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Estados Divididos

"Estados Divididos" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Well, here we are. Our book has been out for a year, and already (for us, anyway) it has transformed from a celebration of women’s accomplishments to a laundry list of battles in need of fighting all over again. The new president has been in power mere months, and already he and his toadies have singled out the most vulnerable among us to be blamed, excluded, punished, even crushed. As artists, we feel our path is clear, our work is cut out for us: the hard part is choosing where to start, upon which injustice to focus first. In the end, the oppressors chose for us, with a seemingly endless succession of outrages against Latino-Americans and Central-American immigrants: the border wall, ICE raids, the DACA repeal, Joe Arpaio’s tent cities and later pardon, the list goes on. And since nobody spoke truth to power like Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, who better to preside over this broadside?

Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?

Frida’s life story is the stuff of legends, and one that many of us know by heart. So rather than travel the well-trodden ground of her accident and illnesses, or her relationships with Diego Rivera and famous men and women of her era, we paid homage to Frida’s artwork instead. (Even our edition number is symbolic of Frida’s body of work: she created approximately 200 paintings in her lifetime.) Estados Divididos is largely inspired by two of Frida’s paintings:

The first is Self Portrait Along the Border Between Mexico and the United States, which she painted in 1932 in Detroit, while Diego worked on a mural commission there. It’s painted on tin, in the Mexican folk tradition of retrablos or devotional paintings. She signed the piece with the name Carmen Rivera, perhaps as a tongue-in-cheek response to the way Americans would have referred to “the wife of the artist.” Interestingly, Diego insisted that she was the real artist in the family, calling her “la pintura más pintor,” using both the feminine and masculine form of the word painter in reference to her prowess (and possibly her androgyny, as well).

The other painting that inspired our broadside is What the Water Gave Me, painted in 1938. This is the first Frida Kahlo painting I (Chandler) ever saw—and it has, in a way, haunted me my entire life, even as my understanding of it has grown and changed as I’ve aged. This painting is largely known as Frida’s autobiography: scenes from her life, both joyful and painful, as well as symbolic figures are combined in a tableau reminiscent of an allegory by Hieronymous Bosch. These scenes float in a tub of bathwater in which she’s soaking her battered, scarred feet: both her bath and her unflinching self-reflection are rituals both soothing and possibly agonizing.

Detail of "Estados Divididos" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

We tried to channel that unflinching gaze of Frida’s when we created this broadside. We’ve highlighted intolerance toward Latino-Americans and Spanish-speaking immigrants before in our Adina De Zavala broadside, but whereas we mostly dealt in metaphor and veiled symbolism then—the gloves are off now. Every time we heard of some new cruelty directed towards Latinx populations, our fury and disgust grew, and we funneled that rage into the design itself. The lower half of the illustration comes right out and says it: faceless ICE agents in red MAGA baseball caps arrest and threaten and round up and brutalize people, while civilians rat out their neighbors, carry tiki torches, turn a blind eye to injustice, or sign executive orders with their tiny hands.

Detail of "Estados Divididos" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

That said, our design is still filled to the brim with symbolism and layers of meaning, starting with the title. Estados Unidos is “United States” in Spanish, but we are anything but united right now—so our title is the Spanish translation of “Divided States.” Also, the bird taking wing is a quetzal—an ancient Mayan symbol of liberty and a more modern emblem of Central and South American culture. And because right now the whole world is upside-down, we’ve turned our paper upside-down, too. The deckle, that natural rag edge from the paper mold that you normally find at the bottom of our broadsides, is now at the top. (We think it gives Frida’s cloak a nice fluttery quality as her portrait presides over the composition.) The folksy, children’s-book illustration style contrasts sharply with the content of the lower half of the design. This is a jab at American exceptionalism and the fairytales we tell ourselves about who counts as “us” and who gets lumped in with “them.” That contrast of cheerful colors and serious subject matter is yet another nod to Frida’s life and work: she has frequently been referred to as “a ribbon around a bomb.”

Detail of "Estados Divididos" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

The two separate color schemes represent two worlds: Mexico and what Frida called “Gringolandia,” peace and war, heaven and hell, tolerance and bigotry, freedom and captivity, friend and foe.  Like a flag—or a war zone—the two full-bleed color fields are sharply bifurcated by a no-man’s-land of Whiteness, representing the border wall of white supremacy that has long since been erected in America. Yet if you follow Frida’s words and footprints, starting in the trouble below and heading upward, you’ll find a way through—a path across the divide.

In recognition of this challenging duality, we are donating a portion of our proceeds to two different nonprofit organizations. One is Border Angels, a San Diego-based organization that provides free bilingual immigration services and consultations, as well as migrant and day-laborer aid and outreach—including border rescue stations and desert water drops. The other donation supports Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, a Seattle-Tacoma-based advocacy group that provides legal assistance to community members facing deportation. This is our second donation to NWIRP, acknowledging the very important and difficult work they tackle, especially in our hometown of Tacoma, at the Northwest Detention Center.

Purchase your copy in the shop!

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Estados Divididos: No. 26 in the Dead Feminists series
Edition size: 200
Poster size: 10 x 18 inches

Printed on an antique Vandercook Universal One press, on archival, 100% rag (cotton) paper. Each piece is numbered and signed by both artists.

