Women’s Movement at the Radcliffe

Racliffe Yard. Photo by InSapphoWeTrust. Editor's note: Image cropped for size.

Racliffe Yard. Photo by InSapphoWeTrust.

The new photography exhibit, Catching the Wave: Photographs of the Women’s Movement, is now open on the first floor of the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute. From 9 am to 5 pm Monday through Saturday until March 17, 2017, you can quickly enter and browse the exhibit. The display showcases the work of renown photographers of the women’s rights movement, including Bettye Lane and Freda Leinwand.

The displayed photos date from as far back as 1913 and document the movement through the 1980s. With even a quick glance at the images though, it is clear that any one of the photos could have been captured during a modern day protest. The dress of the people and clarity of the photos might have changed, but the message is the same. Women will not sit quietly beneath oppressive societal norms.

Schlesinger Library Photo By InSapphoWeTrust

Schlesinger Library Photo By InSapphoWeTrust

Women’s Movement at the Radcliffe

One of the first plaques you will read as you enter the exhibit emphasizes the fact that women have long been at the forefront of peaceful protests. It describes the ingenuity and patience necessary to notice, organize, and fight against injustices of all kinds. The photos corroborate this fact.

Many images show supporters of the women’s movement fighting for other marginalized groups as well, including the LGBT community. There are also several images that capture women leading the charge at peace rallies during wartime in US history.

The collection’s photos emphasize the humanity and passion of many individual women involved in the movement, but they also capture the slogans emblazoned on protest sings. Many of these signs could have been passed from mother to daughter and remain relevant in our modern society. “Equal pay!” “Reproductive rights!” “Women are the future!” Even if “Votes for Women!” has come to pass, the mentality behind the movement lives on. Women are still fighting to be heard and the photographs in this exhibit give life to their journey.

What’s On Display in the Schlesinger Library

If you are interested in more tangible items than photographs, you can also view protest pins and t-shirts from the movement. The images themselves capture more than just women as well. There are photos of male allies all throughout history and there are several images captured during counter protests, including one disturbing photo of a calm woman carrying a sign that reads “Men our masters.”

While circling the exhibit, you will also be able to study a camera used by Bettye Lane, a renown photographer of the women’s movement. The display case also holds a line of negatives from one of her shoots, as well as photos of her on scaffolding above a protest. This portion of the exhibition shows the dedication of one specific photographer, but allows viewers to better understand the risks and sacrifices a person must make to capture protests such as the women’s movement.

Modern Protest. Photo by Steve Rainwater.

Modern Protest. Photo by Steve Rainwater.

Who Should Visit the Photography Exhibit

This exhibit will also interest photography enthusiasts whose interests don’t run towards the women’s movement. You can enjoy the action and emotion captured in each image as you learn a little about American history. Many people might expect the photographs to all be indistinguishable from one another, but each image captures a moment in time. These photos have been carefully chosen to tell a story.

The talent necessary to immortalize distinct emotions is evident throughout the exhibit. Showing protests in an artistic light is a vital component to keeping the spirit of the movement alive. These aren’t news images meant to rouse and isolate the viewer. They are individual works of art that come together to tell the story of strength and struggle that American women have been facing since the inception of our country.

Getting To The Schlesinger Library

Radcliffe Institute
Schlesinger Library
10 Garden Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

The Radcliffe Institute‘s Schlesinger Library is found on Harvard University‘s campus and can be accessed using public transportation. Harvard can be found on the Red Line of the MBTA, at the Harvard Square stop. You can also take the 66 bus towards Harvard Square.

[pw_map address=”10 Garden Street Cambridge, MA 02138″]

~ Elizabeth Coyle, Content Writer