Tuesday 18 December 2012

Stefi Kiesler


Stefi Kiesler, American born Austria, 1900–63

Stefi Kieser was a participant in and theorist of De Stijl (the Style), a group of European artists and architects who advocated for a standardized and technical art that would transcend personal taste in favor of what its members saw as art's geometric founding principles. Kiesler argued that, to achieve true objectivity, members of De Stijl should abandon traditional painting. She employed this methodology in creating 'typo-plastic' drawings using only a typewriter. Kiesler published several of these works in the journal De Stijl, under the male pseudonym Pietro de Saga. By 1931 she and her husband, the artist, architect, and designer Frederick Kiesler, had settled in New York. There Stefi Kiesler worked at the New York Public Library, where she helped Katherine S. Dreier, cofounder of the Société Anonyme, conduct research for the collection's catalogue. A little bit more info here or here.

With thanks to Antony Hudek for the tip.

Friday 30 November 2012

Women's Work

A nice review from Teal Triggs on  Women in Graphic Design, 1890–2012 (eds. Gerda Breuer 
and Julia Meer, Jovis/D.A.P.) can be read on the Print website.

Especially helpful is Teal’s list of previous books on the subject:
  • Isabelle Anscombe’s, A Woman’s Touch (Viking, 1984) 
  • Liz McQuiston, Women in Design (Rizzoli, 1988)
  • Pat Kirkham, Women Designers in the USA, 1900–2000 (Yale University Press, 2000)
  • Bryony Gomez-Palacio and Armin Vit, Women of Design (HOW Books, 2008)
The book can be bought here.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Working Girls

Member of the European parliament Licia Ronzulli of Italy takes part with her daughter Vittoria in a voting session at the European parliament in Strasbourg. Photograph: Vincent Kessler/Reuters. Source: The Guardian online.

The Daily Graphic

A newspaper by the suffragettes, called The Daily Graphic. Images from the British Library website.

See Red Women's Workshop

An exhibition about the See Red Women's Workshop collective and their associated ephemera of protest and Women's Liberation.

Dedicated to the ideals of the second wave feminist movement, and with the founding objective of designing and producing images that explored and questioned the role of women in society – ‘the personal is political’ – See Red Women's Workshop was an alternative screen print collective focused on solidarity and revolt.

5 December 2012 – 13 January 2013
Institute of Contemporary Arts
The Mall
London SW1Y 5AH

Tuesday 30 October 2012

The Invisible War

‘The groundbreaking film The Invisible War exposes the shocking level of sexual abuse against women in the US military. Its concerns about rape are echoed in the UK.’ 

‘There is absolutely no balance in the movie world. It is so bleak there are so few women directors, it's still very much an all boys club. It's just horrible.’ says its director, Amy Ziering

Read more on The Guardian 

Monday 3 September 2012

Shulamith Firestone dies at 67

Shulamith Firestone, a leading thinker of second-wave feminism and co-founder of the New York Radical Women group, has died at the age of 67.

Firestone, a radical feminist and activist, was the author of the groundbreaking 1970 book,
The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution. She left politics in the early 1970s and later fell into obscurity.

An article on The Atlantic.

Friday 3 August 2012

Jo Spence

Image of someone setting type for The Hackney Flashers Collective, a collective of feminist and socialist women who produced exhibitions such as ‘Women and Work’ and ‘Who’s Holding the Baby’. More information on the recent exhibition of the work of Jo Spence, founder member of the collective, can be found on the website of Studio Voltaire.

Saturday 21 July 2012

Gunta Stölz

A weaving student at the Bauhaus. More info on www.guntastolzl.org and wikipedia.

Saturday 16 June 2012


An exhibition of work by Eileen Boxer, Elaine Lustig Cohen, Louise Fili, Lucille Tenazas, Paula Scher, Gail Anderson, Carin Goldberg, held in New York in June 2011.

Steven Heller: Why an exhibition now with this focus?
Abby Goldstein: As professor/director of the graphic design concentration at Fordham, part of my teaching approach is to curate exhibitions about design and typography. This exhibition came about from a discussion with Paul Shaw about what we felt was a lack of recognition of great women designers. Lindsay [Reichart] was taking a class in Feminism and Art and was looking to do a Senior Thesis project that combined her interests in Art History, Feminism in Art and Graphic Design. It seemed like the perfect combination.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Shirley Craven

Born in Hull in 1934, Shirley Craven studied art at Hull College of Art and then printed textiles at the Royal College of Art, 1955-58.

