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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

The Woman Behind the "Spirit of Woman Power" Poster


The Michigan poster was the result of the publicity work of Mrs. Mina Humphrey Varnum of Detroit, who was state-level Registration Publicity chairman.

Her plan for a poster was carried out in Detroit where she enlisted the interest of many of the best artists of the city to compete in making an official poster. An exhibition of one hundred resulting posters was held in the Detroit Museum of Art. Paul Honore’s poster, “The Spirit of Woman Power,” received first prize of $100. The original poster was three-by-four feet, 10,000 copies were printed, and the cost did not exceed $1200.

The poster and competing designs were kept on exhibition in Detroit windows along Woodward Ave. until after registration was completed. Registration in Michigan was highly successful. During that one week from April to May, 900,000 registration cards were filled out for Michigan women--more than any other state in the nation.

Many copies of the poster were sent on request to museums, libraries and other historical collectors. Brentano’s purchased one-hundred copies to use in filling orders for collectors of American and foreign war posters which is probably why we are fortunate to have reprints of it available today.

Mina Humphrey, born in 1874, worked as a beat reporter covering every type of story from fashion to crime. She was assistant editor for the Michigan Historical Commission and was a regular contributor to Detroit Saturday Night, a Detroit newspaper published ca 1907-1939. She was appointed assistant publicity manager of the Michigan State Telephone Co. in 1921, the first woman in the country to hold such a high position. She married Thaddeus S. Varnum, a newspaperman, in Saginaw in 1897. She died in 1954 and is buried in Riverside Cemetery, Okemos, Ingham Co., MI with her son, John Humphrey Varnum.


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