“How does that help the working classes?”: Nudity and Feminism in The Masses

Dr Rachel Sanders History of Art and Design, Oxford Brookes University

Women’s rights were a central concern of The Masses – suffrage, birth control, sex education and free love were among the causes the magazine championed. Female artists and writers were given a voice as regular contributors, and women were frequently the focus of news articles, editorials, poetry, fiction and lengthy social and political commentaries. These ran alongside depictions of women in realist drawings, symbolic illustrations, cartoons and nude studies. This paper examines this imagery within the context of the ‘woman question’ that emerged unresolved following the Second International, and The Masses’ artistic aims and left-wing politics.