Colophon reads:
Frida Kahlo (1907 – 1954) was born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón in Coyoacán, Mexico. Growing up in La Casa Azul, Frida would endure lifelong pain due to polio, a near-fatal streetcar accident, and more than 30 surgeries, including foot amputation. She began painting to ease the pain and combat the boredom of bed rest, often creating self portraits. Incorporating symbolism from her own life as well as Mexican popular culture, Frida declared: “I paint my own reality.” She was fearless in depicting the female form and experience, including pregnancy and miscarriage, and her tumultuous relationship with muralist Diego Rivera. Frida and Diego had a shared mexicanidad, an identity born of Mexico’s indigenous cultures and its colonial past, and a common dream of a liberated socialist country. After her wedding to Diego, Frida took to wearing the Tehuana style of dress, including long skirts, embroidered blouses and floral headpieces. Traveling with Diego as he took commissions in the United States, Frida was miserable in “Gringolandia.” Her self portrait on the border between the two countries contrasts belching smokestacks with agrarian themes, juxtaposing electrical wires in America with plant roots in Mexico. One of the most important 20th century artists, Frida’s paintings confront those issues that divide us more than 60 years after her death, including gender and cultural identity, feminism, politics and power.

Illustrated by Chandler O’Leary and printed by Jessica Spring in opposition to racism, injustice, intolerance and walls of hate.

Detail of "Estados Divididos" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

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Song of Aloha

"Song of Aloha" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

When we wrote and illustrated our new book, Dead Feminists: Historical Heroines in Living Color, it was important both to us and the publisher that we fill the pages with new content, rather than simply rehash the story of our previous broadsides. So it came to us that one great way to do that would be to have a new broadside appear in the book and in the world simultaneously. One of the biggest challenges of doing this (other than having to print the broadside ahead of publication and then keep the secret for months) was choosing who to feature, considering the fact that we’d be introducing the broadside to a brand new and much larger audience. We wanted to feature a woman who touched the world, and who reflected the world we had become.

We live in a global society, with different cultures mingling—and at times clashing—with a regularity we now take for granted. It is easy to forget the imperialist origins of globalization, where Western cultures sought to dominate and even extinguish the societies they encountered. Colonization of the Indigenous world has had far-reaching effects on both people and the environment, the consequences of which we are only beginning to understand. And who better to understand the ripple effects of colonialism than the queen of a colonized nation?

“E onipai’a . . . i ka ‘imi na’auao.” (“Be steadfast in the seeking of knowledge.”)
— Queen Lili’uokalani

Queen Lili’uokalani was the last monarch—and only queen regnant—of the Kingdom of Hawai’i. Raised by traditional Hawaiian custom and a resident of a post-colonial country, she was fluent in the ways of both Hawaiian and Western cultures. Her reign was sadly brief—thanks to powerful foreign interests who refused to share the nation they had claimed for their own. Yet she devoted much of her life to preserving traditional art forms and recording them for others to study. Hers was the middle road—the road of survival.

For Indigenous women like Queen Lili’uokalani, there is no going back to life before Euro-American contact. Yet Lili’uokalani led a life that included and celebrated both the culture of her birth and the one imposed upon her later in life. Her example of sharing both traditions with future generations helps us all create a path forward. We are especially thankful to Alison Milham, a Hawaiian book artist who has extensively researched the Queen and who helped us fine tune our message.

Process photo of "Song of Aloha" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Jessica and I have our own paths to walk when it comes to creating each new broadside in our series. In my case, I’m always eager to explore different historical eras and design styles. And Jessica is constantly looking to push the envelope of what’s possible with letterpress printing—she loves to experiment with different techniques, like the split-fountain inking on our Nightsong broadside, or the crazy metallics of Focal Point, or the large floods and knocked-out shapes of Title Nine Iron. This time we wanted to create a tropical rainbow, but rather than printing every letter in ROYGBIV separately, we puzzled out how to create an illusion of a full-color design with translucent, overlapping colors, which Jessica would print in just four passes on press.

Process photo of "Song of Aloha" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Jessica’s job was extra tricky, since the different plates had to line up perfectly to make the illusion work. But my end of the process was confusing, too: since I do the original drawing in black and separate the colors by hand, I had to keep checking and re-checking to make sure I didn’t assign some blob of color on the design to the wrong plate.

Process photo of "Song of Aloha" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Generally speaking, we usually print our colors from lightest to darkest. So this time we started with a deep saffron yellow—the color of royalty in the Kingdom of Hawai’i, and one symbolic of Queen Lili’uokalani’s reign.

Process photo of "Song of Aloha" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Then we overlaid a hot-hot pink on top of the yellow, one that stood in both for tropical flowers and the blazing color of the sun setting on Hawai’i’s Indigenous rulers. Wherever the pink overlapped the gold, the ink mixed to create a fiery orange.

Process photo of "Song of Aloha" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Next came a pass of cerulean blue. This part might seem confusing, because you can’t actually see any blue in the finished piece (though you can see it on press on the photo of Jessica above), but it’s an essential ingredient of our color scheme. Wherever the blue overlaid yellow, we got green. Where it hit that hot pink, a royal purple resulted. And where it touched any orange areas that resulted from the previous pass, a russet brown appeared.

