Votes for Women: A Visual History, on view at the Brandywine River Museum of Art from February 1 through June 7, 2020, commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In the absence of televised and digital media, the suffragists spread their message through magazines, political cartoons, posters, plays, parades and even through fashion. Focusing on the decade prior to ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, Votes for Women examines the compelling imagery of the suffrage movement, revealing how the “look” of women’s rights developed and deciphering the important visual strategies that propelled it forward.
While the Nineteenth Amendment finally granted women the right to vote, ongoing voting struggles persisted for minority groups following its ratification. Presenting an inclusive historical narrative, Votes for Women recognizes the significant contributions of women of color and their community networks, which have been historically overlooked, giving the false impression that women of color were absent from the struggle for voting rights. The Brandywine has also commissioned a diverse group of women artists to create a mural of illustrated portraits of some of the women whose role in winning voting rights has been historically minimized because of their race or ethnicity. The mural will include portraits of 14 local and national figures with accompanying biographies.
Serving as a companion to the Votes for Women: A Visual History exhibition, Witness to History: Selma Photography of Stephen Somerstein explores a historic turning point in the civil rights movement—the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama—that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. This exhibition presents 55 of the photographs taken at the march by 24-year-old student Stephen Somerstein, accompanied by his commentary of the day’s events. He captured photographs of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other prominent activists such as Rosa Parks, James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin, John Lewis, and Joan Baez, as well as portraits of his fellow demonstrators and bystanders who had gathered along the route. Witness to History will be on view at the Brandywine River Museum of Art from February 1 to June 14, 2020.