A to Z

This section explores an A-Z of the themes that reoccur throughout the images that we gathered for this project. 

G is for Gender

Images of the future in the long-nineteenth-century were rife with anxieties about gender. In this entry one of our student researchers, Maya Kerslake, explores some of these images – in this case the work of W. K. Haselden.

A London-based picture paper begun in 1903, the Daily Mirror was known for both predictive and propaganda illustrations. In ‘The Electric Kitchen’, W. K. Haselden depicts a woman in a kitchen pressing buttons on a machine to generate uses such as ‘boil’. Haselden’s caption reads ‘woman’s sphere in the future will be pressing buttons, instead of sewing them on’. Amid notions of the suffrage movement in the United Kingdom, it is interesting that Haselden still imagined the future’s women in servicing roles. Indeed, Eilidh M. Garret notes that the rate at which British women still engaged with domestic services as a means of an everyday profession declined by only 3.07% between 1881 and 1901. In this illustration, the futuristic role of women advances no further than interactions with automation to perform traditional duties.

In another Haselden illustration from 1909, in which the military expectations for men in the near future is the theme, only old people, babies and the ‘feeble’ are shown playing recreational sports. Contrastingly, men are shown in military uniforms, practising target-shooting and ‘learning to repulse Britain’s enemies’ as the caption reads. Haselden was known for ‘multiple panel’ comics, with this image divided into segments depicting each group individually. This provides a clear focus on Haselden’s predictions for specific and separate groups in society.

The image ostensibly promotes a higher rate of involvement in the military. There was growing concern amid the idea that men may forget ‘responsibilities’ owed to the Empire at the time; Lord Meath initiated Empire Day in 1903 to increase imperial education and knowledge in schools, for example. Haselden’s image may represent a subjective Utopian view of the future where men adhere to traditional masculine military expectations.The future of courtship was a common theme nineteenth and early twentieth century images, including worries about the disruptive effects of wireless technology on courtship, as illustrated by Punch in 1906. Haselden also turned his talents to this topic. Another 1909 Daily Mirror illustration perhaps reflects fears that women will dominate many aspects of romantic relationships. Though set extremely far in the future (one caption ‘A. D. 6909’ implies that it may take thousands of years for women to become authoritative), concerns related to the women’s suffrage movement of the early twentieth century may provide the illustration with a background. Haselden uses a ‘multiple panel’ comic technique to present depictions of humans. One panel shows a woman – much larger than a miniscule-sized man – instructing a maid herself; another depicts the smaller man proposing to a woman in an ‘uneatable’ metal suit designed to escape danger. This illustration highlights concerns about women taking more control in society. Katherine E. Kelly notes that in 1906, the Daily Mirror spread the news of multiple large suffrage protests, having printed a photo of a woman holding a ‘Votes for Women’ sign (Kelly p. 334). Among publicised discussion that women were demanding more rights, Haselden’s illustration ‘Marriage Proposals of the Future’ may represent Dystopian fears that women will gain authority in an increasing number of domestic situations too.

‘Development of Wireless Technology. Scene in Hyde Park’, Punch, December 26th 1906