Sisterhood is Powerful: UK Posters

Glasgow Women's Library

Posters are powerful. The Glasgow Women's Library collection features a wide variety of posters that were designed to raise awareness of women’s issues at home and internationally, works that promote women in the arts, and campaigning flyers for social and political change. All demonstrate how the poster format has and continues to be important to women, women’s groups and GWL.

Over the last 27 years, Glasgow Women’s Library has built up a collection of posters which inspire, inform and give us an insight into the history of women, women’s groups and women’s activism.

In this exhibit, we're taking a look at the wide range of posters produced here in the UK. Many of the posters reflect campaigns and activism from a specific time period but most continue to have contemporary significance, either as documents of social history, works of art or because the issues are still of concern to women today.

Posters have an enduring role as a way to tell the world what you want it to know. Many of the posters in the GWL collection serve a promotional purpose, advertising feminist magazines or social events.

Spare Rib was a ground-breaking feminist magazine that ran from 1972-93. The magazine was an active part of the emerging Women’s Liberation Movement in the late 20th century.

This poster, from International Women's Day 1986, promotes the March issue of the magazine.

Glasgow Women's Library houses a complete collection of every issue of Spare Rib.

Harpies & Quines was a feminist magazine distributed independently all over Scotland. 12 issues are held in the Glasgow Women’s Library archives. This poster promotes the launch of the magazine in 1992.

This poster was produced by the Women's Education Resource Centre to promote BLACKWOMEN WRITERS.

At the centre of the poster is a poem titled As a Blackwoman by contemporary fine artist, photographer, writer and curator Maud Sulter.

As well as promoting events or publications, posters are important tools for campaigning and activism.

See Red Women's Workshop was a feminist silkscreen poster collective founded in London in 1974 by three former art students.

The See Red Women’s Workshop grew out of a shared desire to combat sexist images of women and to create positive and challenging alternatives.

Women from different backgrounds came together to make posters and calendars that tackled issues of sexuality, identity and oppression.

Right On, Jane (1977) started as a single colour illustration in the 1977 See Red Women's Workshop calendar and became a very popular poster.

Right On, Jane was a reaction to the Ladybird Key Words Reading Scheme series. See Red Women's Workshop members were increasingly appalled by the 1950's sexism in this series of books and the fact that they were still available in schools and libraries.

The first three frames of this poster present images from one of the Ladybird Key Words Reading Scheme series of books.

The text in the first three frames is also the original text. The only element that has been changed for the poster is the deliberate choice of primary colours in place of the 'realistic' illustrations of the originals.

The fourth picture is an addition by See Red Women's Workshop in which Jane questions her role in the story and the book's sexism.

Confronting negative stereotypes, questioning the role of women in society, and promoting women's self-determination were all key to See Red Women's Workshop's approach.

This poster was printed as part of the YBA wife and Don't Do it Di campaigns at the time of the marriage of Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles.

See Red not only designed campaigning or awareness-raising posters but also designed and printed them for other organisations.

This poster advertises the Feminist Library in London. The Feminist Library is a large archive collection of Women’s Liberation Movement literature, particularly second-wave materials dating from the late 1960s to the 1990s.

Poster campaigns from Unions, Government Departments and Public Sector organisations have also been popular over the years. Often these campaigns look to challenge stereotypes, promote equal opportunities and call out sexist behaviour.

This poster from the National Union of Journalists aims to tackle sexism in the workplace.

With the use of an old-fashioned black and white image of a cigar smoking newspaper boss, the poster is drawing attention to outdated ideas of the workplace and the NUJ's fight for equality.

This poster from Glasgow City Council aims to tackle homophobia and promote equal rights for lesbians and gay men.

Alongside other LGBTQ organisations, staff from Glasgow Women's Library were involved in the creation of this poster. It was displayed across Glasgow at the end of the 1990's.

Peace activism is another important element of the posters in the Glasgow Women's Libary's collection.

This poster, produced in 1979, calls for the neutron bomb to be scrapped.

Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp was a peace camp established to protest at nuclear weapons being sited at RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire, England.

This poster calls for women to take part in an international action to protest against the decision of the British government to allow cruise missiles to be based at RAF Greenham Common.

On 12 December 1982, 30,000 women held hands around the perimeter of the base.

In the case of many of these posters, the medium’s message continues to be as powerful and as relevant as when they were first printed.

Some of the posters in this exhibit have served their purpose; they are no longer functional but can be read now as marking critical moments in the history of feminism, and are documents of social history and works of art.

Most, however, are still as powerful today as they were when they were first printed, illustrating the enduring impact of this relatively simple form of marketing.

Credits: Story

This exhibition has been curated, designed and produced by Kirsty McBride. Kirsty is a designer working in Glasgow and was GWL’s first Visual Communication Designer in Residence in 2015/16.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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