In 1959, aged 25, she started work at Hull Traders, a textiles firm founded two years earlier in Willesden, London, by entrepreneur Tristam Hull, who had ‘ambitious artistic aspirations’, (Jackson, 2007, p.104). In 1963, she became Chief Designer and a Director of the firm, where she worked for nearly two decades. In 1960 Design magazine described the company as having a ‘high reputation for producing adventurous and exciting designs’, which they attributed to the tight control of Craven, who displayed a ‘dramatic and original handling of colour and pattern’ (Design, 1960, p.185)

Check out the Flickr account that features some of her work here, or the book about the Hull Traders here.

Monday 11 June 2012

Women in Graphic Design

Women in Graphic Design 1890-2012 is new publication edited by Gerda Breuer and Julia Meer from the Bergische Universität Wuppertal, published by Jovis Verlag, Berlin. Texts are in german and english, lots of illustrations…

Sunday 10 June 2012

Feminism: Activism: Modernisms

Call for papers

University College Cork, 14–15 September 2012
Deadline: 30 June 2012

Feminism and modernism have long had an uneasy relationship. The feminist position within modernism, an arguably masculinist complex of movements, is an ambiguous and problematic one which is further complicated when it comes into relationship with activism. Throughout the twentieth century, artists and writers aligned with feminism and the women’s movement have engaged with modernist tropes in a variety of ways, employing literary, filmic and artistic practices both to evaluate political positions and to prosthelytize for them. Much of the recent scholarship on these practitioners has neglected to contextualise their output as work that might operate against or within contemporaneous manifestations of feminist activism.

This conference seeks to explore how feminist activism has intersected with modernism and postmodernism in the arts, examining the tensions, connections, and contributions made to modernisms by participants in the women’s movement and by individual feminist activists. Looking at phenomena ranging from early futurist claims for the autonomy of the female practitioner to an artistic and literary engagement with the second wave of the women’s movement, and the relationship between feminism and poststructuralism, this conference seeks considerations of a variety of approaches from across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in order to interrogate activist feminism and its relationship to the modernist artworld.

Submit your paper now, more information here or download pdf here

Monday 30 April 2012

For the women in London

In London, the inequality gap between women and men is wider than the national average.
Sign the Fawcett Society's petition for the Mayoral and London Assembly candidates here.

Via Dogana

In June 1991, the Libreria delle donne published the first issue of Via Dogana: a four-monthly magazine of political practice. The name chosen is that of the bookshop’s street, because “the women’s movement prefers to use metonymic names which, in Milan, are street names so there are no metaphorical implications”. 
Each issue started with an open meeting, the so-called “enlarged editorial office”. In order not to lose any copies, distribution followed the choice of a bookshop for each city, thereby creating a “map of bookshops preferred by women”. The topic of the first edition was significant: “Politics is Women’s Politics”. The second, “Opportunity is Uneven” spoke in favor of acknowledging FEMALE DIFFERENCE and openly challenged equal opportunity policies. Issue 37, “Freedom in the Workplace” (1998) announced the end of precarious work and the assumption of FEMINIZATION OF WORK AS WORK TOUT COURT. 

In 2001 the Libreria delle donne changed its location but the magazine continues to under the name of Via Dogana.

Libreria delle donne Milan

The Libreria delle donne [Women’s Bookshop] Milan, opened in 1975. It was founded by a group of 15 women of different ages, experiences, interests, with the idea to work in a collective of only women and to highlight the female literary production, very much overlooked at that time.

“We have collected funds, mainly from the sale of paintings offered by women artists, and with this sum we have rented and furnished the venue. The practical work has been responsibly managed by a cooperative insomuch as this appeared to us as the least rigid form of association provided for by legislation [...] The bookshop is not funded and must necessarily be self-sufficient. The commercial aspect, therefore – although remaining instrumental with respect to the political moment – cannot be neglected. As any other shop, the bookshop opens onto the street and anyone can come in, man or woman. [...] We wanted to open a place that is political for the simple reason that here women can meet without shutting themselves up in the private and without subordinating their interests to those of institutions and organizations. In our opinion, this opportunity represents in itself a political achievement over the enforced privatization of our relationships and against the systemic neglect of our interests”. 

Saturday 28 April 2012

Jacqueline de Jong

Dutch artist and graphic designer Jacqueline de Jong joined the Situationist International in 1960. De Jong suggested the publication of an English language newsletter in November of 1960, to be co-edited with British Situationist Alexander Trocchi. The publication was widely discussed at Situationist conferences in 1961, and the first issue of The Situationist Times was published in May of 1962. De Jong was determined to produce 'a completely free magazine, based on the most creative of the Situationist ideas'.