Finally, we were ready for our last color, a rich black (actually, Jessica ran that last pass twice—the double hit of black made the ink nice and opaque) that brought everything together into harmony:

Detail of "Song of Aloha" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Our 24th broadside, Song of Aloha, depicts the lush flora and unique fauna of Hawai’i.  Plumeria and hibiscus bloom, while leaves and fronds stand in silhouette in homage to traditional Hawaiian quilt motifs. At the center of the design is Queen Lili’uokalani herself, wearing a sash in royal colors, her signature brooch, a necklace of shells (from the extinct species Carelia dolei) and a Kamehameha butterfly in her hair. As a symbol of the vanished Hawaiian monarchy, every bird pictured is an extinct Hawaiian species—including the greater koa finch, the Hawai’i mamo, the Lana’i hookbill, the Hawaiian crow, and several species of endemic honeycreeper that now only exist as museum specimens.

Detail of "Song of Aloha" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Oh, and hidden in the design are ‘Iolani Palace and a line of music from Lili’uokalani’s famous composition, “Aloha ‘Oe.”

This piece marks the inauguration of the Dead Feminists Fund, to which a portion of our proceeds (and those of our new book!) will be donated. In honor of the power of women’s work, the Fund supports nonprofits that empower girls and women to create change in their own communities.

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Song of Aloha: No. 24 in the Dead Feminists series
Edition size: 192 prints
Poster size: 10 x 18 inches

Printed on an antique Vandercook Universal One press, on archival, 100% rag (cotton) paper. Each piece is numbered and signed by both artists.

Colophon reads:
Lili’uokalani (1838 – 1917) was the last monarch and only queen regnant of the Kingdom of Hawai’i. Born into the royal family, she ascended the throne in 1891 via traditional election after the death of her brother. She reigned for less than two years, until Sanford B. Dole—backed by American business interests and the Marines—deposed her and dismantled the monarchy. Dole placed Lili’uokalani under house arrest and despite her formal letters of protest, Hawai’i was annexed by the United States in 1898 without due constitutional process.

Queen Lili’uokalani lived with one foot planted in each culture, embracing Victorian dress and Western mannerisms while working tirelessly to preserve traditional Hawaiian art forms. A prolific singer, musician and composer, her best known song was “Aloha ‘Oe” (“Farewell to Thee”), written in both Hawaiian and English.

Illustrated by Chandler O’Leary and printed by Jessica Spring, knowing that the spirit of aloha can honor what we’ve lost and save what remains.

Now available in the shop! Or for local folks, you’ll find it at Studio Tour this weekend!

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Age Before Beauty

"Age Before Beauty" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

When it came time for us to find our next Dead Feminist, our thoughts turned to our own mirrors. Like every woman in our pop-culture-driven world, Jessica and I are bombarded with imagery and messages that urge us to scrutinize and criticize our own appearance. Unsurprisingly, we are taught to find ourselves lacking in one way or many, and to compare ourselves with an impossible ideal.

We were a little surprised to find courage and consolation in Ancient Greece, where they were all about the impossible ideal. Yet if you sift through the lofty architectural theory, stylized scenes and tales of the immortals, you’ll find a honey-tongued poet who speaks the plain truth: Sappho.

To be human is to grow old.

Detail of "Age Before Beauty" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Our 23rd broadside, Age Before Beauty, reaches further back in time than we ever have before—to the 6th century BCE. As you can clearly see, the illustration is styled after the designs and motifs of ancient Greek pottery, right down to the amphora handles.

Detail of "Age Before Beauty" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Yet even though she lived and worked thousands of years ago, Sappho’s words ring true as if they were written yesterday. We especially loved her self-reflection in the poem we chose, and the way she managed to view her aging body with kindness. It brought to mind, for me, an image of dual goddesses who are really two faces of the same woman—like the Maiden and Crone archetypes so common in other pre-Christian cultures.

Like the art of ancient Greece, the illustration is chock full of allegorical imagery. For instance, young Sappho carries Aphrodite’s mirror, while Athena’s wise owl looks over her aged self. Both figures play a seven-stringed lyre: Sappho was a lyrical poet, which means her poetry was designed to be performed to music. (Incidentally, some scholars also credit Sappho with the invention of the plectrum, a tool similar to a guitar pick that was used to pluck the lyre’s strings.) Finally, the band of dancing deer at the base references Josephine Balmer’s recent translation of Sappho’s Old Age Poem.

Process photo of "Age Before Beauty" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Compared to our previous broadsides, the composition and color scheme of this piece are fairly simple. The printing, on the other hand, was not. All those curves made it hard to line up the plates, and we had huge floods of color paired with delicate lines and text. To help her with the ink coverage and add just a tiny bit more pop to the color, Jessica ran the vase shape in a run of subtle cream first.

Process photo of "Age Before Beauty" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

The cream pass helped with the super-tricky registration of the black and terracotta, as well.

All that fiddly and difficult technical stuff made the finished product that much sweeter. We’re pleased as punch about the results—we hope you will be, too.

Detail of "Age Before Beauty" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

To help all women and girls see themselves in a more positive light, we are donating a portion of our proceeds to About Face. Founded in 1995, About Face works to improve girls’ and women’s self-esteem and body image by helping them understand and resist harmful media messages.

