Women's Rights and Text

Stories of exceptional women seen through familiar, everyday objects

By Google Arts & Culture

Words by Anna Gerber

Suffragettes making banners (1910) by World's Graphic Press, LtdMuseum of London

Though much historical progression is owed to "actions not words", the conception and dissemination of ideas through 'text' - from novels and essays to the slogans on activists' banners - is a crucial vehicle for social change.

The struggle for women's rights is no exception. Scroll on to read more about the relationship between words and deeds in the stories of some iconic historial women.

Mary Wollstonecraft suffrage banner (1908)Original Source: LSE Library

Mary Wollstonecraft

British writer, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) believed in giving women access to education and spent her life advocating for social equality. Wollstonecraft's seminal A Vindication of the Rights of Woman was published in 1792 and is still considered a feminist classic today. 

Writing board (1877/1878) by Elma StuartThe Herbert Art Gallery and Museum

Elma Stuart

This wooden writing board, carved by author and nutritionist Elma Stuart (1837-1903), was gifted to Mary Ann Evans in 1872. Better known as George Eliot, Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880) went on to write literary classic Middlemarch, using a pen name to disguise her gender. 

Jane Austen suffrage banner (1908)Original Source: LSE Library

Jane Austen

Suffrage campaigners designed silk and satin banners to capture interest on marches and processions from 1907-1918. Banners represented organisations, regions and historical figures, such as Jane Austen, best known for writing literary classic Pride and Prejudice (1813).

Princess Sophia Duleep Singh selling 'Suffragette' subscriptions (1913/1913) by Museum of LondonOriginal Source: Museum of London

Indian Suffragettes

Radical British liberal politician, Jane Cobden (1851-1947), daughter of Victorian reformer Richard Cobden, organised an Indian womens' group within the Women’s Coronation Procession of 1911 in London, to show the strength of the movement across the British Empire. 

Katharine Hamnett and Margaret Thatcher (1984) by Katharine HamnettOriginal Source: Katharine Hamnett

Katharine Hamnett

British fashion designer Katharine Hamnett (1947-) is best known for her protest slogan t-shirts. Hamnett made headlines in 1984 by wearing her own 58% don’t want pershing t-shirt to meet Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, in protest of US nuclear weapons proliferating in the UK.

Untitled (Inserts) (1988) by Kruger, BarbaraPublic Art Fund

Barbara Kruger

American artist Barbara Kruger (1945–) began her career working as a graphic designer and later leaned on her design skills to make large scale artworks. Kruger is celebrated for using found imagery with bold statement protest texts to address political and cultural commentary.

Vivienne Westwood Climate Revolution by Vivienne WestwoodOriginal Source: Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood

Self-taught British fashion designer, Vivienne Westwood (1941-), is celebrated for bringing the anti-establishmentarian sentiments of punk to fashion design. Westwood is pictured in one of her own slogan t-shirt designs, championing climate change causes.

Jenny Holzer Graziala Biennale di Venezia - Biennale Arte 2015

Jenny Holzer

American artist Jenny Holzer (1950-) uses text to create large scale projections in public spaces. Holzer’s practice is rooted in feminist thought, challenging social norms with bold statements. In 1990, she was the first woman to represent the US at the Venice Biennale.

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.
Google apps