The 9 Most Important Feminist Photographs

Controversy, demonstrations, scandals, arrests... Feminism has always challenged the status quo and, even if the road is still long, here are nine historical photographs that remind us of the progress made so far.

The 9 Most Important Feminist Photographs

Prohibition of Running

Image © BarleyCorns / reddit
Image © BarleyCorns / reddit

Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to enter the Boston Marathon in 1967, a race exclusively for men at the time. After realising that a woman had joined the race, event organiser Jock Semple tried to stop her. However, Switzer had the support of her partner and several friends who, hidden among the runners, formed a protective circle around her. 

Miniskirt Mayhem

Image © Fairfax Archives
Image © Fairfax Archives

The model Jean Shrimpton created a scandal in 1965, when she went to the carnival of the Melbourne Cup in Australia, wearing a 'mini-skirt' above the knee and without tights, gloves or hat. Yves Saint Laurent would popularise, sometime later, the wearing of the mini-skirt with his Robe Mondrian. 

The First Female Tattooist

Image: public domain
Image: public domain

Maud Wagner, a circus artist and American trapeze artist, is the first known female tattoo artist. She met her husband in 1904, a tattoo artist who also performed as a tattooed man in a travelling show. She agreed to go on tour with him, as long as he taught her the art. By 1907, her body was already covered in ink and she would practice with her husband for years, despite the reluctance of some customers to be tattooed by a woman.  

'Free Angela Davis'

Image via Pinterest
Image via Pinterest

Angela Davis is a human rights activist, Black Feminism representative and Black Panthers member. She was arrested in 1970 following an escape attempt by three black prisoners that resulted in the death of a California judge and was then convicted of criminal conspiracy, kidnapping and homicide. She spent 22 months in prison, during which a world movement was formed advocating for her release, making her a cultural icon. Acquitted on 4 June 1972, she gave a legendary speech five days later at the Embassy Auditorium in Los Angeles, the first stop on a world tour to thank her supporters.

Indecent Exposure

Collection: International Ladies Garment Workers Union Photographs, unknown author, via Flickr
Collection: International Ladies Garment Workers Union Photographs, unknown author, via Flickr

In Chicago 1922, a woman was violently arrested for wearing a swimsuit deemed indecent. Women publicly wearing swimsuits, as well as its stylistic evolutions, have often been the subject of controversy. Swimmer, actress and author Annette Kellermann was also arrested in 1907 for posing with a professional photographer in her swimsuit, which showed only her arms and neck. 

Formula 1's First Female

Image © Motor Sport
Image © Motor Sport

Italy's Maria Teresa de Filippis was the first female driver to race in a Formula 1 race. She made her debut on 18 May 1958 and competed in five Grand Prix and several other races. She is considered a pioneer in race car driving for women.

Lady of the Young Lords

Image: Pinterest
Image: Pinterest

Denise Oliver-Velez is a professor and American activist, a member of the Young Lords (a group defending Puerto Rican nationalism and the rights of Puerto Ricans in the United States) and Black Panthers. She joined the Young Lords group in 1968, and a year later, created a women's commission, allowing the Young Lords to become an openly feminist organisation. "We want equality for women. Down with machismo and male domination," she said.

War on What to Wear

Image © DaHitcha / reddit
Image © DaHitcha / reddit

Several members of the Women's Organization to War on Styles (WOW) are gathered here in front of a Berkeley, California store in 1947 to protest against long skirts and padded clothes. Their 'battle dress', in underwear, was of course chosen to shock and attract the attention of crowds. 

All in One Basket

Class of 1902, Smith College, public domain image
Class of 1902, Smith College, public domain image

Senda Berenson Abbott, born in 1868, was a physical education teacher and basketball player. A pioneer in women's basketball, she was known for adapting the rules for women in 1899 and for writing the first Women's Basketball Guide. 

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