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A Visual History of International Women's Day!!

Happy #iwd2024 everyone! We all have our influential ladies in our lives. I have my wife who inspires me to be the best version of myself on a daily basis. I am in awe of how some women can just keep pushing through life no matter what it throws at them.

The advent of the internet and social media has meant that more of us, all over the world, can acknowledge the impact women have had on society over the ages but when this idea of celebrating the fairer sex was first conceived back in 1909, attitudes were very different and the artwork promoting it were very striking.

Lets have a look at the International Women's Day posters through the years!



As you can see from this poster that was banned by the German government when it was used initially, the colour red played a significant role in the visual identity of the movement in the early years.


Red wasn't just an aesthetic choice. It was a powerful symbol with multiple layers of meaning. Here's a quick dive into why red dominated these early International Women's Day posters:


  • Socialism and Communism: The early 20th century saw a rise in socialist and communist movements, both of which used red as a symbol of revolution and worker solidarity. International Women's Day emerged from these movements, and the use of red reflected its connection to social change and workers' rights, which included women's rights.

  • A Call to Action: Red is a bold and attention-grabbing color. It naturally draws the eye and conveys a sense of urgency. In the context of International Women's Day posters, red served as a call to action, urging women to fight for their rights and equality.

  • Defiance and Passion: Red can also symbolize defiance and passion. These were essential qualities for the women fighting for suffrage and social change in the early 20th Century. The use of red embodied the determination and spirit of the movement.



Of course, symbolism can vary across cultures. However, in the context of International Women's Day posters from the early years, right up to comparatively recent times, red served a powerful purpose. It was a colour of solidarity, revolution, and unwavering determination in the fight for women's equality.




The other thing you have to think about here was that most posters from a pre-digital era were created by using screen printing.


So what is Screen Printing? Screen printing is a technique for transferring an image onto a surface using a stencil and ink.


A mesh screen is prepared with a design blocked off by a stencil. Traditionally, silk was used for the screen, hence the term "silk screening." Today, synthetic mesh is more common. Once the screen is in place, ink is placed on the top of the screen and the printer uses a squeegee (a rubber blade-like tool) is then dragged across the screen, forcing ink through the open areas of the mesh (where the stencil isn't blocking) and onto the surface below.


As colours used were often primary or secondary in ink colour, the block usage of red in the designs were significant. Also, as a process, it's cheap to do and lots of people can do it without much technical skillset.





One thing you will notice from the posters of International Women's Day is that its all very militant in their messaging. Rallies! Marches!


This was because the main aim of the day was was initially spawned from within the workers’ movement, with the purpose of drawing in more working women to the fight for the protection of female labour. These workers’ demands included insurance for mother and child, and political rights for working women.


While the date of what was once IWWD has remained the same to this day, it has ceased to be a day of working women's militancy. In the words of the U.N. IWWD is "a day when women are recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political. Since those early years, International Women's Day has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike."


And the artwork used to create posters and advertising to promote the modern day IWWD have evolved to reflect this new positioning.





As you can see, the use of purple is prevalent throughout the designs. We have gone from the harsh, aggressive reds to more cerebral purple.


The colour purple, besides being a great film, is used in marketing to portray honour, creativity, luxury, leadership and even sentimentality. So it fits in perfectly with the U.N.'s vision of what the day is.


It's also used to reflect mystery too... but I doubt that is relevant to today's blog.


So enjoy today, whether you are a woman or someone who reveres women.


I'm off to cook my wife some lunch!



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