CAMBRIDGE, MASS. — IN convention halls, union rooms, and on streets of the United States and Great Britain from the 1850s to the early 20th century, a chorus of women's voices grew louder.
The women were suffragists protesting laws that forbade them the right to vote.
The suffragist movement began in Britain in 1851 and in America in 1869. Women used a variety of tactics to get their message out. For years they lobbied politicians, spoke to audiences of men, picketed, and demonstrated. In England, where the movement was most militant, many women participated in hunger strikes, broke windows, and were imprisoned. Later they used posters to promote their cause.
A collection of 55 posters - rare reprints and one-of-a-kind originals - are on display at Radcliffe College's Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America in Cambridge, Mass., through Dec. 3. The exhibit, ``Votes for Women,'' celebrates the 50th anniversary of the library, which started in 1943 with a collection of suffrage materials.
Many posters in the collection, which belonged to California suffragist Alice Park, were produced by both female and male artists who worked for pro-women causes. The posters depict vastly different images and approaches to the suffrage cause.
One, for example, shows a woman in armor with the word justice engraved on her breastplate. Others depict women in a more traditional light, appealing to a less radical audience.
Several ridicule women who were antisuffragists. In one titled ``Coming in with the Tide,'' a matronly looking antisuffragist dressed in a maid's clothing stands at the stoop of her house with a mop. Water is lapping at the steps, and she tries to mop it away. In the background, women on a boat that says `justice and women's suffrage' are advancing triumphantly. The antisuffragist, meanwhile, says: ``Coming in with the tide indeed! I'll soon stop their tide!''
In the US, women's suffrage was won state by state at first. In 1920, the 19th Amendment allowed all women to vote. Britain gave the vote to women age 30 and over in 1918 and in 1928 lowered the voting age to 21.