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From Abolition to Progressivism: Women in Public Life

Background Information for Slideshow

Photography was relatively new at the beginning of the suffrage era. The first photographs, invented at the end of the 1830s, were called daguerrotypes; the technology was expensive, and at first photography was a hobby only for the wealthy. However, rapid changes in technology led to the spread of portrait photography and snapshots across class lines in the United States.

Indicating the popularity of photography in the nineteenth century, many of the photographs in this slide-show are cartes de visites, the 19th century version of the snapshot, and would have been printed and traded among friends. For information about the cartes des visites, go to the American Museum of Photography website:

Others, especially later images, which come from the Library of Congress “American Memory” exhibit on “votes for women,” are photographs from publicity campaigns. For example, as a fundraising and publicity device, suffrage activists in California sold photographs of famous suffragists to donors for $2.00 a piece. For more information from the library of congress go to:

Both the visiting cards and the formal portrait prints were most likely done in professional studios and would have allowed their subjects quite a bit of control in choosing how to represent themselves.

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