BDM Girls

  Before it became law in 1939, there were tens of thousands of girls signed up to the Hitler Youth organisations. The League of German Girls (Bund Deutscher Mädel [BDM]) was the female section of the Hitler Youth founded in 1930. The purpose of BDM was to indoctrinate girls into the beliefs and ideals of the Nazi regime. This was a clever government program to create generations of girls dedicated to Nazism, being dutiful housewives, whose primary purpose within society was to become a mother. The roles of girls and the women they would become was completely designed and proscribed by...

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Marina Ginestà on a Rooftop

  In July 1936, a young woman stood on the roof of the Placa de Catalunya hotel in Barcelona, Spain. She was just 17, yet the rifle she carried and the defiantly optimistic look on her face would ensure her name went down in history. The young woman was Marina Ginestà. She was born in Toulouse, France, to a working class family, and moved to Spain at the age of 11. Sometime in the next six years, she joined the Unified Socialist Party, a communist political party that wanted to defend the middle classes against land seizures. When civil war broke out in Spain, Marina served as a...

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Binding Girls

  Girls have literally always been under the control of their parents, extended families, communities, and governments. Their minds and bodies being policed at all times. The most extreme example of this is the Chinese practice of foot binding. Thought to have begun around 900 CE, the earliest evidence of footbinding comes from around 1240 and it persisted until the early 20th century, despite being made illegal in the 17th. The most shocking aspect of foot binding, beyond the horrific images of actual bound feet, is the devotion chinese women had to continuing the practice that hobbled...

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Child Labor in Baltimore, Maryland, 1909

  Barefoot children sitting on crates or standing in the dirt. Young boys and girls together, some smiling, some not even looking at the camera. In this written description, different images might come to mind. Some people might picture a group of kids playing a game in the backyard during the summer break from school. The photograph above tells a very different story, yet still fits the description. Following the industrial revolution, factories began popping up in cities throughout the United States and Europe. These factories required laborers and factory owners did not want to pay...

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A Postcard from OTMA

  The Romanov princesses referred to themselves as OTMA, the first letters of each of their names. Their mother did her best to treat them and make them appear as a oneness — a group of girls, rather than individuals. They were dressed alike and often even referred to by their names. This postcard shows how close they were. In the hopes for a boy, the four princesses were born in quick succession. The girls were the most photographed princesses in the world and a major public and private disappointment. They grew up in opulence and extravagance that is almost unrivaled. Yet there...

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Tattoo Comb

    There are traditions of tattooing women and girls all over the world. Usually, tattoos mark the time of transition from girlhood to womanhood, just after puberty. And for females, it seems that the placement of the tattoos are in very visible and sensitive parts of the body: the chin, lips, forehead, fingers and abdomen. One of the largest and most intense is the malu from Samoa. The malu covers the legs from just under the bottom to the tops of the knees. This traditional tattooing comb was made in Samoa by an unknown tufuga tatatau (tattooing expert). Tattooing in Samoa is...

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Suffragettes Defaced Penny

  When you think of suffragettes, what comes to mind? Women picketing in front of the white house, holding signs and wearing purple sashes. A young woman stepping in front of a horse, willingly sacrificing herself in order to bring attention to the cause. Defacing cultural sites, such as The Rokeby Venus (a painting in the National Gallery) or a mummy case in teh British Museum. Secret meetings, whispered rumors, and late night speeches hurriedly delivered before the police could arrive. Scenes from a movie, to be sure. Yet the true power of suffragettes wasn’t their most public...

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Less than a micromini: Cache-sexe Zulu

  What if you could tell your gender age and marital status just from your clothes? Well, in most cultures, you can. What we wear tells the rest of our communities what our exactly place is within it. In much of sub-Saharan Africa, modesty norms are very different to those prescribed to Western cultures. Wearing next to nothing in such a hot climate is not a sign of promiscuity, but garments like the cache-sexe or ‘modesty belt’ say a lot about the wearer’s culture. The term cache-sexe was used by the French, so it comes up in those areas of Africa colonized by the French. There are...

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A Postcard from Tubo’u

  Postcards were popular ways for photographers to share images of Empire back to the home country. The cabinet card style of portraiture became fashionable from about 1870. Images of colonized landscapes and people helped those back home to take ownership and believe they had a bit of understanding of faraway places and cultures. Very often, it was young women or girls who were photographed to demonstrate the perceived vulnerability and exotic, coquettish ways of the colonies. These females become unknown symbols of submission. But least we know her name—Tubo’u. Here, she is...

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School Rewards

  In the Victorian period boys were more important than girls, were taught different lessons and so achieved more. Or did they? Before camera phones, Instagram, and snapchat having your photograph taken was a big deal. You would have visited a professional photographer’s studio, worn your best clothes and stood completely still for the long minutes it took for a photograph to be taken in the 1800’s. Photographs were very expensive to have taken and so you would only have had one done for a special occasion such as a marriage, christening, or to celebrate an achievement. This photograph...

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