Women in New York City have a long history of taking to streets and stages to make their voices heard. The suffrage parades of the 1910s captured the attention of the city and helped convince men that women were engaged citizens who deserved the right to vote. This past weekend, 200,000 women and men again demanded a political voice right outside the doors of the New-York Historical Society.
Telling the Stories of Women on the March
Inside those doors, the history of women’s political organizing is currently featured in two exhibitions and in our new multimedia film, We Rise. On the second floor, Collecting the Women’s Marches opened this past Friday, January 19. As part of the New-York Historical Society’s History Responds program, our Museum team collected signs, hats, and objects from last year’s women’s marches. Displayed in two cases, they capture the wide range of voices present in these massive public protests.
Upstairs in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery, our exhibition Hotbed examines the suffrage movement in the context of radical politics and activism in New York in the early 20th century. The exhibit rounds out with a nod to the present and the ways in which the goals and tactics of New York’s suffragists live on in today’s protests. In similar fashion, our film, We Rise, captures the energy and vision of women in early-twentieth-century New York City, and closes with an immersive experience of women marching through history into the present and future.
What is Feminism, Then and Now?
Inside the Cowin gallery, Hotbed encourages visitors to make connections between the past and their own perspectives of the present. The juxtaposition of a poster from 1914 and a paper-covered table for feedback invites visitors to relate the politics of that moment to their own lives. The poster, asking “What Is Feminism?”, advertised two open meetings at Cooper Union. Feminism was a new concept requiring debate and thought—and was very much on the minds of politically active New Yorkers. Speakers such as Frances Perkins (featured in our MOOC) and Rose Schneiderman (featured in Women’s Voices) spoke on “What Feminism Means To Me” as well as topics such as “The Right to Her Convictions” and “The Right to Organize.”
Just as the 1914 meetings covered a wide variety of issues, a recent look at visitor responses revealed a range of perspectives. Matters that would have been familiar to women in 1914 include equal rights and child care, whereas more contemporary topics of conversation include sexual harassment and paid parental leave.
Why would you march? What would you write? What does feminism mean to you?
–Sarah Gordon, Center for Women’s History
This post is part of our new series, “Women at the Center,” written and edited by the staff of the Center for Women’s History. Look for new posts every Tuesday! #womenatthecenter
Top Photo Credits: Women’s March on 71st Street in Manhattan (Nick Juravich for the Center for Women’s History).