Rights of Women.
Mother. “Please, Mr. Burns, my baby ain’t fit to be vaccinated.”
John Burns. “No good for you to come here. Where’s your husband?”
Mother. “At sea.”
John Burns. “Well, be off with you, mothers don’t count as parents.”
Printed and Published by the Artists’ Suffrage League,
259, King’s Road, Chelsea.
This postcard, by the Artists’ Suffrage League, was addressed to the rights of women in society and the inequality between the rights of a mother and those of a father, rather than the more specific right to vote. It shows a mother holding her baby standing at the door of the local government board talking to a registrar who oversaw vaccinations. She is asking about an exemption for her child – the notice behind her draws attention to the ‘Vaccination Exemption Act’ (1907). The mother asks for an exemption but is dismissed as only the father could obtain this exemption (except for certain circumstances).
According to the Centre for the History of Medicine at University of Glasgow, following a series of Vaccination Acts in England, vaccinations were made available to the poor and over a period from the 1850s to 1860s the vaccination of children in England became compulsory. Due to religious beliefs and fears about possible side effects, some people objected and in 1907 the law was amended to allow for ‘conscientious objection’. In order to gain permission a father had to appear before a magistrate, explain his objection and then pay a fee to receive a certificate that could be presented to the registrars. Despite some Parliamentarians arguing that mothers should also be able to obtain this exemption this was not permitted. The only exceptions according to the website were ‘unmarried mothers or widows, or women whose husbands were abroad for a long period‘.