Responses by Jaime Flynn, creative director, Bonfire Labs
Background: On Women’s Equality Day, we celebrate women being awarded the right to vote, but many women who were crucial to this achievement have been left out of history. We sought to give voice to these women—mostly women of color—by sharing their stories with people of every color, gender and orientation in San Francisco, because women’s equality is not just for women; it’s for everyone.
Reasoning: We wanted to share the stories of these women by creating digital baseball-card like assets, anonymously airdropping them to people’s phones. The airdrops appeared with a preview of the story and the question, “Do you know these women?,” enticing people to open the story. It was a key component that the delivery of the stories be anonymous, as these forgotten women are largely unnamed and unknown in history’s documentation of the women’s movement.
Challenges: Airdrop proved to have it’s own set of challenges. When receiving an airdrop, phones are by default labeled with a person’s name, so each phone we used to spread the stories was renamed to The Forgotten Suffragettes. It also was difficult to maintain anonymity, as Airdrop requires you to be within 30 feet of someone to share. Regardless of the number of people present, if they’re not engaged with their phones, they’re not receiving messages. We found the most success with commuters.
Visual influences: Our main priority was to create something that felt like historical artifacts to celebrate and uplift these women as heroes. Taking inspiration from baseball cards, zines, and old photographs, we created a visual system that was a fresh take on biographies. The distressed photographs are a reminder that these women were tossed aside by history. We used bright, colored typography to bring it to modern day, and grab your attention when accepting the airdrop.
Anything new: Before researching, we had never heard of the women featured on the cards. It was challenging to uncover suffragist women of color, even though they were briefly touched on in the histories of more well known women. For example, Matilda Joslyn Gage was a White woman whose feminist ideas were inspired by Native American women. But after extensive research, we couldn’t pull the name of one Native American woman to feature. This goes to show how women’s suffrage has been has been almost exclusively focused on Caucasian women, further underscoring the notion that equality isn’t only a gender issue.
Alternative approach: If we were to execute this campaign again, we’d get women across the country to help spread the word. We would spend more time uncovering the untold stories of even more forgotten suffragettes, and distribute them across cities to expand our impact at a national scale. By amplifying our network, we’d do more to deepen the history of the women’s suffrage movement.