Wednesday, July 4, 2018

An Enduring Struggle

Rene Lynch, Women's March Poster, 2017

The Fourth of July seems a fitting day to post this visual report on Beyond Suffrage: A Century of New York Women in Politics, which is at the Museum of the City of New York. The exhibition begins in 1917, when women won the right to vote in our state, and culminates with the Women’s March of 2017, the day after the inauguration of the person who did not win the popular vote.

Exhibitions at the MCNY are typically short on art but long on object and text. That’s not a complaint. In a city full or art, the fabric of the city—sometimes literally—is what’s on display here.  Exhibitions have included Salsa in New York, replete with Tito Puente’s  timbales and stage clothes; Mod New York, Gay Gotham, and Roz Chast’s iconic cartoons. Beyond Suffrage is show is up through August 5. 

 The anteroom to the exhibition
Panorama below

Below: Better view of wall-photos that are part of the montage

 From the anteroom we walk into the section that focuses on Suffrage and the effort it took for women to win the vote, so the dates here are typically before 1917. There's a lot to see and read. If you go, plan to stay a while. Bonus: With school out, you're unlikely to encounter student groups. (I'm glad they're learning this history, but I hate when I'm surrounded by them.)

This is not about fashion. The dresses in this exhibition serves as a proxies for the women whose efforts helped shape the Women's Movement in New York State and the United States
Dress worn by Lillian D. Wald, 1893

Museum info: "Nurse and suffragist Lillian D. Wald epitomized New York's social reform movement of the early 20th century. Wald established the Visiting Nurse Service at the Henry Street Settlement that she founded on the Lower East Side as a way to provide medical care in impoverished neighborhoods; it is still in existence today. Wald campaigned for votes for women, as well as for world peace and racial integration, and she went on to help establish the Federal Children's Bureau as an agengy of the U.S. Government in 1912."

 Cashmere shawl worn by Susan B. Anthony, c. 1825

Museum info: "Social reformer and women's activist, Susan B. Anthony gave her shawl to Carrie Chapman Catt in 1900. Its transfer reflected the passing of the woman suffrage movement leadership to a new generation in the early 20th century; Catt became president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in 1915."

 With Suffrage achieved, activists turned their attention to using their votes effectively.

The dress here was worn by Carrie Chapman Catt
Museum info: "Suffrage leader Carrie Chapman Catt shifted her focus to women's club activism after the passage of the 19th Amendment. As founder and honorary president of the League of Women Voters, Catt sought to educate the newly enfranchised generation of women. Although the league was nonpartisan, Catt urged women to join political parties, believing women could not achieve full political equality until they were 'as independent within the party as men.'"

From Wikipedia: "Mary Lilly (died: October 11, 1930) was a Progressive era activist who had a prominent role in New York City's social reform movements during the last decades of the 19th Century and early decades of the 20th Century. In particular, Lilly supported prison reform in the form of separate facilities for females who were first time offenders. Lilly was an advocate for women's suffrage and other legislation to better the lives of women and children. After women gained the right to vote in New York in 1917, Lilly ran for elected office in the November 1918 election, and was one of two females elected to serve in the 1919 session of the New York State Assembly."

Top image: Cover of Ebony magazine featuring Jane Bolin, August 1947

Museum info: "Jane Bolin became the first African-American woman judge in the United States when [Fiorello] LaGuardia appointed her to the Domestic Relations Court in 1939 . . . The first black woman to graduate from Yale Law School (1931), Bolin was also the first to be invited to join the Bar Association of the City of New York, which did not accept women until 1937."

The exhibition space is a large square room that is divided by panels and curtains into several different areas. Coming from Suffrage and Influence, we now find ourselves in the Liberation area. If you grew up in New York City, or visited regularly, or were part of the Second Wave of Feminism in the Seventies, many of the names and faces here are familiar to you.

Two panoramas show you almost the entirety of this section 

Above: Represented on the wall, just under Liberation is the indomitable Shirley Chisolm (my personal role model and hero) who is quoted with these words: "I have no intention of being quiet."

In the vitrine: a dress and hat worn by Bella Abzug

Museum info: "Bella Abzug was known for her large hats and even larger personality. According to 'Battling Bella' herself, 'Working women wore hats. It was the only way they would take you seriously. After a while I started liking them. When I got to Congress, they made a big thing of it. They did not want me to wear a hat. So I did.'"

 Four key figures of the Seventies Women's Movement: Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisolm, and Betty Friedan at the National Women's Political Caucus in 1971
Photo: Charles Gorry, AP Images, from the MCNY website

 Gloria Steinem and Dorothy PItman Hughes posed in 1971 for this photo which was shot by Daniel J. Bagen and published in Esquire

 Wall texts include plaques of many key figures from the era. Here,  Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who successfully argued for women's rights before the Supreme Court

Below: Virginia (Ginny) Apuzzo, the first openly gay woman to run for elected office in New York. As the text alongside the images notes, "In 1997 she became the highest ranking openly lesbian woman in the federal government as one of Bill Clinton's senior staff members."

No, Hillary was not the first woman to run for President. That distinction belongs to Shirley Chisolm. Her slogan, "Unbought and unbossed," has resonated throughout the decades but has at no time been more apropos than now, when we have a traitorious president in thrall and in hock to a foreign government

Left: Betty Friedan did a lot for housewives, but she was no friend to lesbians. Her term, "Lavender Menace," was used to describe her (ridiculously misplaced) fear that gay women posed a threat to the stability of NOW, the National Organization of Women. We wore our t-shirts proudly; right, a poster from 1973

Every vote counted in the vote for the ERA
(If you're under 50, more info here)

Sign from Women's Equality Day, August 26, 1970

The sign says, "We represent black and third-world women, the most exploited and oppressed in the human race. --Third World Women's Alliance"

Say what you will about Mayor Bloomberg (2002-2013), he was an ally to gay and transgender folks.
Below: Closer view of the small framed image on this installation wall

 The final section, Persistence, brings us to early 2017. In this panorama we see Persistence  at left, and a bit of the previous section, Liberation, on the right

Lotte Petricone, Women's March Poster, 2017

 View of Persistence with posters from the Women's March, left
Hillary's iconic pantsuit is a stand-in for the Presidential candidate, reminding us of her perseverance in the face of opposition

Meanwhile, decades earlier . . . Geraldine Ferrero campaign pin
Image from the MCNY website

Below: Dress worn by Geraldine Ferrero at the 1984 Democratic Convention, where she accepted the nomination for vice president.

Back to the future: Steinham and Hughes in 2013

 Normally I hate photographing through glass, but here look how the statue of Liberty, with her similar pose, is reflected in the glass on Steinem's torso

Image below, without the glass, from the MCNY website
Photo: Daniel J. Bagen

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