Women have always worked hard for the money.
Around 1902, a French artist imagined professions that women would hold in the future.
He designed a set of trading cards that depicted these women. On the surface, it may seem that most of the predictions are both progressive and accurate.
But the cards are not what they seem.
The antique cards by Albert Bergeret show women in historically male professions, like this soldier.
Around the turn of the 20th century, there were female lawyers in Europe and the U.S., but there were restrictions where they could practice.
'These are not just women of the future,' Alice Kessler-Harris, history professor at Columbia University, tells Tech Insider. 'They are women of the moment who were breaching the barriers of traditional gender roles.'
But if you look at them more closely, they're likely a work of satire. The cards ridicule the women who were starting to hold these professions, Kessler-Harris says.
Beginning with the demand for women's suffrage in the 1840s, a broader movement for women's rights was bubbling in the U.S. and later in Europe. French women didn't gain the right to vote or participate in parliamentary elections until 1944. This mayor displays a goofy, distant smile.
Other portraits are more sexualized, like this female war general with bare arms and a low-cut uniform. This was probably in an effort to disempower women, Kessler-Harris says.
And here's a photo of a 'sous-off,' a French colloquial word for a non-commissioned officer. This female 'sous-off' is soliciting a place to sleep for the night.
It'd be nice to think that they were an early imagining of equality. But these women were performing nothing more than cosplay.
'The cards come out of fear that women were already on the threshold,' Kessler-Harris says. 'They suggest some deeper fear of what the future might hold, which terrified men.'
And judging by the duck on this woman's hat, the photographer probably didn't take the idea of a female journalist seriously either. 'Journalism is one of the few arenas that women cracked fairly quickly,' Kessler-Harris says. Little did he know that women would continue to join newsrooms. Joke's on you, Mr. Bergeret.
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