Marking National Women’s History Month

A past customer of my Etsy shop asked me to produce three new poster-sized prints in connection with National Women’s History Month. The most colorful—and the one that took the most effort—ended up being this poster commemorating the entire month. The design is inspired by the theme for this year’s National Women’s History Month, “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives”. Bands of color appear to come together with photos of women of various races and ethnicities across time to form an unfinished quilt of sorts.

A 16- by 20-inch (41×51 cm) print of the Nineteenth Amendment, which guarantees the right to vote regardless of gender.
A 16- by 20-inch (41×51 cm) print of the Nineteenth Amendment, which guarantees the right to vote regardless of gender.

The customer also requested I create two other prints. The first was of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. This amendment guaranteed to all citizens the right to vote regardless of gender and was the culmination of a decades-long movement for universal suffrage. Though I have worked extensively with the text of the Constitution, whenever I create individual prints of the amendments (as I did for the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments for this customer) I’m struck by how different in length they can be. I am perhaps more deeply struck by how so few words—the Nineteenth Amendment has only 39 words, including the clause, “Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation”—can have such far-reaching impact on our society. It is so simple, and the idea of universal suffrage so obvious (or, rather, the idea of denying half of society the right to vote because of their gender so absurd), that I fail to grasp how profound a change this amendment represents.

H. Res. 137, "Supporting the goals and ideals of National Women's History Month", introduced this month by Mike Thompson, a Democrat from California—the closest we have to official congressional recognition of National Women's History Month.
H. Res. 137, “Supporting the goals and ideals of National Women’s History Month”, introduced this month by Mike Thompson, a Democrat from California—the closest we have to official congressional recognition of National Women’s History Month.

My customer’s other request was a print of the “congressional mandate” that establishes National Women’s History Month. This proved to be an interesting challenge, because it’s unclear that any official congressional sanction of National Women’s History Month remains in force. The most recent piece of legislation I could find was H. Res. 137, “Supporting the goals and ideals of National Women’s History Month”, introduced by Representative Mike Thompson, a Democrat from California, on 3 March. That same day it was referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform—and that was it. Nothing further. No votes. Nothing. Just pigeonholed in committee. The same place where last year’s resolution died—and the one before that, and the one before that, and the one before that, and the one before that, and, yes, the one before that. (The resolution introduced in the Senate in 2010 died in the Senate Judiciary Committee. No one bothered to file anything in 2013.)

Now, listen, I know that sometimes just getting a resolution introduced in Congress is enough symbolic recognition. But, c’mon, National Women’s History Month? Seems like we could get a little more sanction for it. I mean, frankly, it looks like I’ve spent more time on recognizing it than all of Congress has.

But H. Res. 137 is all we have, so that’s what we went with.

Scribd See this poster, Amendment XIX, and H. Res. 137 in more detail on my Scribd page.
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