Votes for Women, 1872: “When we vote we’ll fix those terrible men”

JF Ptak Science Books   Post 2468

In-between research bits I’ve been spending some time moving around in the Levy Sheet Music Collection at Johns Hopkins–there’s a lot of interesting stuff and it has a pretty big online footprint.  I’ve been working on an alphabet of illustrated sheet music covers having to do with the Moon, and collecting some images for tanks and aeroplanes–and just yesterday I posted a great piece of sheet music on the telephone (from 1877).  

Music vote for womenSource: Levy Sheet Music Collection, Johns Hopkins, here:

The unfortunate piece of this is that while searching “Moon” I bumped into a number of severely racist covers. This has happened before, doing benign searches on “comet” and “stars” and such, looking for the physical sciences in pop music in the early 20th century, and finding racist covers among the few bona fide examples located.  It certainly speaks to an endemic and deep racism in general when you can depict a meteor with a terrible caricature of an African American, or a song called  “If the Man in the Moon was a Coon”.  Taking this a little further I did a search under “coon” and found over 100 non-repeating titles with covers from this collection–many of the covers are astonishingly bad. (Another search on an even more odious word turns up more examples.) On the one had they speak to a searing but very accepting and casual race-hatred and are a lesson in themselves, especially when you can scroll through them all in a single pass. On the other hand, I don’t want to be in such close public proximity to these horrible things.  

The path regarding posting those covers is not clear.

In the meantime I would like to share this fantastic womens’ suffrage sheet music, published early on (1872) in the fight for the vote, though the lyrics are much more confrontation than the cover art.  (Except of course that the very imagery of women at a polling station–an event mostly entirely not allowed in the U.S. until 1919–which would have been jarring on its own to nearly any uninspired man looking at it.)  Remember too that this is only three years after the first national suffrage organizations were founded (one by Susan B. Anthony and the other by Lucy Stone), so the national attitude towards the idea of women voting as a popular movement was still quite young.

The lyrics paint a fairly dismal picture for women, “trodden underfoot we’ve always been”, “locked up like slaves”, “wretched”, “treated with contempt and scorn”. On the other hand when given the right to vote, the refrain at the end of each of teh four stanzas is the same save one word describing men:

“When we vote we’ll fix those terrible men”. The “cruelest knaves” are then  referred to as “those dreadful men”, “those wicked men”, and then finally as “those awful men”.  Probably this was not so far from the truth.


By: Ptak Science Books
Via: Feedbin Starred Entries

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