According to Elizabeth Crawford in The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide, 1866-1928, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) translated the “mechanics of the women’s suffrage campaign into board and card games,” 1 and soon, toy manufacturers began producing toys and games with women’s suffrage themes. Dr. Kenneth Florey, a collector of women’s suffrage memorabilia, shared some of his collection online–items ranged from traditional playing cards to puzzles to board games getting suffragettes out of prison. The games and toys produced by the WSPU were popular fundraisers, and continued the success of their campaign through tapping into Edwardian pop culture. The following are some of the most popular suffragette games of the Edwardian period.
The object of this game was to get the suffragettes (Player 1) from Albert Hall to the House of Commons without being arrested by the police (Player 2)!
Named for Emmeline Pankhurst and Prime Minister H.H. Asquith, the game “depicts the suffragettes’ struggle with Prime Minister Herbert Asquith and the Liberal government. By rolling the dice, players attempt to move a suffragette figure from her home to the Houses of Parliament, her course being hindered by a number of obstructions along the way.” 2
According to the rules, “the game is not dissimilar to rummy, it is a race to collect 6 cards of the same suit (there are four suffragette and four anti-suffragette images.) The cards are dealt and soon you become totally submerged in collecting all 6 ‘Pank, Pank, Pank’ cards, winning your team a point if you collect them first.” 3
It’s like déjà vu—from 120 years ago. In this last week before the 2016 election, let’s take a look back to 1896. This way, as you listen to sound bites about jobs, banks, industrialism, and trade in the next few days, you’ll know that we’ve been here before.
Back then we did not call economic downturns “recessions” or “depressions”; we called them “panics,” which has a refreshing honesty to it. The Panic of 1893 was a “war of wealth,” a pivotal event in a period known as the Gilded Age, a term coined by Mark Twain. Like today, the late nineteenth century was a time of growing divide between rich and poor—contrast the tenements of South Boston to the “cottages” of Newport. It was a global trend. Some economists have pointed out that we are in a new Gilded Age now, as modern wealth disparity approaches nineteenth century levels.
And like now, the Panic of 1893 was tied up in the new interconnectedness of the American economy—only they were talking about railroads and the telegraph, not Uber and the Internet. But, as is the case today, people were not sure what this would mean for the “old economy.” In the 1890s agriculture suffered, much like industry has in the last thirty years.
Banks, if they were lucky enough to survive the 1893 Panic, foreclosed on farms in the South, Midwest, and West. Our recent mortgage-crisis-fueled recession was countered by the Federal Reserve lowering interest rates to essentially zero, which they did by flooding our system with money. “Expansionary monetary policy” is pretty standard fare in economic textbooks these days, but this theory did not exist in 1893. And, by the way, neither did the Federal Reserve. But that did not make money supply any less of an issue. In fact, it made it more of one. Coinage was the election issue of the day in 1896 and 1900. You voted for a president based upon what you wanted to happen to the money supply. It was such an important topic of conversation that it even found a place in children’s literature.
“Follow the yellow brick road!” In the original text version of The WonderfulWizard of Oz, Dorothy’s slippers are silver. Silver eases Dorothy’s way along the “road of yellow bricks,” a metaphor for the gold standard. In other words, author L. Frank Baum showed that both precious metals, silver and gold, should be used for coinage in the United States, not just gold. This would expand the money supply, lower interest rates, and cause inflation—all policies that would help indebted farmers who were being crucified on a “cross of gold,” in the words of William Jennings Bryan, the Democratic candidate for president in both elections. Eastern industry opposed bimetallism because both owners and low-wage laborers stood to lose from inflation. This conflict—the rural heartland versus the East Coast elite—is a refrain you’ve heard before. In fact, the electoral maps of 1896 and 1900 predict the red-state-blue-state divide of today. In between then and now, the electoral maps bounced all around between Democrats and Republicans, but we have come full circle to the same structural change of the early 1900s.
Maybe the most important innovation Bryan brought to his candidacy, though, was his campaign itself. Bryan emerged out of the ashes of a Democratic Party he torched himself with populist and inflammatory rhetoric. He carried his message in person on a campaign tour through the Middle Atlantic and Midwestern states that lasted until two days before the election. Behaving in away that most politicians and establishment figures considered “undignified,” Bryan went to the voters instead of waiting for them to come to his front porch—literally—and wait for a chance glimpse of him, which was Republican William McKinley’s strategy. (Some would say it was also Hillary Clinton’s strategy, given her comparatively restrained public speaking schedule in recent months).
