Kenan House Gallery is currently hosting an important and eye-opening exhibition, one that offers a unique look at the sacrifices and successes of women’s suffragists.
Through March 29, visitors will find The Art of Suffrage, a multimedia depiction of the ups and downs for suffragists whose advocacy paved the way for passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote.
The exhibit offers memorabilia and bits of hidden history gleaned from photographs, biographies, music and videos. Visitors will find postcards, magazine covers, illustrations, buttons, glass ware and other items that reflect the tone and tenor of the time.
It is important for a modern audience to walk through Kenan House and take in the exhibition because, while it may seem ridiculous today, there was a time in American history — a long time — when women were not allowed to participate in the electoral process. The campaign to secure women’s right to vote went on more than 70 years.
The pieces on display reflect feelings from both sides of the suffrage movement and while some of the pieces used to reinforce the opposition would be considered offensive and inappropriate now, seeing them and understanding their existence is part of the process of comprehending the challenges faced by those who led the suffrage fight.
The Art of Suffrage, which is installed throughout the first and second floors of Kenan House, shines light on various facets of the movement, including local and regional connections, and the contributions of women of color and women who did not fit the gender norms of their day.
A significant portion of the exhibit is dedicated to Alice Paul, the behind-the-scenes general of the 1913 Woman Suffrage Procession in Washington. Paul mobilized 8,000 women in about three months to join the procession which was designed to draw attention to the movement by having it take place on the eve of President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration.
The exhibition was designed by Mary Brennan Taylor and Ellen Martin through the Lockport Public Arts Council. It coincides with the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
The exhibition is ongoing through March 29. Gallery hours at Kenan House, 433 Locust St., are noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.
The items on display and the stories they tell offer a unique look at a time in American history when women like Miss Paul and others got organized, got active and endured at times intense criticism and even physical violence as they pushed for a right — the right to vote — that they believed they deserved.
At a time when many Americans — regardless of their gender — fail to vote in local, statewide or even federal elections, displays like this serve as a reminder just how important and what a privilege voting can be.