While Djuna Barnes is most known for her fiction writing, she also had significant ties to the women’s suffrage movement. Djuna’s connection to the women’s suffrage movement started at a young age. Djuna’s grandmother, Zadel Gustafson Barnes, was a writer, journalist, and poet. Zadel wrote profiles of well-known suffragists such as Frances E. Willard and participated in the National Woman Suffrage Association’s International Council of Women. Zadel was also active in the temperance movement, which was closely tied to the women’s suffrage movement.
Despite Djuna’s familial connection to the women’s suffrage movement, she had no qualms about occasionally mocking it. In an August 1913 article Djuna portrays the suffragists as making ridiculous statements such as “cleanliness is next to women suffrage.” These depictions portray suffragists as foolish caricatures. Djuna continues this approach in her 1913 article, “70 Suffragists Turned Loose.” Djuna engages with negative stereotypes of suffragists, such as portraying them as figures who emasculate and intimidate men. However, some of Djuna’s criticism is about the perceived conservatism of some suffrage leaders such as Carrie Chapman Catt. Djuna portrays Chapman Catt as admonishing aspiring suffragists for the length of their dresses and preparing them for speeches in front of audiences from “the factory world.” Djuna criticizes Chapman Catt’s focus on respectability politics and her classism, showing a willingness to engage in more nuanced critiques of the suffrage movement.Continue reading