‘100 Years 100 Women’ honors suffrage through diverse perspectives

100 Years 100 Women

2020 so far has been a year full of unprecedented times, but it also holds one important and significant event— the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. The Nineteenth Amendment was added to the United States Constitution in 1920, and prohibited the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex. Now, a century later, the Clay Studio will be honoring and commemorating the Nineteenth amendment from all perspectives through a new exhibit on display until September 27th. 

‘100 Years 100 Women’ debuted both at the Old City studio and online last week. The new exhibit features work from 50 different hand-picked and diverse artists who were encouraged to each choose two women they admire, and honor them by making a modern-day commemorative plate.

Carola Rackete by Charlotte HodesProvided

“I’ve always been interested in women’s history specifically in the US, and I knew that it was a victory that we got the right to vote,” says Jennifer Zwilling, Curator of Artistic Programs at The Clay Studio. “I think a lot of people don’t realize that women have been allowed to vote for 100 years, [and] the fact that this is an election year makes it even more important. But there is also this important thing to understand, which is that not all women were granted the right to vote in 1920. A lot of work was done in the interim 100 years, and we still have a lot of work to do to achieve equality.”

One aspect that was important for this exhibit, in particular, was the range of diversity when it came to the artists who each contributed to the new exhibit. Zwilling decided to use artists who make work that uses portraiture and narrative drawing already. With so many amazing artists involved in the ceramic world, Zwilling needed perimeters as a jumping off point to decide who was going to participate. Something that was also paramount for the exhibit in her eyes, as was the opportunity to showcase different perspectives on the subject, and not just from cis women either —men and transgender artists were all considered and asked to participate in ‘100 Years 100 Women.’ 

“I made the choice to not only ask women artists because I think it’s really important that we celebrate each other. Certainly men have women in their lives who they want to celebrate, and to give them the opportunity to do that I thought was really important,” explains Zwilling. “Then, transgender people I thought were other aspects of artists to welcome both through artists who were transgender and people who would want to celebrate them on their plates. I just felt like stating that all perspectives and all kind of gender identities were welcome is really important. It’s a really exciting opportunity to walk into a gallery filled with art that represents 100 women who have inspired others and to be surrounded by the power of women who both inspire us and work for us in everyday life—like people’s mothers and grandmothers as well as social activists and artists and other amazing women throughout time. There really is a sense of strong emotion that you get from just being in that room and allowing yourself to kind of absorb all of those voices being heard.” 

Harriet Tubman by Roberto LugoProvided

One of the artists that stood out to Zwilling as a different perspective is local artist Roberto Lugo. Lugo is a potter, spoken word poet, activist and educator who explores the creative worlds of ceramics and 2D works. “In his other work, he often depicts people from history who haven’t been celebrated enough through the Civil Rights movement and things like that. I thought his voice would be important,” says Zwilling. 

The plates hold a few historical female characters who made a massive impact on how our country and world has shaped for women today. Philadelphians will get to see commemorative plates honoring American political poet Angela Davis, German sea captain Carola Rackete, photographer Evelyn Cameron, national activist for civil rights and suffrage Mary Church Terrell, associate justice of the Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsberg and more. On top of the many historical figures who have made an impact for women, many of the artists also chose pieces that were hyper-personal to them by honoring their own heroes such as mothers and grandmothers. Zwilling also wanted to allow the artists to express their interpretation of the 19th amendment any way that they see fit. 

“I also thought it was important to tell the artists and the audience from the beginning that we welcomed all perspectives on the idea of women’s suffrage on the 19th amendment, because I knew there were people who wouldn’t want to celebrate it. They would want to say okay, that was good but it’s more important to focus on the work that needs to be done,” she explains. 

Dolly Parton by Mallory WetherellProvided

On top of the new exhibit, The Clay Studio is also offering different lunch and learn activities every Thursday at noon, some of which will surround the topics that inspired ‘100 Years 100 Women.’ All of the pieces from the new exhibit are also available for purchase, with every purchase benefitting the non-profit and the artists themselves. Aside from that programming, the studio also has a plethora of different Youtube tutorials for both children and adults available on their channel covering all different subjects involving ceramics. 

The Clay Studio is also working towards opening their new venue in South Kensington. Being in Old City for 45 years, the non-profit is making the move to their new home in just a years’ time and hopes to assimilate into their new community just as they did in the historical part of the city. 

But, for now, Zwilling hopes that ‘100 Years 100 Women’ will help ignite more conversations and thoughts behind equality. 

“I hope that people will think about people who inspired them in their own lives and think of people who they might think of if someone invited them to celebrate a woman that is important to them,” she says. “Also, I think as a woman, as a mother and as a daughter and just a person in the world, to walk in and feel the strength of those other women within me and for all the visitors to feel that way too is really important. The takeaway is to see the inspiration that exists and to keep fighting to work towards true equality and to also take time in your life to celebrate those around you who are important—especially during this time when we are dealing with so many difficult issues in society. We have to take that time to celebrate each other and our loved ones.” 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Mallory WetherellProvided

To learn more information, visit theclaystudio.org