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Illustrations from She Votes: How U.S. Women Won Suffrage, and What Happened Next of some of the women who have propelled the continuing fight for women's rights. (Ali Mac; Jane Beaird; Ashley Seil Smith; Trisha Mason)

What 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage Looks Like Through the Eyes of 100 Women Artists

A new book fills its pages with an illustrated, intersectional exploration of the past century

smithsonianmag.com
SMITHSONIANMAG.COM | Aug. 18, 2020, 1:30 p.m.

Over the course of the many centennial anniversaries surrounding the 19th Amendment, which extended the right to vote to women, publishers have released scores of books that capitalize on renewed interest in the topic. Few new books, however, are as intersectional and visually arresting as award-winning author and art historian Bridget Quinn’s latest: She Votes: How U.S. Women Won Suffrage, and What Happened Next.

The book recounts the diverse array of women who fought for equality throughout American history, both in the decades leading up to the amendment’s ratification and in the generations since. Quinn’s whimsical yet serious tone reveals the ways in which feminism affects everyday life and highlights the figures who made it possible. Women across political and cultural spaces, like queer writer-activist Audre Lorde, Representative Patsy Takemoto Mink of Hawaii, and Senator Carol Moseley Braun, the first African American woman to hold that title, are portrayed here as complex humans striving for equality in their own ways.

A historian of the American South, Nell Irvin Painter, contributes the foreword and a self-portrait that sets the tone for the book. Quinn, she writes, “does not skip over the continued disenfranchisement nor the agency of women of color” and “never loses sight of the limitations, even the villainies, of women suffrage within the prejudices prevailing in American society over time.” Painter’s introduction challenges the beginnings of the women’s rights movement and what we have been taught about it; regardless of gender and age, no one should assume they know enough about this history.

To help tell this complex story, Quinn brought on 100 women artists, each illustrating a historical figure, or scene, in their respective styles. This publication, for many of the artists, marks their first time being featured among other women artists. With vibrant colors and varied mediums, “an art bounty of women’s empowerment,” says Painter, weaves readers into Quinn’s verse and how the women in it have shaped the world around them, Painter declares.

The illustrations accompany tales of law-making and law-breaking, literary angst, protest movements, quarrels within the leaders of Second and Third Wave feminism, and countless narratives that paved the way for Gen Xers and Baby Boomers to march together at the 2017 Women’s March and the ongoing protests around the world. Chapters like “Seneca” and “Winning the West: Sacajawea” open with compelling portraits of Indigenous women, whose agency and communal power inspired the Seneca Falls Convention. Such acknowledgements in the book show that women, across all intersections, have activated movements.

Here, alongside their illustrations, are ten women artists offering perspectives on their work, women’s rights and the will to move towards a global movement that centers the most marginalized people.

Inez Milholland at 1913 Suffrage Procession
“As a child to Salvadoran immigrants, I was always drawn to my parents' ability to connect my brothers and I to their native country, culture and family through storytelling. This in turn, helped feed my imagination as I discovered the power of storytelling and connecting with others through drawing.

For my illustration of Inez Milholland in the 1913 suffrage procession, I used bright colors to make the image feel bold, stoic and hopeful.” (Josie Portillo, @josie_portillo)
Rep. Patsy T. Mink
“As a biracial child, I can't remember ever seeing someone that looked like me in children's books or in the doll section. I want children to be able to see themselves in the media they consume, and be able to relate to the characters I illustrate in some way.

I am especially grateful to Rep. Patsy Mink for [Title IX, which was later renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.] She made certain that all of us ladies could not be denied education or federal student loans on the basis of our sex.

I used both cherry blossoms and hibiscus to represent Mink’s Japanese and Hawaiian heritage. I wanted the pops of red and yellow to represent her fiery passion and refusal to back down in the face of adversity. I chose pastels to represent the loving and caring motives behind everything she fought for. She was beautiful, feminine, bold and fiery, so I wanted to convey her that way with my drawing of her, as well as with the color palette I used.” (Trisha Mason, @trishabmason)
Delta Sigma Theta sorority in 1913 suffrage procession
“Due to racism within the suffrage movement, black women were discouraged from walking in the [1913 suffrage] parade altogether and were ultimately told to walk in the back. They were walking for women's voting rights, yes, but they were also sending a powerful message that you can't have a conversation about women's rights without including black women. I wanted to have a vintage, flat design aesthetic, like pieces of cut-out paper coming to life, while also representing the colors of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority: crimson and cream.” (Jane Beaird, @quietcreature)
Senator Carol Moseley Braun
“I was in graduate school at the University of Michigan when Sen. Carol Moseley Braun was elected, and many of us were very much aware of the historic upset victory that she had won, just one state over [in Illinois]. I wanted to use colors for Sen. Braun's outfit that spoke to the hope and joy her election represented, for black people of all genders.