An exhibition of The Situationist Times opens in at Boo Hooray in New York on 9 May 2012.
More information here or here.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

A good thing coming to an end?

From The Women's Library website: 
The Women’s Library is seeking a new home
On Wednesday 14 March, London Metropolitan University’s Board of Governors announced that they will be seeking a new home, custodian or sponsor of The Women’s Library’s collections. 
If a new home is not found by the end of December 2012, the Library will move to opening hours of one day per week for a period of three years, with a further review at the end of that period. We will keep you informed of further developments, and we are in the process of contacting key stakeholders.
If you have any suggestions of potential custodians, or any queries, please email us: moreinfo@thewomenslibrary.ac.uk 
The Women's Library is a cultural centre housing the most extensive collection of women's history in the UK. The collections include books, pamphlets, periodicals, zines, artist books, audio-visuals, personal and organisational papers, objects, textiles and visual materials.  You can visit our Reading Room to research and browse free of charge. 
Sign the petition here

Tuesday 3 April 2012

LABOUR – the publication

LABOUR addresses the general conditions of feminised labour, and how a feminist reading of work benefits a critique of the current scenario for art workers. The periodical arises from a series of five meetings of practicing female artists entitled ‘A conversation to know if there is a conversation to be had’, held at semi-public spaces in 2010–2012 respectively in New York (Dexter Sinister), Amsterdam (Kunstverein), Berlin (Salon Populaire), and London (Raven Row & Goldsmiths).
Edited by Melissa Gordon & Marina Vishmidt.
Next issue: ‘Persona’
For enquiries: aconversationtobehad@gmail.com

Monday 2 April 2012

Adrienne Rich book covers

RIP Adrienne Rich, who passed away last week.
Adrienne Cecile Rich (May 16, 1929 – March 27, 2012) was an American poet, essayist and feminist. She has been called "one of the most widely read and influential poets of the second half of the 20th century", and was credited with bringing "the oppression of women and lesbians to the forefront of poetic discourse".’ (from Wikipedia, more here)


Cyberfeminism / The Old Boys Network

The Old Boys Network was created by Cornelia Sollfrank, Ellen Nonnenmacher, Vali Djordjevic and Julianne Pierce in Berlin in 1997 and is regarded as the first international Cyberfeminist alliance.
Their website has a great reading room with texts and other resources in english and german.

The old boys network also initiated the First Cyberfeminist Internatonal, a one day conference held during Documenta X in 1997 to get together, share ideas and establish Cyberfeminism as a movement. Instead of creating a unisono definition of Cyberfeminism, they published a list of 100 anti-theses, to state what the movement is not. (the list can be found in the reading room)

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Ways of Seeing

Watch the second episode of John Berger's BBC television series Ways of Seeing (1972) here, to get an early example of a feminist reading of art and advertising.

Tuesday 27 March 2012

The New Woman’s Survival Catalog

The New Woman’s Survival Catalog is a publication edited by Kirsten Grimstad and Susan Rennie in 1973 with the aim to strengthen a feminist network in the US and raise consciousness for different kinds of movements and associations concerned with feminist issues.

Working for a University, Kirsten Grimstad was initially assigned to put together a bibliography of women’s studies, but then decided to include also contemporary activities of women and women’s groups to take the research beyond scholarly scope. During the summer of 1973, Kirsten Grimstad and Susan Rennie were then taking the road for an extensive trip through the US, meeting all the individuals and initiatives that are introduced in the catalog personally and gathering information for the publication. 

The New Woman’s Survival Catalog consists of several chapters such as art, communications, work and money, child care, self help, self-defense, getting justice and buliding the movement. The Catalog introduces women-run presses, bookstores, bands, law firms, banks, organizations and enterprises as well as schools and non-sexist playgroups for children and include their contact information.
"These projects express a rejection of the values of existing institutional structures and, unlike the hip male counter-culture, represent an active attempt to reshape culture through changing values and consciousness." (from the foreword)

The format and layout of the New Woman’s Survival Catalog are similar to the Whole Earth Catalog.
Further comparison on an ideological level might be interesting: starting from the difference between "WHOLE" and "WOMAN" in the respective titles – the first seems objective whereas the second is by definition subjective...
Quite striking is also "Survival" as part of the title (and mission).

