| By Andrea Drouillard |
I recently visited a local art gallery with a dynamic social justice mission. One way they’ve actualized their social justice mission is by sharing their beautiful space with artists, musicians, and writers. The exhibit I saw was called 19th Amendment at 100 and was sponsored by the Women’s Caucus for Art, Michigan Chapter. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which guarantees and protects American women’s right to vote. A focal point of the exhibition was provided through the medium of a string of kites on which the images of early suffragettes, including Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Sojourner Truth, were painted.
To me the kites symbolized freedom. Yet women didn’t achieve the right to vote until 144 years after the United States declared its independence. It took another 45 years for the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to be passed into law, prohibiting voter discrimination based on race or color.
I reached out to the artist, Margaret Parker, who created the kite sails. I asked what inspired her to create her piece titled High Flyers. She said the exhibit took two years to plan. They knew they wanted to show support of the early suffragists who worked tirelessly for women’s right to vote. They also wanted to include women who weren’t included 100 years ago—women of color and indigenous women and women of every age who had come out in support of women’s issues. It took Margaret a long time to figure out what she wanted to do for the show. She spent time reflecting on portraits of women. She did some research into the suffragist movement and was impressed by what the women endured.
Eventually, she discovered a story about an indigenous Mexican artist, Francisco Toledo, who made kites with images from his tribal family culture, and thought that would be a great way to honor the women from many walks of life who worked to gain the right to vote for women. High Flyers is an outstanding symbol for this year’s Women’s History Month theme, Valiant Women of the Vote, honoring women who fought for women’s suffrage and women who continue to fight for the voting rights of others.
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