The feminist writing and activism of bell hooks, Angela Davis, and Patricia Hill Collins helped me develop my approach to creating art that speaks to the complexity of living at the crossroads of race and gender.

It's wonderful to be able to play a role in commemorating so many of the women whose efforts have expanded our access to full political participation. I see a bright future for women in the art professions as we see greater gender diversity within the ranks of curators, gallery owners, art directors, publishers and production designers, we will continue to see increasing opportunities for a broader diversity of artists and designers.” (Ajuan Mance, @8_rock)
Linda Nochlin
“My work is very much inspired by bright colors, mid-century illustration and design, pop-culture and my Mexican-American upbringing. It was inspiring reading about Linda Nochlin and her 1971 essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?,” which is still a question that resonates today. The art world has always been heavily dominated by white males, and although we have made progress since 1971, there is still much work to be done in furthering the role of underrepresented voices in the art world.” (Loris Lora, @loris_lora)
Guerilla Girls2
“I was not familiar with the Guerrilla Girls before creating this piece, but as an artist and woman of color growing up in New York, I couldn’t help but feel a connection to them. Posters and photos of the Guerrilla Girls traditionally are in bold black and white with pops of neon color. I wanted that feeling to come through with the portrait against the grey background of NYC.” (Sandi Kim, @sandiillustrator)
Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique
“While working on Betty Friedan’s portrait, I learned about her influence on the feminist movement and support for the Equal Rights Amendment. I find the adjectives used to describe her personality to be interesting: abrasive, ill-tempered, prone to screaming fits. Author Germaine Greer put it best: “Though her behavior was often tiresome, I figured that she had a point. Women don't get the respect they deserve unless they are wielding male-shaped power.” She had problematic views on LGBTQ+ rights, which often put her at odds with others within the feminist movement and ultimately on the wrong side of history (though she seemingly came around towards the end of her life). It’s important to be able to celebrate her accomplishments while also being critical of her behavior and acknowledge her shortcomings.” (Alexandra Beguez, @bisforbeguez)
Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford
“In high school I discovered comic books through a group of skater kids and fell head over heels absolutely in love with the art form, this beautiful meld of illustration and narrative story-telling. It was more than inspiring, it hit me like a spiritual calling and I felt in that moment I could actually be an artist.

When I received word, I’d be illustrating both Anita Hill AND Christine Blasey Ford? I think I fell out of my chair and then stomped around the house whooping and hollering! I was completely electrified. At 17 years old I was just starting to pay attention to politics during the Clarence Thomas hearings. And, of course I was affixed to the Kavanaugh testimonies. Both of these events were deeply disturbing and upsetting.

The overall composition of my piece was to place Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford within the context of the Supreme Court and the U.S. justice system; these systems that not only were neither supreme nor resulted in any justice for them and their horrible experiences—instead, these problematic men actually advanced and are now placed in the highest realm of government.

Given that, I do believe in hope. Gladiolas are a symbol of strength, and I honor Anita and Christine in them. The eagle carries a long white piece of cloth, a bearing of feminism, and this entwines them in these ideals and reads E Pluribus Unum (‘One from Many’) and Annuit cœptis (‘Providence favors our undertakings’). These two incredibly brave women took THE stand, and to testify their lives in front of an administration and the whole world their horrific experiences in order to protect us, and hold these men accountable, has immeasurably moved and inspires SO many of us.” (Christine Norrie, @christinenorrie)
Ms. Magazine
While gender specific magazines became commonplace in American households, Ms. magazine changed the narrative when it appeared on stands in 1971. Here, artist Ali Mac showcases Ms. with a touch of 70s inspiration. Feminist and magazine co-founder Gloria Steinem is shown on the cover, alongside her iconic shades with a floral print background. Steinem’s adage, “Hope is a form of planning,” continues to inform the pages of Ms. and women internationally. (Ali Mac, @alimacdoodle)
Sacajawea
Illustrated in earthy pastels and traditional braids, Ashley Seil Smith’s portrait of Sacajawea emits beauty and tenacity. As an interpreter, Sacajawea with her newborn in tow, guided the Lewis and Clark expedition. Quinn reports the 1905 National American Women Suffrage Association convention coincided with the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, that unveiled Alice Cooper’s statue Sacajawea and Jean-Baptiste. Sacajawea’s bravery and independence inspired the likes of Susan B. Anthony and other suffragists in their movement toward equality. (Ashley Seil Smith, @seilsmith)
About the Author: Tiffany Y. Ates is the art services manager for Smithsonian magazine. Read more articles from Tiffany Y. Ates and

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