The Movement of Art


Preparing for a Face Lift by Emma Amos (Courtesy of @theschoolofmaking)

Since the beginning of time, art has told stories of struggle and pain with vivid paint strokes, camera clicks, and music notes. As we begin the month of March, let’s take a look back at the ways women have used art to stand up for equality and learn about how contemporary women are using art to create change for the future.

Music has always been used to soothe the soul, but it was also used to call people to action during the suffragette movement from 1823 to 1923. The Library of Congress shares research on Women’s Suffrage in Sheet Music, a collection of 200 songs telling about women’s struggles and dreams. It was used as a softer approach to get women to join the movement. The most popular song from the collection is “The March of Women” by Dame Ethel Smyth. Marian Hetherly, a writer from NPR, reminds us of some of the songs more familiar to modern audiences that stand up for women’s equality. They are “Respect” by Aretha Franklin, “I’m Every Woman” by Whitney Houston, and “You Don’t Know Me” by Lesly Gore. We all can relate to the women in our lives introducing us to these songs. 

Throughout the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, there was a lot of anti-suffragette propaganda being spewed to the public. However, the suffragettes had artwork to counter these messages. Like music, posters were used as a way to rally more people in support of the movement. Sashes, buttons, and ribbons were designed with gold so people could show their support.

It’s important to highlight the artwork of minority women because they tell our stories. 

Asian artist, Louise Low, deserves recognition for her piece titled, Lean on You And Me, which challenges the taboo ideas of bras and women’s bodies. 

Black artist, Emma Amos shows how painful white beauty standards can be on Black women with the piece titled, Preparing For a Face Lift.

Hispanic photographer, Paz Errázuriz has documented the lives of trans women as a way of exposing the oppression they face.

Native American artist, Carla Hemlock, uses quilts to bring awareness to environmental issues and violence against Native American women. 

The images below demonstrate the impact these women have had on conversations about women’s rights and equality.

While we can appreciate the progress that has been made, we must also acknowledge that women of color have not been awarded the same rights as quickly. For example, PBS: American Experience highlights the fact that the 19th amendment did grant women the right to vote, but racist laws and legislation stopped women of color from practicing this right.

Today, women of color still deal with how their race intertwines with their sex. The fight for equality is not over. We must keep fighting these inequalities to achieve justice for all.