The catalog itself as well as the projects and initiatives that it introduces are the outcome of non-hierarchic collective work and decision-making structures and processes. It also shows an urge for communication and exchange of experiences.

There is a video interview with Kirsten Grimstad and Susan Rennie that provides more background information: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDQrJOIYJ_4

Sunday 25 March 2012

Nicolete Gray

‘Nicolete Gray's life was marked by many and diverse achievements, but it is as the historian and advocate and exponent of lettering that she will be chiefly remembered.’ Read the rest of her obituary from The Independent in 1997 here.

Feminist Design is Caring, Inclusive, Relational

‘There is a prevalent notion in the professional world that only if you have eight or more uninterrupted hours per day can you do significant work. But if you respond to other human beings… you never really have eight uninterrupted hours in a row. Relational existence is only attached to gender by history – not by genes, not by biology, not by some essential ‘femaleness’. … A relational person allows notions about other people to interrupt the trajectory of thinking or designing…’
(Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, ‘Feminist Design is Caring, Inclusive, Relational’, interview by Ellen Lupton, Eye 8, p.14) Read the whole article here.

Friday 23 March 2012

Nat Hunter

Nat Hunter of Tokyo Digital 'maintains that women can be apologetic for themselves, whereas successful men have opinions and egos, and aren’t afraid to put them across. She stresses the importance of women being assertive with their opinions.' Read a little bit more here. Comments please!

Wednesday 21 March 2012

The Girl Effect

The Girl Effect is an awareness campaign focused on the importance of girls’ education in solving global poverty. Visit their website for more information and inspiration. The film is both a moving call to action, and an explanation of a very interesting idea.

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Gender bias in book publishing

Research shows that gender bias in books publishing remains acute. Study by Vida shows that the great majority of quality-press reviews are still by and about male writers. Read the article on The Guardian.

Typography & Gender

A great MA dissertation by Julián David Moncada Tobar, from Master of Arts in Typeface Design, University of Reading, 2011.

Friday 16 March 2012

Gudrun Zapf von Hesse

Can someone please fill in the Wikipedia on Gudrun Zapf von Hesse?
Her page is tiny compared to that of her husband, Hermann Zapf.
I think this is a photo of her:

Here are some of her typeface designs:

Naomi Wolf

There was a chat session with Naomi Wolf on feminism on the Guardian website earlier today, read the full transcript here or her column 'How we can connect with feminism's global future' here.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Dear Sirs

I received a letter today starting with "Dear Sirs" (Did they assume only men run graphic design studios or was it just a typo?). It reminded me of this interview with Frith Kerr.


Writing a generic email, and starting with ‘Dear Sir’.

Monday 12 March 2012

Interview with Marsha Rowe

A What I find most fascinating is that you decided to share all the tasks except graphic design.
M No, that did come in. Because those days it was still all cut out, big pasted up on boards, everyone ended up getting much more involved in what type size, headings and the images and what to chose.

A So there was an involvement in the design?
M Yes there was, but there was a person co-ordinating and making the final decisions. And everyone got to learn a bit but some people couldn’t do it. It was a skill, you have to be very good with your hands to do those paste ups and you have to have a flare for it, so it just couldn’t be easily collectivised. You still had people responsible for specific things, so right up to collective days, you had someone in charge with design, and someone responsible for music or features.

I interviewed Marsha Rowe, the founder of Spare Rib, for Treating of Matters in 2010. You can read it in full here.

Spare Rib's first dummy, 1972

The Time of the Signs

A great interview with Margaret Calvert by Phil Baines. Read it here.

Sunday 11 March 2012

The Bare Facts

The facts say it all... Here is our presentation from the Feminism and Graphic Design conference at Iaspis last week: a data visualisation of gender divisions within graphic design today. It's only the beginning of our research and it's far from complete, so please get in touch if you want to contribute in making this real. 

Designer Breakfasts

Designer Breakfasts – Where are the Women?
Tuesday 20 March, 8 –10am

There are fewer women than men at the top of mainstream design agencies. Attempting to identify reasons for this gender imbalance provokes assumption and generalization best corrected by hearing a range of real case studies.

The panel will draw on their very different experiences and perspectives to test this theory and the validity of commonly held explanations for it – among them the conflicting demands of family and work, the cut-throat nature of traditional business, the wish for a more collaborative and co-operative way of working and the opportunity to create a portfolio career and better work/life balance offered by modern communications technologies. They will also be looking at ways of making the most of all the talent available, male or female, in a world where inclusiveness and openness to change are increasingly important to commercial success.