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Age Before Beauty: No. 23 in the Dead Feminists series
Edition size: 158 prints
Poster size: 10 x 18 inches

Printed on an antique Vandercook Universal One press, on archival, 100% rag (cotton) paper. Each piece is numbered and signed by both artists.

Colophon reads:
Sappho (c. 630 – 570 BCE) is the only woman counted among the Nine Lyric Poets revered in ancient Greek culture. Plato called her “the tenth muse,” but all that remains of her work is a handful of fragments. This quote is an excerpt from Fragment 58, a mysterious Old Age Poem that can be read either as a lament or a celebration of mortality. Illustrated by Chandler O’Leary and printed by Jessica Spring, in hopes that all women might see themselves both with Aphrodite’s gaze and Athena’s wisdom.

Now available in our Dead Feminists web shop!

Detail of "Age Before Beauty" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

 

 

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Title Nine Iron

"Title Nine Iron" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

If you happen to be in the Pacific Northwest right now, you might find yourself surrounded by plus-fours and golf claps. This weekend marks the final days of the U.S. Open golf championship, which is being hosted in our hometown for the first time ever. The Chambers Bay golf course is one of the most beautiful and challenging in the world, and the U.S. Open attracts talented athletes and a ton of media attention. Yet all the coverage has reminded us of the need for a more level playing field for all athletes. So for our newest Dead Feminist broadside, we’ve unleashed the irrepressible showmanship of a golfer and all-star athlete who was a real contender (regardless of gender):

It’s not enough just to swing at the ball. You’ve got to loosen your girdle and let ‘er fly.  — Babe Didrikson Zaharias

Babe Didrikson Zaharias

Babe is best-known for her prowess as a golfer. On the course she was more than a champion: she was a superstar. By 1950 she had won every golf title available to her, and she is still remembered for her 17 straight amateur women’s victories—a feat still unequaled by anyone. Even though her life and career were cut short by illness, she is still one of the most decorated golfers of all time.

Babe Didrikson Zaharias

But Babe came late to golf—actually, she only switched focus entirely because she couldn’t maintain her amateur status as a golfer unless she gave up her other sports. Many have forgotten that she was also a champion at basketball, track and field, boxing, archery, tennis, diving, bowling, baseball and softball, roller skating and billiards—basically, a master at everything she tried. Babe was an all-star athlete in so many sports it’s hard to believe she was just one person. In fact, she demonstrated this fact by entering a 1932 amateur track and field championship as a one-women team. Babe qualified for three Olympic events (the maximum allowed at the time), but she actually finished first in five events and tied for first in a sixth, single-handedly racking up 30 team points. The second-place team? Well, they scored 22 points—with 22 members competing.

Detail of "Title Nine Iron" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

All of this is to illustrate how exceptional Babe was. People love to celebrate multi-event athletes like Michael Jordan or Deion Sanders for excelling at two sports, but how many of those guys were champions at half a dozen or more? Quite simply, Babe Didrikson Zaharias may just have been the greatest American athlete who ever lived. Period.

And this is where things get political. Just take a look at this list of the “Top 10 Greatest Multi-Sport Athletes“—Babe’s numbers blow every name on that list out of the water. (And she competed in many men’s events, as in her day there were often no women’s equivalents.) But Babe’s not on there. No women are. And that’s because even forty-plus years after Title IX, women athletes and women’s sports are of lesser value than their male counterparts. In fact, the words women’s and ladies’ are used as qualifiers, to denote an exception to the default. When you hear the name of a sporting event, and no gender is named, the assumption is that it’s a men’s event. (Heck, I’ve been hearing it all week in the golf coverage: it’s the “U.S. Open” and the “U.S. Women’s Open”—no mention of a “U.S. Men’s Open.”) When an athlete is recognized for her achievements, she is mentioned only on all-women lists. Some sports, like baseball and American football, have no “official” women’s equivalent—while others have different rules for the women’s version, like the arbitrary ban on body checking in women’s ice hockey. Women’s sports make a fraction of what men’s sports make in ticket sales and merchandising revenue. Men’s events still dominate the mainstream coverage air time on television, radio and news. And “you throw like a girl” is still an insult heard every day in America. We’re not advocating for co-ed sports here; we fully understand the practical rationale behind sex-segregation in athletics. But the differing value and respect our culture places on each is another matter entirely. Even the money male and female athletes win and earn is vastly disparate; take the U.S. Open, for example. The winner’s purse in the men’s tournament: $10 million. In the women’s tournament? Less than half, at $4 million. Apparently golf is played on a grass course with a glass ceiling.

In Babe’s lifetime, she was not only hampered by a host of restrictions on women competitors, she was also plagued by a media that ignored her accomplishments and focused instead on her tomboyish looks, brash demeanor and (lack of) relationship status. The pressure was relentless: the New York World-Telegram wrote, “It would be much better if she and her ilk stayed at home, got themselves prettied up and waited for the phone to ring.” Even Babe, known for her arrogant show-boating and fiercely competitive nature, started wearing lipstick and more feminine clothing, stating, “I know I’m not pretty, but I try to be graceful.” Many have even argued that she switched to golf and married George Zaharias simply to conform to societal pressures to look and act more ladylike. She certainly treated these changes as a media makeover—perhaps to get the press off her back and shift the focus back to her abilities. So Jessica and I can’t help but wonder how her career might have been different if “pretty” weren’t a factor—if she could have been recognized and remembered for who she was, rather than what she wasn’t.

