Brandywine River Museum Brandywine River Museum of Art
Chadds Ford, PA

Brandywine River Museum of Art
1 Hoffmans Mill Road
U.S. Route 1, P.O. Box 141
Chadds Ford, PA 19317
Phone: 610-388-2700

email: inquiries@brandywine.org


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Votes for Women: A Visual History

Witness to History: Selma Photography of Stephen Somerstein

How Visual Images Can Help Make An Argument


Votes for Women: A Visual History
February 1, 2020 to June 7, 2020

The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which granted women the right to vote—although many voting struggles persisted for marginalized groups following its ratification. The long road to women’s suffrage, spanning the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, played out very differently from political movements today. In the absence of televised and digital media, the suffragists spread their message through magazines, political cartoons, posters, plays, parades, and even through fashion. This exhibition will examine the visual culture of the suffrage movement, revealing how the “look” of women’s rights developed along with the important visual strategies that propelled the campaign.

Votes for Women: A Visual History will include drawings, illustrations, and posters from museums, historical societies, and private collections that visualize the complex political messages conveyed by suffragists. Also included will be historic photographs of marches and rallies, including the 1913 Women’s Suffrage Procession in Washington D.C. Examples of the costumes, clothing, sashes and other emblems of women’s activism worn by suffragists will enliven the presentation, drawing comparisons between the representations and realities of women’s struggle to win the vote.

Presenting an inclusive historical narrative, the exhibition recognizes the efforts of women of color and their community networks, which have been largely overlooked, giving the false impression that women of color were absent from the struggle for voting rights. As a way to recognize these marginalized communities, the Brandywine commissioned a diverse group of women artists to create a mural of illustrated portraits featuring 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.

As Votes for Women will further illustratre, the visual lessons of the suffrage movement provided a model for later activism, including the civil rights and social justice movements up to the present day, making this not just a centennial commemoration, but a window into contemporary discourse.

Serving as a companion to Votes for Women: A Visual History, an accompanying photography exhibition, Witness to History: Selma Photography of Stephen Somerstein, continues the story of the ongoing struggles marginalized communities faced when voting following the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment. The exhibition features 55 photographs taken during the historic 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama on March 25, 1965—a turning point in the civil rights movement that led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act—and will be on view from February 1 to June 14, 2020.

Witness to History: Selma Photography of Stephen Somerstein
Through November 1, 2020
Strawbridge Family Gallery

The historic 1965 Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, civil rights march concerned one issue—the right to vote. Two thousand marchers set out on March 21 along Route 80, known as the “Jefferson Davis Highway.” After two failed attempts to complete the march, President Johnson dispatched federal and state troops to guard the demonstrators along the way to the state capitol, 54 miles away. By the time the marchers reached Montgomery, their number had grown to 25,000.

Hearing of the events, 24-year-old student photographer Stephen Somerstein jumped on a bus in New York city and headed to Alabama. He arrived on March 25, in time for the final march to the state capitol. With five cameras around his neck and only 15 rolls of film, Somerstein seemed to be everywhere at once documenting this pivotal moment in the civil rights movement. 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. Somerstein also took poignant portraits of his fellow demonstrators, as well as the anonymous bystanders who had gathered along route to observe the civil action in progress.

This exhibition presents 55 of the photographs taken by Somerstein on March 25, 1965, accompanied by his commentary of the day’s events. It is guest curated by Farrah Spott and on view at the Brandywine River Museum of Art as a companion to the exhibition Votes for Women: A Visual History.

How Visual Images Can Help Make An Argument
Through November 1, 2020

Kennett Middle School’s Poster Art for Votes for Women: A Visual History

Kennett Middle School students were given the unique opportunity to display their artwork in conjunction with the exhibition of Votes for Women: A Visual History at The Brandywine River Museum of Art. To prepare and inspire the students to create their artwork, they were first introduced to the history and growth of the Women’s Rights Movement with a special emphasis on the Suffrage Movement.

For this project, students looked at the history of poster design, especially images from the Suffrage Movement, and discovered how images can be used as a tool in the arguments for or against women’s rights. Students were then challenged to create their own contemporary posters utilizing typography, drawing, painting, photo manipulation, and collage. Students included both contemporary and iconic imagery to support and enrich their poster art. The students also utilized a powerful tactic used during the Suffrage Movement of enhancing their work by incorporating strong, bold patriot colors of red, white and blue along with the colors of the American Suffrage Movement: purple, white and gold. The completed vintage style poster designs either show support or opposition for a woman’s right to vote.

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