One of the premier cornerstones of American Citizenship is the Right to Vote.

February 2020

This month the Brandywine River Museum presents two moving exhibits that reflect the heart and soul of a nation fighting with itself, to live up to the promise and intent of its Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

Both open on February 1st – and both exhibits illustrate the fervor and actions required to ensure that our nation lived up to its promise that every citizen had the right to vote…

February 1st though June 7th – Come and explore VOTES FOR WOMEN: A VISUAL HISTORY

This exhibit is a moving commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In the absence of televised and digital media, the suffragists spread their message through magazines, political cartoons, posters, plays, parades and even through fashion – white gowns, white hats, and diagonal sashes.

Focusing on the decade prior to ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, Votes for Women examines the compelling imagery of the suffrage movement, revealing how the “look” of women’s rights developed and deciphering the important visual strategies that propelled it forward.

Though the Nineteenth Amendment finally granted women the right to vote, ongoing voting struggles persisted for minority groups following its ratification. Presenting an inclusive historical narrative, Votes for Women recognizes the significant contributions of women of color and their community networks, which have been historically overlooked, giving the false impression that women of color were absent from the struggle for voting rights. The Brandywine has also commissioned a diverse group of women artists to create a mural of illustrated portraits of 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.

Also opening this month, The Museum presents Witness to History: Selma Photography

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 their way to the state capital, 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 boarded a bus in New York city and headed to Alabama. He arrived on March 25, in time for the final march to Montgomery. 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. King 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 many 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.

All Photos and art, courtesy of the Brandywine River Museum of Art

Brandywine River Museum of Art Exhibits