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Anti-Suffrage Button

The height of the suffrage campaign coincided with what has been called “The Golden Age of Campaign Buttons.” Inexpensive celluloid buttons were first widely used in the 1896 presidential election and they have been staples of political campaigns ever since. Suffragists were always on the lookout for new ways to spread their message, and the fact that buttons were cheap and easy to produce meant that they were quickly added to the suffrage arsenal. Not only did buttons offer a novel way to publicly proclaim one’s political views, they were also nifty souvenirs suitable for collecting.

Soon anti-suffragists got into the act, not willing to cede public display to their more flamboyant suffragist sisters. Realizing the importance of branding, antis countered suffragists’ purple, gold, and white palette by choosing red to identify their cause, with the red rose quickly becoming their most recognizable symbol. Their red, black, and white buttons stated their allegiance so boldly that often one word did the trick: “No.”

Women’s anti-suffrage arguments were grounded in a clear—and to many citizens, convincing—political philosophy. Far from consigning women to the domestic sphere, anti-suffragist women encouraged a broad range of activities beyond the home. They drew the line at partisan politics, however, which they saw as dirty and unappealing. Moreover, to vote meant declaring allegiance to a political party, thereby foregoing the disinterestedness that many women felt was key to their success in the public realm. The fact that so many prominent women publicly said they didn’t need or want the vote was a powerful weapon in the battle for public opinion.