Reacting to the Vietnam War as both a mother and a feminist, the artist Nancy Spero (1926 - 2009) vehemently protested that conflict through her War Series (1966 - 1970). She personified helicopters, gunships, and bombs in order to make explicit the sexual nature of violence that is present, but frequently glossed over or discounted, in times of war. It is clear that prior to creating her War Series, Spero was influenced by Francisco Goya, Käthe Kollwitz, Otto Dix, and Pablo Picasso because viewers can see similarities between Spero's works and those of the aforementioned artists. Examining Spero's War Series in the context of those other artists allows viewers to make connections within the art historical canon of war-related imagery. Spero also was influenced by a number of feminist writers. I have separated these writers into three groups based on time period: the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the mid-twentieth century, and the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Spero would have read and been influenced by early feminists like Mary Wollstonecraft and Virginia Woolf, and her contemporaries Mary Daly, Helene Cixous, and Monique Wittig. However, Nancy Spero anticipates the arguments made by late twentieth and twenty-first century feminists Cynthia Enloe, Chandra Mohanty, and many others in her War Series because of the ways in which she depicts the relationship between war and sexual violence. In conclusion, I argue that art provides a space for dialogue that war does not, and that Spero shaped the kind of dialogue in which her viewers would engage through the images she created.


Hults, Linda

Second Advisor

Craven, Christa


Art and Art History; Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


Art and Design | Women's Studies


nancy spero, the vietnam war, feminism and war, rape, torture, sexual violence, the 1960s

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2011 Zoe Van Dyke