As the 20th century dawned, society stepped out of the restrictive corset of Victorian prudery and embraced the cheeky humor of rampant misogyny. This was especially apparent in joke postcards of the era. Below, you can find a sampling generously shared by ephemera collector Sharon Anne Weinman of Forest Hills, New York. (We've noted the date and provenance of postcards when we know them — for those with murkier origins, we've left it blank.)
There are reoccurring themes in these cards. Women's bottoms — the bigger the better — is a favorite. Ogling women without their knowledge (what Weinman calls "the ankle shots") is another. And of course, making fun of the emerging women's rights/suffragette moment.
[1909, Anglo Life Series]
I'm so sorry, sir. We did all we could. But all the glory you dreamed of for your offspring is dead. It's a girl.
Truly, if the bottoms of women back then were as glorious as these cards make them seem, how could you not dote on them?
The Edwardian era saw a new generation of women who went to college, wanted to vote, and who chose not to get married. Progressive? No. These women were jagged knives, slowly tearing the fabric of society into tatters. After all, it's a scientific fact that giving women the vote causes them to become lesbians. Very pretty, dainty-footed lesbians.
[Published by Edward Stern and co. Inc, Philadelphia]
This one reads: The College Girl / To see her you would never judge / That her mother at home has to drudge / And scrimp so's to pay / Through the college the way / Of a daughter who flirts and makes fudge!
Obviously both mother and daughter are fools. Sacrificing to improve the life of your child! I mean, really. There was a perfectly good rendering plant just two towns over Miss Hoity Toity could have gone to work at!
Quick! Get her before she turns 30 and they throw her on the composting heap!
[T.P. & co NY]
Of course, cards that sexually objectify women are still popular. Look in the back of any Spencer's Gifts. The difference between then and now is that most people being objectified in modern cards appear aware of it; trying to titillate the viewer. In these cards, the women never seem to know they're being looked at. In this one, a girl who shows that much opaque leg (practically the front of her knee) better expect a good gawkin'. She's practically begging for it.
The theme of rumps is revisited, with the commonly seen schoolmarm wife variation combined with the playful lechery of an old man. Truly a symphony of creep.
It's funny how 100 years can make all the difference between saucy ribaldry and having your name on the national sex offender registry.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is just as much fun to watch as it is to perpetrate.
[1907, Slate series no. 10]
No comment. But I'm thinking a whole chalkboard full of swear words.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Russia is stealthily threatening America with nuclear war
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 13 Urban Outfitters controversies
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- What political elites don't understand about Scotland's push for independence
- Why gay people of color are still losing
- The U.S. dollar has been strengthening for 3 straight years! (That's not good news.)
- Can we lead spiritually fulfilling lives without religion?
- Is 'feminism' just another word for 'liberalism'?
Subscribe to the Week