Oregon Woman Suffrage History Month to Month

December 1911: “Leap Year is Coming”

Editorial cartoons in city newspapers provide a window onto some of the feelings and reactions cartoonists, editors and readers had about woman suffrage. On December 16, 1911 cartoonist J.E. Murphy published “Leap Year is Coming” on the front page of Portland’s Oregon Journal

Leap Year is Coming
J. E. Murphy, “Leap Year is Coming,” Oregon Journal, December 16, 1911, 1.

The year 1912 was a “leap year,” giving February a 29th day. Popular tradition held that in leap years women could ask men to dance or to marry, unlike other years when they were not to take the lead.

J.E. Murphy used this concept of a leap year as a foundation for his editorial cartoon. Here “Miss 1912” dressed in the latest fashion, considers the potential presidential candidates in frames on her desk as she might consider potential husbands. They include Woodrow Wilson, William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, and Robert LaFollette, with other possible candidates, Uncle Sam looks on with amusement.

The cartoon presents both positive and negative views of women and their political power. “Miss 1912” is thoughtful, and the choice before her, selecting a president, involves the right to vote. It was a power that women in states surrounding Oregon had achieved; cartoonist Murphy suggests that Oregon women will gain that power in the upcoming election of 1912. Yet because the candidates are arrayed as potential husbands it might appear as if “Miss 1912” is simply looking for the most handsome choice (a charge that some opponents made about women voters). Actions in leap year could be considered unusual exceptions rather than rights and obligations.

Without direct comments from readers, it is hard to know just how they received “Leap Year is Coming”.

Like today, editorial cartoons in the suffrage era seized readers’ interest, called on ideas and emotions and were memorable. Both sides of the suffrage campaign used images to advance their cause.

—Kimberly Jensen

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Posted by history class on 12/01 at 07:19 AM

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