Detail of "Title Nine Iron" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Since Babe was a marvel whose skill transcended all gender divisions, we wanted to make our broadside design as gender-neutral as possible. Instead, we focused on the game itself. Our 22nd broadside, Title Nine Iron, is a tribute to Babe’s best sport (with a nod to her beginnings as a track star), decked out in golf plaids and bright fairways. Follow the flags around the course with Babe’s quote, and let her words lift you over the rough and onto the green. And to keep our visual puns on par with our message of athletic equality, Babe’s bright red pennant is bedecked with a symbolic “Title IX” club: a nine iron.

Detail of "Title Nine Iron" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Babe struggled throughout her career for recognition in the face of gender discrimination. Unfortunately, women athletes still face this sort of battle today—which makes legislation like Title IX incredibly important, even all these years later. So to help give girls everywhere equal access to sports and athletic training, we are donating a portion of our proceeds to the Women’s Sports Foundation. Founded in 1974 by tennis legend Billie Jean King, the Women’s Sports Foundation works to advance the lives of girls and women through physical activity.

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Title Nine Iron: No. 22 in the Dead Feminists series
Edition size: 143 prints
Poster size: 10 x 18 inches

Printed on an antique Vandercook Universal One press, on archival, 100% rag (cotton) paper. Each piece is numbered and signed by both artists.

Colophon reads:
Mildred Ella “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias (1911 – 1956) grew up in Port Arthur, Texas. Babe reportedly earned her nickname playing baseball with neighborhood boys. She mastered every sport she played, including basketball, track and field, golf, tennis, diving, bowling, billiards and archery. When asked if there was anything she didn’t play, Babe said, “Yeah, dolls.”

In 1932, Didrickson entered an Amateur Athletic Union track and field championship as a one-woman team. She won six events, setting world records for the high jump, 80-meter hurdles, javelin and baseball throw. That same year, she won Olympic gold medals for the javelin and 80-meter hurdles and a silver medal in the high jump. Babe began playing golf in 1935, competing in the men’s PGA tournament paired with golfer, pro wrestler and future husband George Zaharias. Over her career, Babe won an unprecedented 17 straight women’s amateur victories and a total of 82 golf tournaments. A founding member of the Ladies Professional Golf Association, she was fiercely competitive and an entertainer on the course, challenging accepted notions of femininity and athleticism despite constant media scrutiny.

Babe was diagnosed with rectal cancer in 1953. A year after a colostomy, she won the U.S. Women’s Open, inspiring cancer survivors with her victory. Golfer Betty Dodd played LPGA tours with Babe, eventually moving in with her and George for the last years of Babe’s life. Their intimate relationship was never publicly acknowledged. Babe’s cancer returned and she died at age 45. In 1999 the Associated Press named her Woman Athlete of the 20th Century.

Illustrated by Chandler O’Leary and printed by Jessica Spring, in honor of those who embrace their unique identities, “ladylike” or not. Printed by hand in Tacoma during the U.S. Men’s Open golf championship.

Now available in our Dead Feminists web shop!

Detail of "Title Nine Iron" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

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Common Threads

"Common Threads" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

For our last broadside, we focused on a woman from the Islamic world; now we’re back with an homage to Judaica. The juxtaposition of the two pieces was no accident on our part. Yet the timing of world events was something we could never have planned. We originally meant to tie our new piece in with the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz—last month, the anti-Semitic terrorist attacks in Paris gave us a terrible new perspective for our piece.

What really bowled us over is that the young woman we chose to highlight for the new piece underscores the relationship between the two events, the two time periods in history. You see, our gal is a historical figure, yet the world has only just discovered her. So here we present to you the words of a young writer, whose diary, along with her faith, carried her through one of the darkest times in human history:

Although life is difficult, it is also beautiful.  — Rywka Lipszyc (pronounced “Rivka Lipschitz”)

Detail of "Common Threads" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Rywka’s story is astonishing, if only for the fact that it can be told at all. Rywka was a teenager living in one of the worst Jewish ghettos of Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II. By the time she started her diary at age fourteen, she had already lost all but one of her family members. While working as a factory seamstress and caring for her younger sister, she poured her heart and faith into the pages of her notebook. At times the diary is a harrowing account of wartime hardship; at others, it reads like the missives of any normal, modern teenage girl. The pages are dense but not numerous: just a few months after it begins, the diary ends abruptly—and with it most of our knowledge of Rywka’s life. We know she was deported to Auschwitz a few months later; and that her sister was murdered upon arrival at the camp. We know she was liberated from Auschwitz by allied troops 70 years ago—but then her trail goes cold, like that of so many other victims of the Holocaust. Historians are sure she did not survive for long after the liberation, but that’s all they’re sure of: no further details of Rywka’s fate have been uncovered. No photo of her exists, nor any other trace of her life beyond the diary, a few registration records, and the memories of a trio of surviving cousins living in Israel.

