Women in the Face of History

This exhibition at Federal Hall caps a year-long national centennial commemoration of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution—finally ratified in 1920—that affirmed people cannot be denied the right to vote due to their sex.

The banner exhibition currently hanging on the façade of Federal Hall is part of larger year-long project called 100 years/100 Women. See sidebar for details.

The 19th Amendment was a huge step forward for American democracy that seemed to grant the right to vote to all women but, in fact, many women were still unable to vote. Dozens of state laws created barriers to voting for women, at times along with the threat of violence, that denied them access to the ballot. Most Asian American women could not vote until 1952. Native American women could not vote in all 50 states until 1957. A majority of Black women could not vote until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 ensured greater access to the ballot box for them, as it did as for Black men. To this day there are enduring inequalities and contested meanings of citizenship and rights.

The banner exhibition Women in the Face of History confronts our national narrative, considers who was excluded from its telling and restores women, from all backgrounds and perspectives, to their rightful place in our civic spaces and celebrations.

Women in the Face of History is presented by the National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy in partnership with the National Park Service. Curated by New York University’s Dr. Deborah Willis and Ellyn Toscano, it is part of the 100 Years/100 Women project organized in 2020 by the Park Avenue Armory with the university and eight other New York City cultural partners. 100 Years/100 Women brought together 100 commissioned artists and cultural creators invited to respond to and interrogate the complex legacy of women’s suffrage. Plans for the exhibition of this work was disrupted by COVID-19 so 100 Years/100 Women moved online where you can see more work by these artists and dozens of others who are part of the year-long commemoration.

Absent Monuments: Unsung Heroines
Rose DeSiano

Women’s Work, Never Praised, Never Done
Deborah Willis

Ohshun Orisha of Fertility
Yelaine Rodriguez

The Red Coat
Renee Cox

American Flag
Jennifer Ling Datchuk

Witness in the Face of History
Adama Delphine Fawundu

Each artist takes the 19th Amendment as a point of departure. Deborah Willis retrieves the stories of Black women in the struggle for the vote and Rose DeSiano suggests new monuments to celebrate the unrecognized historic and contemporary contributions of women during a time when public spaces are problematized and politicized. Yelaine Rodriguez invokes spiritual and cultural images and traditions from the Caribbean to remember that the struggle for suffrage and gender equality was waged by women of different experiences, cultures, and economic backgrounds. Renee Cox celebrates women of strength and power who were protagonists of often undervalued histories. Jennifer Ling Datchuk’s work asserts that women vote to create change and see their communities and their values reflected in our elected officials. The final banner by Adama Delphine Fawundu considers the people who weren’t allowed to participate as the nation was formed.

Prior Exhibitions