Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence

Courtesy of Noelia Veras

By Noelia Veras

The National Portrait Gallery is honoring women’s suffrage with the “Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence” exhibit on display until January 5, 2020.

Paintings, photographs, pennants, and banners from the 19th and early 20th century are all on display to tell the history of women’s suffrage in America. The exhibit’s main purpose is to shed light on the process of obtaining the vote for women.

Before entering the exhibit, one can easily see the large banner with an image of a woman dressed in Greco-Roman style armor. The woman is draped in the American flag, she holds a staff in her right hand with the title of the exhibit, “Votes For Women: A Portrait of Persistence,” above her.

Right when you walk into the exhibit, there are charming purple walls displaying the name of the exhibit, and under the heading it gives a brief overview of the efforts for gender equality and an abridged introduction to the history of women’s suffrage.

The exhibit is presented in a large portion of one of the museum’s hallways and extends into several side rooms. These room are all connected to one another and each delineate specific time periods relevant during the women’s suffrage movement in a chronological manner.

The exhibit exudes an air of strength and unity, from women of all backgrounds. There are portraits of American women of black, white, and hispanic cultural backgrounds, which allow the exhibit to shed a special light on marginalized women. One way that the exhibit integrated marginalized women was with Antonio Martorell’s portrait of Felisa Rincón. Rincón is a prominent figure in Puerto Rico because she disseminated the ideas of women’s suffrage from the United States to Puerto Rico.

Naturally, the exhibit also commemorates more well-known figures like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Their friendship and its relevance in the fight for women’s rights, was both professional and personal. This relationship was especially significant and publicly acknowledged, since they are widely considered to be the co-architects of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States.

The description next to their portrait quoted Stanton, who said “I forged the thunderbolts and she fired them,” in regards to Anthony.

Overall, the exhibit “Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence” aims to bring the long history of women’s suffrage to the public eye. The exhibit is both a form of art and of historical education. By bringing up the past, The National Portrait Gallery is purposefully reminding the current generation how women were and still are fighting the battle for equality.

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