Chicago Women's Graphics Collective

The colorful posters of the Chicago Women's Graphics Collective adorned the walls of many feminist homes, offices. women's centers and health clinics in the 1970's and 1980's. They are considered collector's items today
by Estelle Carol

The Chicago Women's Graphics Collective was first organized in 1970 to provide high quality feminist posters for the growing women's liberation movement. The Collective originally used silkscreen to create their large brilliantly colored prints because it was inexpensive and in the early days, posters could actually be produced in members' apartments.

As their distribution grew, the Collective moved to a series of studios and began using offset printing for their most popular posters. Graphics Collective posters reflected the broad diversity of the women's movement. The Collective produced posters on abortion, women's health, lesbianism, women's labor, sisterhood, women's sports,women's spirituality, rape and other clearly feminist issues, but also created posters on the United Farmworkers struggle, African liberation, anti-war themes and highly personal visions that defy easy categorization.

Graphics Collective posters appeared in peoples' homes, women's liberation offices, coffee shops, women's centers, women's health clinics, labor unions, and even on the set of a popular TV sitcom. All work was done in teams of 2-4 women led by an artist-designer. The Collective wanted a new feminist art that transcended the highly individualistic "Great Men of Art" syndrome. Members would propose a poster idea and then recruit a team to actually produce it. This method incorporated the vision of the individual artist into the collective art process.

Thousands of posters were distributed worldwide during the Collective's 13 year history from 1970-1983. Today some of their best efforts are considered classics of feminist poster art.

See also: Chicago Women's Graphics Collective in the Gallery section for more information.

Estelle Carol was a founder of the Chicago Women's Graphics Collective and is the coordinator of the CWLU Herstory Project. She currently owns a graphic design and illustration business. She invites you to visit her labor cartoon website at which she maintains with her partner Bob Simpson.