Women Political Leaders and the Design of Campaign Portrait Posters

M.H. Groot

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This essay addresses the representation of women political leaders on campaign posters, which are an increasingly important visual means of communication. Selected examples from the 1960s until today serve to compare the representational agency of visual design elements across different continents: dress, hairstyle, jewellery, colour and slogans. The general format of campaign posters for female leaders follows that of male politicians and is influenced by the increasing presence of personal leadership in campaigns from the 1990s onwards. While the format of the portrait poster is similar across many different countries in Europe, Asia and Africa, the political context makes for different details and meanings. Although she was not the first female political leader, Margaret Thatcher has set the example for women on campaign posters from the late 1950s. Westernized women from different countries are frequently portrayed wearing jackets, and have few accessories such as necklaces. Compared to their male counterparts, female politicians also stand out through colourful and sometimes pink clothing. African women leaders, by contrast, are depicted in traditional clothing and headdresses. Very few posters are extravagant in terms of image building; in Ukraine, however, Yulia Timoshenko’s campaign posters are a notable exception. There may be a discrepancy between image and word when even serious parties use visual elements which tend to underscore the less serious aura and message of the party.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Pages (from-to)87-105
Number of pages155
JournalYearbook of Women's History - Jaarboek voor vrouwengeschiedenis
Issue number35
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

This is a poster essay in the Yearbook of Women's History 2015 with the theme Gender and Activism: Women's Voices in Political Debate.


  • Women and politics
  • Gender
  • representation
  • campaign posters


Dive into the research topics of 'Women Political Leaders and the Design of Campaign Portrait Posters'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this