One of my disappointments in 2019 was that I didn’t make it to Washington DC to see “Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence” at the National Portrait Gallery, which ran from March 29, 2019 through January 5, 2020 . I made plans, over and over. Over and over, life undid those plans.
Now I get a chance to get at least a peek. Like other museums around the world, the Smithsonian is offering digital exhibitions and virtual tours, including “Votes for Women”. The digital exhibition introduced me to many suffragists and women’s rights advocates whose names I didn’t know, including women of color. In fact, looking at the role of women of color in the women’s suffrage movement—or more accurately their exclusion from that movement—is the sobering heart of the exhibit.
Ultimately, the digital exhibition is a tease: just enough to tempt me to order the exhibition catalog.* If you’re interested in taking a look, here is the link: Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence
In the meantime, let me share my favorite image from the exhibition: an illustration created by political cartoonist Elmer Andrews Bushnell after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment.
Titled “The Sky is Now Her Limit,” the print shows a newly enfranchised working woman looking up a ladder that climbs from “slavery” and “household drudgery” through a series of empowering steps that lead ultimately to a barely visible step labelled “president.” Sing it Mr. Bushnell.
*From my local independent bookstore. Those of you who have been following me here on the Margins know how I feel about independent bookstores. Many independent bookstores are still shipping even though their doors are closed. If you don’t have a local bookstore, you can adopt one. Use them or lose them. *Steps down from soapbox*