With minimal technology in the mid-1800's, advertisers relied on newspapers and periodicals to persuade the public to buy their product or support their cause. Many periodicals circulated supporting abolition and women's rights. Besides persuasive motives, newspaper reporters often provided the only source or written historical record covering an event. Many articles demonstrate the bias of the reporter, which provides the reader with insight into the social mind set concerning particular topics of importance. Illustrations contained in some periodicals often provide the clearest testimony of the prejudices and stereotypes toward women as well as thoughts regarding the women's rights movement.
The Massachusetts Cataract
Click on a section for a closer look at the figures in the above picture.
The Massachusetts Cataract is an example of one of the many reform newspapers that appeared in the North in the early to mid-1800's. Printed in Worcester, MA., the Cataract focused on temperance. Its masthead (below) recognizes many significant issues of reform in society. Considering party politics, industrialization, transportation, and other reforms, what message does the masthead send to its readers? What hints of purity, cleansing, popular medicine (the water cure), or as a source of energy does the waterfall imply? Who or what might be going over the waterfall? To which events in the 1850's could the messages on the flags at each end refer?
Using 19th Century Newspapers to Better Understand the Women's Rights Movement
Linda Richardson provided a LESSON PLAN to guide high school teachers through some newspaper excerpts that she chose at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, MA.. Her questions provoke thoughts that demonstrate the participation of women in significant events during the second half of the nineteenth century. The documents as well as the questions address various requirements in the Massachusetts Frameworks at the secondary level.
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Weekly
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Weekly visually speaks about the extensive attention that women paid to fashion. Crinoline and hoop skirts appeared in many cartoons satirizing the female preoccupation with appearance as well as the obvious impracticality of their attire. Aside from the voluminous dresses, an occasional commentary appears concerning women in general as well as other fashion issues.
What do these pictures say about men's opinions of women's fashions?What impression do you get from the men when they appear in the pictures? What impression do you get from the women's faces concerning their own appearance? Which pictures contain implications of other social, political or economic issues that existed in mid-nineteenth century society?