We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
  Joan Bull (supp. fl. 1928–1946), by David Low, 1928 Joan Bull (supp. fl. 1928–1946), by David Low, 1928
Bull, Joan (supp. fl. 1928–1946), fictitious epitomist of enfranchised women, the analogue of , was created by the cartoonist to symbolize the women aged between twenty-one and thirty who obtained the vote in 1928 despite opposition from the ‘diehard dimwits’—clear precursors of Low's Colonel Blimp. Championing flapper fashions against the old fogies, speaking up for birth control and against restrictive clothing, Low showed a radical enthusiasm for the healthy political influence that newly enfranchised women might exert. His cloche-hatted, short-skirted, and high-heeled ‘Miss 1929’ featured in the Star on 11 June 1927 is the prototype for the Joan Bull who first appeared in the Evening Standard on 23 January 1928. Low had earlier portrayed a Mrs J. Bull in the Star on 10 November 1922 as a buxom middle-aged housewife. His Mrs Bull of 24 April 1924 was middle-aged and double-chinned and wore a Britannia helmet—echoing an earlier embodiment of patriotic domesticity popularized during the French Revolutionary Wars. Joan Bull, by contrast, sported a top hat, a union jack dress, and boots. When confronted by the claims and aspirations of politicians she appeared innocent, incredulous, and puzzled, though her questions—as later with the wife of Strube's John Citizen—issued from a shrewd and somewhat pert intelligence guaranteed to infuriate the male. Wide-eyed, open-minded, sceptical, and slightly humourless, she patronizingly gave party leaders a hearing as they competed for her vote.

Joan Bull stopped appearing regularly in Low's cartoons after the early 1930s and never rivalled his Colonel Blimp as a well-known stereotype. Low had less use for her once the general elections of 1929 and 1931 had exposed earlier exaggerations of the distinctive electoral influence that could be expected from women. Besides, in the 1930s there were more important issues for cartoonists and others to think about. Joan Bull made a brief return (in slacks, sandals, and a union jack brassière) with Low's other pre-war symbols—his dog, Blimp, and the TUC carthorse—in his cartoon The Models Return, published in the Evening Standard on 6 August 1946. Thereafter Low made no further use of her, and when in need of a national symbol in 1951 he reverted to the traditional and less contentious female archetype of .

Brian Harrison

Sources  

P. Mellini and R. T. Matthews, ‘John Bull's family arises’, History Today, 37/5 (1987), 17–23 · R. T. Matthews and P. Mellini, ‘From Britannia to Maggie: the fall and rise of John Bull's descendants’, History Today, 38/9 (1988), 17–23

Likenesses  

D. Low, caricature, University of Kent at Canterbury, British Cartoon Archive; repro. in Evening Standard (23 Jan 1928) [see illus.] · D. Low, caricature (The models return), repro. in Evening Standard (6 Aug 1946)