What is truly remarkable is that the diary survived the war, the camps and the intervening decades. A Russian army doctor allegedly found the diary in the ashes of the Auschwitz crematorium. The doctor made a few notes in the margins, and then put it away in her closet at home—for the rest of her life. Upon her death, her son found the diary, and then he stashed it away for several more decades. When he died, his daughter—the granddaughter of the army doctor—traveled back to Russia from the U.S., and found the diary among his effects. This time, however, she knew just what to do with it. She took it back with her to the States, and turned it over to the JFCS Holocaust Center in San Francisco. They then authenticated and translated the diary—and published it in book form less than a year ago.

Detail of "Common Threads" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Jessica and I were able to get a hold of the new publication at the Pacific Lutheran University library (many thanks to Holly Senn for tracking the book down for us!). In reading the text, we were struck by Rywka’s use of metaphor—particularly her mentions of flowers growing among thorns. So we took Rywka’s imagery and wove the broadside’s design and theme around it.

Common Threads is a winter garden of pale pastels and subtle metallic golds. The delicate colors and shining metallic ink (which includes real gold in the formula) represent the fragility and preciousness of life among the thorns of war and persecution. The floral motif echoes themes from Rywka’s diary, and stands for the resilience of the Jewish people—whose culture has flourished beautifully despite some of the worst trials endured by humankind.

The overall design of the broadside is based on Rywka’s dual cultural heritage. The border is reminiscent of Jewish embroidered challah covers and sabbath cloths, while the style of floral illustration is derived from Polish folk florals. The stitched lines are a nod to Rywka’s trade as seamstress, which she viewed optimistically as a way to move forward and make a living in a future beyond wartime.

Detail of "Common Threads" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

To help fight anti-Semitism worldwide and defend civil rights for all, we are donating a portion of our proceeds to the Anti-Defamation League — one of the nation’s top human and civil rights organizations for over 100 years.

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Common Threads: No. 21 in the Dead Feminists series
Edition size: 145 prints
Poster size: 10 x 18 inches

Printed on an antique Vandercook Universal One press, on archival, 100% rag (cotton) paper. Each piece is numbered and signed by both artists.

Colophon reads:
Rywka Lipszyc (1929 – 1945?) kept a diary from October 1943 to April 1944, while living in Poland’s Łódź ghetto. Discovered by a Russian doctor in the crematoria remains at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the diary was published in 2014, sharing Rywka’s amazing story with the world. Her parents and three siblings perished in Nazi ghettos and killing centers. Despite horrible living conditions Rywka survived, working in the ghetto’s clothing and linen workshop, learning to sew, organizing a library, and attending classes. Her diary ends abruptly, but records reveal she was deported to Auschwitz, then liberated to a field hospital after the war’s end. No further trace of her has been found, but Rywka’s words survive, a reminder of her incredible faith despite all odds — and her dream of becoming a writer fulfilled.

Illustrated by Chandler O’Leary and printed by Jessica Spring, honoring words and images of every faith as an invaluable thread that binds us together.

Now available in our new web shop!

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DeadFeminists.com homepage

Speaking of which, we finally have a website dedicated to the Dead Feminists series. It has been years in the making, and while we haven’t quite worked out all the kinks yet (bear with us on that), we’re thrilled to be up and running at last. Many thanks to our amazing web designers, Elizabeth Anderson and Paul Ferguson, for making it all happen!

On the new site you’ll find the stories behind each broadside in the series, glimpses into our process, information about our live events, and of course the new web shop (which contains all our broadsides and postcards). So head on over and take a gander!

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The Veil of Knowledge

"The Veil of Knowledge" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

At long last, Jessica and I are ready to unveil our newest Dead Feminist broadside—a piece that has been weighing heavily on our hearts and minds. Our journey began in April, when over 200 girls were kidnapped from their school in Chibok, Nigeria. Since then the media has been filled with accusations leveled at Islam—a culture we know to have a long history of valuing education, innovation and knowledge. We also know that the danger of extremism knows no cultural boundary—and that it would benefit us all to build a world where every girl has the opportunity and security to obtain an education.

So after months of exhaustive research, we decided to go back in time to some of the earliest days of higher education, and to the life and work of Fatima al-Fihri—the woman who founded Al-Qarawiyyin, the oldest university still in operation today. Because Fatima lived in the 9th century, no direct quotes have made it to the present era. Instead, the piece highlights Fatima’s honorific title: Oum al Banine, or “Mother of the Children.”

Detail of "The Veil of Knowledge" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

The phrase weaves through the piece like the mortar between stones, repeating again and again like a mantra. The design mirrors the Arabesque decorative style, as well as the common practice of decorating Muslim houses of worship with text (often phrases from the Qur’an). Because it is forbidden to depict the Prophet in Islam, architecture is usually adorned with text and geometric patterns instead.

Process drawings for "Veil of Knowledge" letterpress broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

I spent a long, long time creating this illustration—not only because of all the ornate patterning, or the carefully-researched Arabic script. Not just the time I spent trying to find images of Al-Qarawiyyin, or information about Fatima’s life. Somehow, the act of creating this illustration became something of a mantra in itself. All the time required to draft these patterns and compose the page became a form of meditation—and I needed that with this piece. Because much more than that, this became an exercise in trying to understand.

