Curatorial Projects > Battle Emblems (2006)


The American feminist movement began in 1848, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and others at the Seneca Falls Convention demanded legal equality, educational opportunity, equal compensation, and the right to vote for women. Led by Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, the movement achieved women’s suffrage with the 19th Amendment’s ratification to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. American feminism experienced a rebirth in the 1960s. The National Organization for Women (NOW) was founded by women attending 1966’s Third National Conference of the Commission on the Status of Women in Washington, D.C. By the 1970s, NOW established 400 chapters nationwide, and with other feminist organizations, worked for abortion rights, equal pay, political influence, and economic power for women. Feminist leaders, including Bella Abzug and Gloria Steinem, pushed the Equal Rights Amendment through Congress in 1972, but fell short of ratification by 1982. Feminism, however, did attain important legal victories, including Title IX of 1972’s Education Amendments prohibiting sex-based discrimination in schools and 1973’s Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. In the 1970s, Take Back the Night brought widespread attention to sexual violence. Established in Britain to protest the fear that women feel walking at night, the first American march and rally occurred in San Francisco in 1978; thousands of gatherings have happened nationwide since. In the 1980s and 1990s, theorists and activists further focused feminism to the intersection between gender and sexuality, race, and class, negating assumptions that women constitute a homogeneous group with identical interests.

The circle with a cross underneath is the Greek astrological symbol for the evening star (Venus), which they thought of as Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, peace, lovemaking, fertility, and sexual pleasure. Thus, it came to generally symbolize the female gender. The patron goddess of classical Athens, Athena (war, intelligence, judgment), was thought to rule the morning star. Centuries later, astronomers discovered that Venus appears as both the morning star and the evening star depending on where it is in its orbit and the position of the sun. This symbol, as used in conjunction with the raised fist symbol by the women’s liberation movement in the 1960s, combined both aspects of Venus for a symbol of female strength, intelligence, unity, and anger.