Two major political events in the history of the United States are highlighted in presentations at the Brandywine River Museum of Art. Votes for Women A Visual History commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States constitution and the concurrent exhibition: Witness to History: Selma Photography of Stephen Somerstein are on view now until June 14, 2020.
The 19th Amendment to the constitution to give women the right to vote was the culmination of efforts throughout the 19th and 20th century ending with its ratification in 1920.
Organized by the Brandywine and curated by Amanda C. Burdan, Votes for Women features drawings, illustrations and posters gathered from many sources to provide visual language to convey the political message as it was delivered primarily in the early 20th century.
Several female illustrators helped spread the word advertising products marketed to women such as cereal or light bulbs and reaching the covers of magazine like “Life” and” The Saturday Evening Post”.
Illustrator Rose O’Neill altered her popular Kewpie doll cartoons into a visual argument that “enfranchised women would be better able to provide to their children”. As part of the exhibit several manikins dressed in outfits typical of the era (one with a small train).
A mural including local, national and international figures working to promote women’s right to vote in the United States has been created by 5 local artists. This mural is on display on the wall of the museum.
“Witness to History: The Selma Photograph of Stephen Somerstein” is the second of the concurrent exhibits. It documents in 55 black and white photographs taken by Somerstein on March 25, 1965 accompanied by his commentary of the day’s events. It is guest curated by Farrah Spott.
The march led by Martin Luther King was planned to go from Selma, AI. to the State capital in Montgomery. The March had one purpose ensuring the right to vote for African Americans as many Southern states had barriers to voting such as poll taxes and literacy tests. The passage of the voting- rights of 1965 (greatly aided be the March) prohibited states from legislating such voting impediments.
The “March” was in response to the death of a church deacon during a peaceful voting rights march in Marion, Alabama. The march started on March 7 but the marchers were beaten and turned back by Alabama state Troopers- (fully covered by TV and labeled “Bloody Sunday”) the event caused national outrage The marchers returned to Selma and waited for federal protection. On March 25 the demonstrates under the protection of the National Guard and the F.B.I. ordered by president Johnson, moved on to the state F.B.I. capitol. By the time they reached Montgomery the number of marchers had risen to about 25,000 including such prominent activists as Joan Baez, James Baldwin, Rosa Parks and Bayard Rustin.