By Bryan’s own account, he traveled nearly 18,000 miles and made nearly 600 speeches—about 20-30 a day, with Sundays off—and spoke to around 5,000,000 Americans, more than a third of the number who would cast a vote come November. Bryan wrote:
Friday was one of the long days. In order that the reader may know how much work can be crowded into one campaign day, I will mention the places at which speeches were made between breakfast and bedtime: Muskegon, Holland, Fennville, Bangor, Hartford, Watervliet, Benton Harbor, Niles, Dowagiac, Decatur, Lawrence, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Marshall, Albion, Jackson (two speeches), Leslie, Mason, and Lansing (six speeches); total for the day, 25. It was near midnight when the last one was finished.
Partly because of the silverite policy, which not all Democrats had supported, and partly because of this populist campaign style, a rival National Democratic Party (Gold Democrats) was founded, with its own nominating convention in Indianapolis. They put forward a former Union general and a former Confederate general on their ticket, but by the end of the campaign these men actually began to turn votes toward their Republican rival. At his last stop in Warrensbury, Missouri, presidential nominee John Palmer said: “I promise you, my fellow Democrats, I will not consider it any very great fault if you decide next Tuesday to cast your ballot for William McKinley.” To some, this might feel like a certain third-party ticket of two former Republican governors—also from opposite sides of the country—who recently said that among the two-party candidates, they hoped people did not vote for Trump. Some saw this as a pseudo-endowment of Hillary Clinton, though the Libertarian Party quickly denied it.
There is more that ties 1986 to 2016, including the similarities seen between William Jennings Bryan and Donald Trump. Bryan spoke in a rhetorical style that elitist politicians snubbed but his audience loved. In March, Daniel Klinghard wrote:
…like Bryan, [Trump] does have a long history of drawing audiences in the private sphere, an ear for the common tongue and an ability to paint complex problems in blindingly simple terms. Like Bryan, Trump is happy to play to paranoid impulses and vague conspiracies….Like Trump, Bryan appealed to what he deemed to be common sense and warned his listeners that anyone preaching moderation only intended to keep the common man in the dark.
Unlike the 1896 election, though, the institutional candidate, Hillary Clinton, has her own problems hounding her, such as the recently discovered emails on former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s computer. It is a scandal that not even William McKinley’s shadowy political advisor, Mark Hanna, could have engineered. Buckle up, folks. It’s going to be a wild few days.
In French, the word histoire can mean either a chronicle of the past or a fresh fictional tale. As a historical romance author, I love that flexibility. No matter whether I am writing sexy novels or telling the truth of the Philippine-American War, I embrace the story behind the events.
Oh, maybe I should introduce myself? My name is Jennifer Hallock, and I am the author of Sugar Sun series—steamy books “for those who love their romance with a little more plot” (Carla de Guzman for Spot.ph). Evangeline has invited me to join her in posting on this spectacular blog. I’m thrilled to be here, and I cannot wait to show you my unusual little corner of the Edwardian Era.
My day job for the last twenty years has been teaching history to intelligent, discriminating teenagers. (Yes, such a beast exists, I am happy to report!) Like any good teacher, I strive to keep my presentation lively, informative, and seasoned with humor. Sometimes that humor shows up in the shape of snark, but so it goes. Thanks to the indulgence of my employer, I am lucky enough to teach one of the few courses in the United States—at any level—devoted to American colonial rule in the Philippines.
Did you know that the Edwardian Era was also known as the age of New Imperialism? It began with the Scramble for Africa in 1884-1885 and continued through the Scramble for the Pacific in the early 1900s. For Americans this meant Hawaii, the Philippines, Guam, American Samoa, Midway Island, and a little adventurism in China during the 1900 Boxer War.
I first got hooked on this topic while I worked in the Philippines. Many Americans (including my own family) did not know where I was heading, let alone that I would be living in a former U.S. colony. Ignorance is their loss: the Philippines is a great place with wonderful people. I wish I still lived there.
Stay tuned for more! And if you cannot wait—like, you literally need to know about the nonsense that Americans were getting up to in 1901 Manila—check out my novella, Hotel Oriente. It has politics, scandal, a misunderstood White Elephant, and stolen bacon. What else could you want?