Mills College “Walk of Honor”
In February, I did a bunch of posts in honor of Black History Month. In March, I didn’t write a single word about Women’s History Month, which is odd, because afterall, I am a woman. I plan to make up for that oversight with this post…
I think it’s easy for young American women today to be blasé about their place in society… things seem pretty equal these days. We hear of glass ceilings and under-representation in boardrooms, but for the average Jane, these limitations likely don’t register much. You can be anything you want to be, and you can do almost anything men can do (barring a need for certain male equipment of course).
There are certainly examples of the odd restriction… like my recent discovery that women are not allowed on U.S. Navy submarines, not because they aren’t capable, but because of the temptation they might pose to their male shipmates in close quarters. Ahem.
When I was five years old, I wanted to be an astronaut. Seriously. And did my parents discourage me from this idea? Hell no. They told me I could be anything I wanted to be, including President of the United States!
But for the women who came before, my mother, my grandmother, and earlier… options were limited.
We are lucky in this country, for we now have guaranteed rights and opportunities that women in other parts of the world are still denied. But we should not forget that it wasn’t that long ago when our own country was plagued by similar forms of discrimination and male domination.
Remember, it was written that “All men are created equal.” At the time that was written, it meant all white men, and men alone. Women in the United States didn’t receive the right to vote until 1920, which may seem a long time ago now. But in the history of our democracy, it’s an appallingly recent development.
And one of the things I love about the relatively new series Mad Men is its portrayal of how blatantly sexist (and racist) our mid-century society was. Women in business were for typing, and groping, and not much more than that. At least for awhile…
History is easy to forget, if we don’t remind ourselves. This art installation reminds us of the strides we have made, pushed forward by women of remarkable strength and courage…
Mills College Walk of Honor: Celebrating a mosaic of women who have paved the way for a just and equitable future.
“The Mills College Walk of Honor is dedicated to all women who have served as role models, advocates, and trailblazers through their unwavering commitment to equity, social justice, and opportunity… these women of honor have demonstrated the power of the individual to effect change, influence others, and shape a more just society. By their words, their actions, and their willingness to stand by their principles – sometimes at great personal peril – they have succeeded in advancing women everywhere. These women, and others who stood alongside them, have paved the way for future generations of women to find their voice, realize their dreams, and make a positive difference in the world.”
From Halle to Hillary and Susan B. Anthony to Indira Gandhi, the sidewalk mural installation walks us through the accomplishments of an incredible diversity of women throughout history.
Commissioned by Mills College to commemorate their commitment to women’s education and celebrate the 2010 Commencement (last weekend featuring speaker Nancy Pelosi), the installation was directed and largely conceived by artist Julie Kirk-Purcell. The initial concept proposed to her was a series of individual portraits… but she expanded the concept to include a greater number of women based around themes, such as the arts, politics, and science.
The primary panels were created by her with the help of three additional artists: Lisa Jones, Genna Panzarella, and Melanie Van Latum with additional mosaic work contributed by Mills students and alumnae.
From her statement…
“With chalk as the medium, this collage has been drawn freehand based on historical imagery, photographs, and multimedia images. The mosaic pattern, which leads from one square to another, is meant to serve as a pathway for women’s achievement, conveying that one women’s success is inextricably tied to another’s.”
Working in chalk allows the images to materialize rather quickly, and many sidewalk chalk art festivals exist around the world, usually spanning 2-3 days during which the artists create masterful images from nothing more than a slab of concrete and a small box of chalk. What’s significant is the process, rather than the end product.
Though in this case, the finished panels drawn on canvases, will be preserved (with hairspray no less!) to be repurposed on campus for future celebrations.