Illustration and Women's Rights Activism

Nikki Scioscia
Illustration (School of Graduate Studies)

About this Item

Illustration and Women's Rights Activism
Contributor Names
Scioscia, Nikki (Author)
Reitschel, Barbara (Thesis advisor)
Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York. Illustration (Degree granting institution)
Degree Information
M.A. Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York 2022
Department: Illustration
Advisor: Barbara Reitschel
Committee member: Brendan Leach
Throughout American history, women’s rights activists have used illustration to visualize an equal society beyond patriarchy, the dominant sociopolitical system in which men hold the majority of power and withhold opportunities from women. Illustration strengthened the ideology of the women’s suffrage movement of the 1840s to 1920 and the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s with persuasive imagery that advocated for their social and political goals, including the right to vote, equal pay, and reproductive rights.
Women’s rights movements have permeated culture and politics with mass media types like posters, banners, magazines, cartoons, and murals. The contemporary resurgence of women’s rights activism has reinterpreted these strategies for the digital era. These types of illustration support activism because they are visionary and interactive works of art designed to be accessible through widespread distribution or public installation.
Figurative illustrations of women shaped the narratives of historical women’s rights movements. Within each period, these illustrations demonstrate how activists — and their opponents — perceived empowered women. The physical characteristics and moral values that activist illustrators chose to emphasize catered to some societal norms and rebelled against others. Activists have illustrated archetypes like the “goddess,” the “mother,” and the “working woman” to support their arguments for liberation. Historical women’s rights illustrations only represent a limited perspective, however, as these movements largely excluded women of color and LGBTQ+ people. Contemporary feminist illustrators use social media along with the media strategies of their predecessors to advocate for ongoing issues like equal pay and reproductive rights, while expanding their imagery to represent myriad ethnicities, gender identities, and body shapes. This paper establishes how illustration impacted historical women’s rights movements and developed as an enduring strategy of contemporary feminist activism.
Women's rights
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FIT Repository ID: etd_000982


Scioscia, N. (2022). Illustration and Women's Rights Activism [Master's thesis, Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York]. FIT Institutional Repository.
Scioscia, Nikki. Illustration and Women's Rights Activism. 2022. Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York, Master's thesis. FIT Digital Repository,
Scioscia, Nikki. "Illustration and Women's Rights Activism." Master's thesis, Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York, 2022.