In celebration of Women’s History Month, on Sunday, March 25, the Barnum Museum will welcome Progressive-era suffrage historian Joanie DiMartino for “No More Pink Teas,” a talk about how national and Connecticut suffragists participated in a surge of militant political activism that led to women gaining the right to vote in 1920.
Women’s rights and suffrage were part of P.T. Barnum’s world. Not only did Barnum regularly attend the New York social salons hosted by the poets Alice and Phoebe Cary, at which guests like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were known visitors, he was a fan of the activist Lucy Stone and supported the tenure in Bridgeport of America’s first female ordained minister, the Universalist Olympia Brown.
In 1856, the American Museum offered a “test vote” ahead of the presidential election between Millard Fillmore, James Buchanan and John Fremont. This was essentially a casual 19th-century version of the election polling we’ve come to expect as standard fare during election season, with the added benefit from Barnum’s perspective of the ticket revenue he’d receive from anyone who wished to join in (visitors were of course welcome to partake of the Museum’s many other wonders, “increased in proportion” to draw crowds).
What was remarkable about this particular advertisement was that Barnum specifically invited his female guests to participate, under the headline: “The Rights of Women!” The clipping assured that “Women as well as Men vote at Barnum’s Museum,” and called readers to action: “Now is the time, Ladies, to show your preference.”