I was trying to understand why we had so much trouble finding a voice for this piece. Why we had to go back 1200 years to find a woman like Fatima, who had made a lasting contribution and who was remembered. Why we could not find a relevant, direct quote at all, despite months of research and consulting scholars on this topic. Why it is so difficult and dangerous for a girl to obtain an education in so many parts of the world. Why there is so much violence and hatred and fear surrounding a belief system with so much beauty inherent within it. Why we are still asking these basic questions after so many centuries have passed.

The answers did not come with the completion of the drawing. They did not come off the press with the finished prints. They will not come through my fingers as I type this. If they cannot come as a result of war, or negotiation between heads of state, or elected office, or royal birthright, or the swell of the mob—they won’t come from me.

But I do know this: every human life is worth the same, and deserves the same chance in life. And more than anything else, I know that education, even at its most basic, is the best chance anyone can have to make a good life—for themselves, and for the rest of us. Education is the best defence we know against extremism, poverty, and violence. So this is where we begin. Where we should always begin.

Detail of "The Veil of Knowledge" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

Our 20th Dead Feminist broadside is an ornate tribute to Fatima’s world and the institution she founded. The composition, structured like a Persian manuscript page, features an illustration based on the architecture of Al-Qarawiyyin, with its angular rooflines and sweeping curved arches. Interspersed thoughout the piece is a hand-drawn geometric pattern that mirrors the tilework throughout the university and mosque. Wrapping around the “walls” behind a pair of columns is the Basmala (the phrase that begins every sura or chapter of the Qur’an), lettered in Arabic script.

To help ensure the safety and quality of girls’ education worldwide, we are donating a portion of our proceeds to Girl Up — a nonprofit campaign of the United Nations Foundation that assists some of the world’s hardest-to-reach adolescent girls.

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The Veil of Knowledge: No. 20 in the Dead Feminists series
Edition size: 125.4***
Poster size: 10 x 18 inches

Printed on an antique Vandercook Universal One press, on archival, 100% rag (cotton) paper. Each piece is numbered and signed by both artists.

Colophon reads:
Fatima Al-Fihri (c. 800 – 880) grew up in Fez, Morocco with her sister Miriam, daughters of a wealthy Tunisian merchant. The daughters were well-educated and devoted to their community. After the death of their father, Fatima vowed to spend all her inheritance in building a mosque, both a place for worship and a center of learning. In 859, she founded Al-Qarawiyyin, which offered courses in grammar, rhetoric, logic, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, history, geography and music — drawing scholars and students from all over the world. (Gerbert of Auverge — later Pope Sylvester II — studied there, and was credited with the introduction of Arabic numbers and the concept of zero to Europe.) This important spiritual and educational center of the Islamic world, one of the largest mosques in Africa, is considered the oldest university still in operation. As a woman with such generosity and vision, Fatima is remembered and honored as Oum al Banine, “the mother of the children.”

Illustrated by Chandler O’Leary and printed by Jessica Spring, with the knowledge that all women must have the right to an education.

Available now in the Dead Feminists shop!

Detail of "The Veil of Knowledge" Dead Feminist broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

*** The edition size needs a little explanation—every broadside has a symbolic edition number, but this piece is extra special. This number is the solution to an equation we devised out of numbers that are highly symbolic in Islam. Arabic culture is credited with the invention of algebra—a term derived from an Arabic word meaning “the reunion of broken parts.” We arrived at our edition number by multiplying 66 (the number that represents Allah in Islamic numerology) by 19 (considered by some mystics to be the “Key to the Q’uran”), and then dividing the result by 10 (ten-pointed stars are common elements in Arabesque patterning, as well as our broadside design). The “.4” in our edition number represents four artist proofs that exist outside the numbered edition, and set aside as gifts for four important women in our lives. These four women mirror the four “Women of the First Rank in Islam” (Khadijah, first wife of the Prophet; Fatimah, the fourth daughter of Khadijah and the Prophet, and the wife of the Fourth Caliph; the Virgin Mary; and Asiya, wife of the pharaoh and stepmother to Moses).

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Just our type

Process photo for "Veil of Knowledge" broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring.

Jessica has our new broadside on press as I type this, lining up the colors and doing one last check for typos. But this week also holds another kind of “typo” for us, the kind we actually encourage: typophiles.

While our schedules prevent us from actually being there in person, I’m happy to announce that many of our Dead Feminist broadsides will be exhibited this week as part of TypeCon 2014 in Washington, DC. Since it began in 1998, TypeCon has been a major gathering point for designers, typographers and letterers—as well as a nexus for typography as an art form. So we’re incredibly excited and honored to have our work featured among so many talented artists. So if you happen to be attending TypeCon this week, stop by the gallery and take a gander—and tell everyone hi for us!

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Bit by bit

Process drawings for "Veil of Knowledge" letterpress broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

It’s that time again—Jessica and I are hard at work on the next Dead Feminist broadside. Actually, we’ve been hard at work on this piece for months already. I think it’s safe to say that this piece has the most research and labor behind it than any we’ve done so far.

