Once Upon A Time, Folks Knew How to Get Women To Shut Up: With a Muzzle!

by Lan Truong


“This animal is quite harmless if not touched!”

“Muzzle or no muzzle, jabber she will!”

A picture’s worth a thousand words, and the illustrations on postcards say a lot about the time that they were created. For example, it’s easy to see from the women wearing muzzles postcards (did I just type “women wearing muzzles”?!) above that whatever time period they came about in, it was an important one for women’s rights. And no, these postcards were not created today (even though with all the women-hating going on, it sure feels like they could’ve been); they were created almost a century ago, around 1914.

The Postcard Age — a cool combination of history book and picture bookshows us the exciting and stupid things that have happened over the last century or so through 400+ illustrations, providing a vivid picture (literally) of what concerned people at a particular period of time. And it’s pretty obvious that in the decades surrounding 1900, people were concerned about women and their changing roles in society.

“Anxieties about changing gender roles are also revealed on postcards. The image of suffragists as unattractive and overbearing was particularly popular. Several postcard series of such women endorsed this view, sometimes suggesting that the solution to the suffragist problem was, simply, the muzzle. Such postcards, and similar images in other popular media, reflected the concern that as the woman earned the vote or started to work, the man would become feminized, condemned to household chores or even to staying at home to nurse the children. In turn, these women were characterized as somehow unfeminine and unnatural, dominating their meek and cowering husbands.” The Postcard Age

These women wearing muzzle postcards are ridiculous, but what’s even more ridiculous is that a century after they were created, they still feel relevant. Who else needs a drink right about now?

“A solution to the suffragette question!”

“It’s a good job for you I can’t get at you!”

If you’re in Boston, postcards from The Postcard Age will be on view at the Torf Gallery at the Museum of Fine Arts. The exhibition opens on October 24th and runs through April 14th.

Images courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts Boston


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