms.  Superficially the postcards are just a bit of fun, but in reality they are evidence of long held misogynistic (the hatred or belittling of women) assumptions about how and why women would vote.'Where are you going to, my pretty Maid' postcard, after 1928

The McGill postcard on the right pictures a long held belief about women’s voting intentions.  Namely, that politics was complicated, women were too superficial to understand it, and consequently they would just vote for the best looking man.  Thus the ‘pretty Maid’ informs the man (a candidate in the election, his poster is shown far right) that she will be voting for the handsome Binks, the ‘Duck in the plus fours’.

By examining another object from PHM’s collection we can see just how long these delusions had been a part of British politics.  The 1853 print The Rights of Women or the Effects of Female Enfranchisement shows the ‘impact’ of giving women the vote.  Like McGill’s character these women vote for the attractive ‘ladies candidate‘, named Darling.  Even worse, men will be corrupted into voting the same way, the consequence being that the brilliant economist Screwdriver won’t get in.  Cruickshank was a widely known political satirist but like McGill fond of double entendres.  A vote for Darling was a vote for ‘Parliamentary Balls’.

The Rights of Women or the Effects of Female Enfranchisement by Cruickshank, 1853The world in 1929 was very different from that of 1853.  Yet despite 76 years separating the Cruickshank and McGill’s images, clearly the lazy stereotypes that dominated politics lived long.  Indeed, in some sections of society you could argue they still remain.

 

  • Visitors can see the Cruickshank print in Main Gallery One
  • The McGill postcards are not currently on display in the museum, however you can make an appointment to visit our collections stores by emailing exhibitions@phm.org.uk.

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