Process drawings for "Veil of Knowledge" letterpress broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

There’s a lot at stake this time, and we want to get things right. And besides—as you can see, the piece is chock full of teeny tiny bits, and the registration is going to be tight. So we’re doubling down on the proofreading skills and triple-checking every detail.

Now the design is done, I just sent out the finished files for the plates, and we’ll be on press starting this week. More soon!

Process drawings for "Veil of Knowledge" letterpress broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

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The miracle worker

Photo by Chandler O'Leary

This is my friend Carl.

Photo by Chandler O'Leary

He’s a wood engraver extraordinaire—

Photo by Chandler O'Leary

—and his West Seattle letterpress studio is a thing of beauty.

Photo by Chandler O'Leary

He does lovely, painstaking work (those are his engravings on the wall there), and he runs a tight ship at that studio of his.

Photo by Chandler O'Leary

Which is why my friend Mary-Alice called on Carl when she picked up a vintage Adana flatbed press, and wanted help whipping it into shape. She and her husband were planning to bring the press to West Seattle yesterday. I’d never seen an Adana in action before (I’m more of a Vandercook gal myself), so I asked to tag along.

Photo by Chandler O'Leary

Carl was more than ready for us.

Photo by Chandler O'Leary

He gave the press a quick once-over. “I think you’re getting off too easy, Mary-Alice,” he said. “There aren’t even any spiders under here!”

Photo by Chandler O'Leary

A few drops of oil,

Photo by Chandler O'Leary

some careful adjustments,

Photo by Chandler O'Leary

one of Carl’s own engravings to use as a test,

Photo by Chandler O'Leary

and a little text M-A set from his massive collection of type—and all of a sudden the Adana was print-ready.

Photo by Chandler O'Leary

Carl even broke out the fancy handmade paper—”This is an important occasion!” he said.

Photo by Chandler O'Leary

Pretty darn good results, if you ask me. Carl made us all sign the finished broadside. (Mariners pencil for the win!)

“How come I get to sign?” I asked, confused.

Carl chuckled and said, “You documented the occasion. Sign it!”

Aye, aye, Captain!

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Focal Point

"Focal Point" letterpress broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

If you earn your living by drawing pictures, you have to spend a lot of time with your head down and your eyes on your paper. Yet at this time of year, with spring coming along fast (at least in the Northwest…), life hurries by at a frantic pace. I hate the idea of missing any of it—so I’m always happy for any reminder to stop and really look around me. So for our newest Dead Feminist broadside, we’re heeding the words of one of America’s greatest photographers:

The seeing eye is the important thing.  — Imogen Cunningham

This piece is a major departure from what we’ve done in the past—as you can plainly see. For the first time ever we’ve printed the broadside on black paper—which helped us “pull the focus” (if you will) onto the quote. It also provided a beautiful backdrop for a tribute to someone who spent her life creating black-and-white images.

Surrounding the quote is an intricate metallic silver filigree of spring botanicals and portraiture, creating a pastiche of the subjects of some of Imogen Cunningham’s most iconic photographs—while the color choice references the traditional silver-gelatin photographic process. In the eye of the storm of imagery is the all-seeing camera lens, looking out onto the world.

Ink mixing photo by Chandler O'Leary

Jessica has her own secret-sauce recipe for gold ink, and while we’ve used it before in our series (like in Gun Shy), nothing makes it look so fabulous as a dark background. The gold ink looked amazing on press—we kind of wished we could just leave the ink on there permanently, because that’s some serious bling. (It almost made the Vandercook feel like some sort of super-cool Bond gadget.)

In-progress photo of "Focal Point" letterpress broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring

As always, we donate a portion of the proceeds of the series to a nonprofit that aligns with the message of each piece. To help sharpen the seeing eyes of the artists of tomorrow, this time we’ve chosen Youth in Focus — a nonprofit that puts cameras in the hands of at-risk youth to “teach them how to develop negatives into positives.”

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Focal Point: No. 19 in the Dead Feminists series
Edition size: 164
Poster size: 10 x 18 inches

Printed on an antique Vandercook Universal One press, on archival, 100% rag (cotton) paper. Each piece is numbered and signed by both artists.

Colophon reads:
Imogen Cunningham (1883 – 1976) graduated from the University of Washington in 1907, earning a degree in chemistry with her thesis on chemical processes in photography. Shortly afterward she was hired by photographer Edward Curtis, who taught her platinum printing and portraiture. She opened her own successful studio in Seattle, and published an article entitled “Photography as a Profession for Women.” In 1917, Cunningham and her husband and son relocated to California, where she gave birth to twin boys. Her children and the plants in her garden then became key subjects of her work. Her experiments with double exposure throughout the 1920s and 30s contributed to a growing appreciation of photography as art. She was a founding member of Group f/64, a collective of influential west coast photographers including Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. The group mounted a 1932 exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, united by a manifesto declaring “photography as an art form by simple and direct presentation.” Cunningham’s vision came through in both her personal and commercial work: unvarnished celebrity portraits for Vanity Fair; documentary street photography; nudes and botanical images — a lifetime of work that continues to challenge and intrigue viewers.

Illustrated by Chandler O’Leary and printed by Jessica Spring, grateful for artists who remind us to focus.

Available now in the Dead Feminists shop!

Detail of  "Focal Point" letterpress broadside by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring