Charles Dana Gibson’s 1920 cover for Life magazine, which had a nationwide readership of 250,000, portrays a suffragist shaking hands with Columbia, who hands her the ballot. Columbia, wearing a flowing Grecian gown and a Phrygian bonnet, a symbol of liberty, is the female allegorical figure of the United States. Since Columbia had been widely represented on World War I propaganda posters, people were familiar with her allegorical meanings. The suffragist takes the recognizable form of the Gibson Girl—white, young, progressive, educated, and athletic—that had embodied the New Woman since the 1890s. Now in the 1920s, as a newly enfranchised woman, she has even more possibilities. The atmosphere was hopeful and women were beginning to set their aim on the Sheppard-Towner Act, which was signed by President Warren G. Harding in 1921, thereby providing federal subsidies for state programs of maternal and infant health care.


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