CND badge CND/2008/7/11/2’

This is the first in a series of blogs about themes emanating from the inaugural LSE Library exhibition “Campaigning: Causes and Connections”.

The art of successful campaigning depends upon a range of tactics intended to raise awareness for a given cause. In this post I will look at the use of colours and symbols as a way of creating identity and spectacle.


WSPU Angel Messenger (WWK_1136)

Each suffrage group adopted its own “corporate” colours. The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies used red and white on its posters from 1906 and added green three years later. The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) chose the memorable combination of purple, white and green to signify dignity, purity and hope. These colours were first introduced at a suffrage rally in Hyde Park, on 21 June 1908, attended by an audience estimated at 250,000 people. Other suffrage groups adopted their own combination of colours to identify themselves in meetings and processions. The WSPU was also adept at marketing and, through the artistry of Sylvia Pankhurst, this suffrage group used four different logos on its merchandise. The most familiar design is that of the herald.

Another campaign with a recognisable symbol is that for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. In 1958, the year of the foundation of CND, Gerald Holtom incorporated the semaphore signals for N and D. This symbol has since been adopted as a peace sign around the world.


Greenham Common Poster CND/2008/25/35 (TWL_00230)

Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, in existence during the 1980s and 1990s, was a place of visual spectacle. The perimeter fence of RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire was decorated with banners, posters, ribbons, dolls, baby clothes, photographs and other mementoes. Badges and posters often depict spun webs or cutting through of the perimeter fence. The spider’s web became a symbol connecting women in solidarity as they stood together in the campaign against nuclear weapons.

The Women’s Liberation Movement adopted the female biological sign as its unifying emblem. Its simplicity meant that it could be adapted and used in a variety of ways but still be recognisable as a symbol for the Women’s Liberation Movement.


Women’s Liberation Movement sticker McIntosh/3/1/2 (TWL_00297)

In 1974, the Greek letter Lambda was adopted by the international gay and lesbian community to signify unity under oppression. An eight-stripe rainbow flag designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978 was also adopted. It represents the diversity of gay and lesbian people around the world.

Campaigning: Causes and Connections at LSE Library is a free exhibition open until 31 August 2015.

For further information please visit

Gillian Murphy

About Gillian Murphy

Gillian Murphy is an Assistant Archivist in LSE Library.