With Penny Baxter, Nat Hunter, Jack Renwick and Jacky O’Leary.

Design Museum, London.
More info here.

They will put a video online afterwards, so if £26 is a bit pricey, save your bucks for better causes!

Saturday 10 March 2012

Women in Graphic Design 1890-2012

A new book by Gerda Breuer und Julia Meer, published by Jovis in March 2012.
"Why do apparently so few women feature in the history of design? Why is it still the case that so few women speak at conferences? Why are previously well-known women “forgotten”? What effects does the gender debate have on today’s everyday working life? Are women judged today solely on the basis of their quality of work? Since professionalization began, female graphic designers have been working actively and successfully, but the artificial synthesis of masculinity and artistic genius has repeatedly prevented women—with few exceptions—to be recognised in “official” design history. Still today, despite the claim that the gender issue is obsolete in graphic design, only a tiny percentage of active female designers enjoy public acclaim." Buy the book here.

Friday 9 March 2012

All Work and Low Pay: The Story of Women and Work

An exhibition curated by Dr Clare Rose at the Women's Library (until August 23rd): "‘It’s time to change the perception that, in the past, the majority of women in Britain were housewives. Women’s work has always been essential to the economy, even though they had to work incredibly long hours to support themselves and their families. The fantastic array of pictures, books, posters and objects in the exhibition shows how much women have achieved. But campaigning continues: there is still a pay gap between men and women."

The Women's Library is located in Old Castle Street, next to London Metropolitan University's Calcutta House.

Shocking Pink!

Excellent article on the Shocking Pink magazine, its makers, and 80s feminism in Britain, on the superb the F-word blog. 

Blogs just don’t look this much fun...

Thursday 8 March 2012

Wanted: More Women in ICT!

Neelie Kroes
Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda
Brussels, 7th March 2012

"It's my dream to get every European digital. But what a challenge! Today, one in four European adults has never used the Internet. We need to do something about that. This in an age where the Internet is the tool to do everything – buy, socialise, read the news, get public services, apply for jobs. Those one in four adults have never benefited from any of those online opportunities. Yet they also have the most to gain: because, all too often, it's the same people who are also at risk of other kinds of exclusion: the poor, the elderly, the less educated. 

And remember that today, unemployment, especially among young people, is a cancer in our society. But in the not so distant future, 90% of jobs could require digital skills. We'd better get ready and "skill up". So I welcome today's event. It's a practical demonstration of how we can help get everyone online: in a direct and pragmatic way. It's a smart move to have this event on International Women's Day. Because there's a real problem here. Not enough girls are going into ICT careers. That's such a shame given they are both fascinating, and central to our economy and society. How do we get more girls involved? Three ways.

First, we must show the many ways in which ICT empowers women. Whether it's helping people with family commitments work or train from home. Or a tool for self-expression: ICT can help women. Already we're seeing more and more sites delivering for women – sites like Mumsnet or Pinterest. But I'm convinced we can go further. Because there's a virtuous circle here: the more women see that ICT delivers for them, the more they will want to get involved; the more they get involved the better it can adapt to their needs.

Second, start young. At school, as many as 90% of girls are interested in ICT. But they don't convert that into university study – and that's where the boys overtake.

And third, role models are important. If all girls hear is that ICT is for boys who like sitting alone in their rooms – well, that's what they'll believe. But if girls meet people who are positive about ICT, if they realise that ICT careers are exciting and exuberant, with the chance to travel, to help others and to work independently — then they will be turned on to it.

So I'm glad we have so many great role models right here in the room: businesswomen and activists, politicians and policymakers. You can help us spread the word and show that ICT is for everyone.
I want to play my part too. Today I and others have made a powerful and clear statement. That technology isn't a boy's world. That we need to bring together the ICT revolution and the gender equality revolution. That the exponential growth in ICT shouldn't just be governed by Moore's Law: but by a "more women" law. If you believe in those ideas: sign up too, and join the movement of digital women."

Read the full press release at here

Spare Rib

Spare Rib was launched in 1972, emerging out of the counter culture of the late 1960s. It was part of the 'underground' press, providing a feminist alternative to commercial women’s magazines. The first magazine of its kind in the UK, its purpose was to investigate and present alternatives to the traditional gender roles for women. An extensive collection of most if not all publications can be found in the Women's Library reference/reading room in London.

Happy Women's Day!

‘The Women’s Year Goes On’
Undated [ca. 1975] women’s movement poster