Ethel Reed: I Am My Own Property

February 25–August 21, 2022
A gallery of framed posters hanging on aubergine walls next to a large black and white photo of a woman.

Ethel Reed shot to fame in 1895 as a fresh talent in the poster world, became the darling of the international press in a matter of months, and then disappeared from public life by 1898.

Until recently, scholars only knew her as the best of a very small number of women poster designers at the turn of the century, creating light-hearted, decorative advertisements for literary publications primarily based in Boston. While contemporary critics have often dismissed her work as cheerful fluff and her talent as less notable than that of her male counterparts, both news articles of the time and her personal correspondence reveal a heavily autobiographical, oftentimes dark and defiant, thread running through her illustrations.

Her life and work represent the struggles of being a female artist in the male-dominated art world of the late 19th century, while also touching on issues of class, addiction, mental health, conservative societal expectations, and sexuality.

Based in New York City, Isometric collaborates with leading cultural institutions, universities, tech companies, and nonprofits to reinvent the way they present themselves visually and strategically. It expresses the missions of these organizations through visual identities, exhibitions, websites, and signage programs that convey intellectual rigor, aesthetic sophistication, and memorable storytelling. Through design, it advances an ethos of inclusion, equity, and justice, centering the lived experiences of marginalized people.

The exhibition comes to Poster House through a generous loan from Thomas G. Boss. 


Selected Images

A lithographic poster of a woman in profile reading a blank sheet of paper. Oversized poppies are in the background.
The Boston Sunday Herald, 1895
Ethel Reed
A lithographic poster of two blonde twins back to back in black outfits. Decorative type announces the book above and below.
Arabella and Araminta Stories, 1895
Ethel Reed
A lithographic poster of a Victorian woman playing the piano; oversize yellow flowers cross the foreground.
Miss Traumerei, 1895
Ethel Reed
A lithographic poster of two women in muted tone gowns and coats holding books.
Poster Show, 1896
Maxfield Parrish
A lithographic poster of a man sipping lemonade and reading a magazine in a chair.
Harper's August, 1898
Edward Penfield
A woodblock poster of two women in striped dresses walking in a field by a tree.
The Echo, 1895
Will Bradley
A lithographic poster of an angelic woman holding a man's head in her lap.
The Quest of the Golden Girl, 1896
Ethel Reed
A lithographic poster of a woman in a black dress holding a large poppy next to her face.
Folly or Saintliness, 1895
Ethel Reed