Our Story: Portraits of Change
Our Story: Portraits of Change is an interactive photo mosaic and art installation depicting a portrait of suffragist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells. Created by artist Helen Marshall of the People’s Picture, commissioned by the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission, and produced by Christina Korp, Purpose Entertainment, Our Story commemorates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and women’s right to vote in the United States. From August 24-29, a 25 ft by 40 ft (1,000 square feet) installation of the photo mosaic was on display at Union Station in Washington, DC.
The final portrait is made up of thousands of photos telling myriad stories of the suffrage movement. In the online mosaic, you can zoom in, click on the featured portraits and stories, and find out more about the many programs and events happening nationwide to commemorate the suffrage centennial in 2020.
Suffragists began their organized fight for women’s equality in 1848 when they demanded the right to vote during the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. For the next 72 years, women leaders lobbied, marched, picketed, and protested for the right to the ballot. The U.S. Congress finally passed the 19th Amendment on June 4, 1919, and it then went to the states for ratification. Thirty-six states needed to ratify the amendment for it to become law. After another year of organizing and lobbying by suffragists, Tennessee became the 36th state to approve the amendment on August 18, 1920. A week later, on August 26, the amendment was officially signed into the U.S. Constitution. Today, more than 68 million women vote in elections because of the courageous suffragists who never gave up the fight for equality. With the physical and virtual mosaic, we honor their dedicated efforts to expand American democracy.
Years of Women's Right to Vote
Years of Campaigning
Year of Celebrating
Ida B Wells - Prominent Suffragist
The Our Story mosaic depicts a portrait of suffragist and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells. Wells was one activist in a movement of many, represented by the thousands of historic photographs of suffragists within the mosaic. Wells was a leader in the suffrage movement who fought to ensure Black women would not be left behind in the campaign for women’s rights. Her leadership, courage, and determination in the face of formidable obstacles represent the spirit of the American women’s suffrage movement.
Ida Bell Wells was born into slavery in Holly Springs, Mississippi on July 16, 1862 during the Civil War. Once the war ended, Wells’ parents became active in Reconstruction Era politics, and instilled in their daughter the importance of education and political engagement. Wells started her career as a teacher, and became a prominent journalist, activist, and suffragist. As a journalist, her exposés of the horrors of lynching helped spark a national anti-lynching crusade. Among her many other accomplishments and endeavors, Wells founded the Alpha Suffrage Club in 1913, the first African American women’s suffrage organization in Chicago. During the March 3, 1913 Suffrage Parade in Washington, DC, Wells famously protested racial segregation in the parade by refusing to march in the back of the procession, instead taking her rightful place with the rest of the delegation of Illinois suffragists. Throughout her life, Wells dedicated herself to the causes of equality, voting rights, and racial justice.
In September 1883, Ida B Wells was sat in the rear car of the train on her way to Woodstock, Tennessee where she taught public school. When the conductor came to collect her ticket, he told her she must move to the front of the train as the rear carriage was reserved for whites only. “I replied that I would not ride in the forward car, that I had a seat and intended to keep it,” she wrote in her lawsuit against the Chesapeake, Ohio and Southwestern Railroad. The conductor told Wells he’d treat her like a lady, but staying in the rear car was not an option.
I resisted all the time, and never consented to go. My dress was torn in the struggle, one sleeve [sic] was almost torn off. Everybody in the car seemed to sympathize with the conductor, and were against me.”
Story by Bené Viera, timeline.com
The Exhibit - Union Station Washington DC August 2020
As the starting location of the suffrage “Prison Special” tour in February 1919, Union Station in Washington, D.C. played an important role in the American suffrage movement. The “Prison Special” was a train tour organized by suffragists who had been jailed for picketing the White House in support of the federal women’s suffrage amendment. In February 1919, 26 members of the National Woman’s Party boarded a chartered train they dubbed the “Democracy Limited” at Union Station. They visited cities across the country, where they spoke to large crowds about their experiences as political prisoners. The tour, which concluded in March 1919, helped build support during a critical moment in the movement. Only a few months later, the U.S. Congress would finally pass the 19th Amendment, and it would then go to the states for ratification.
The final artwork of Our Story: Portraits of Change was unveiled at Union Station in the Main Hall on August 24, 2020. The photo mosaic includes thousands of archival photos telling the story of the suffrage movement.
The Suffrage Movement Across the Pond
In 2018, The People’s Picture created the ‘Face of Suffrage’ artwork. The floor-based, 200 metre-square photo mosaic was made up of more than 3,700 images of females from across the United Kingdom. When viewed from above, it showed Hilda Burkitt, a leading face from the suffrage movement in the West Midlands, UK. The image was made up of a combination of historical pictures of women involved in the suffragette movement from the West Midlands in the early 1900s and of females today using photographs submitted by the public be part of the commemoration.
Evaline Hilda Burkitt was the first British suffragette to be forcibly fed – a total of 292 times. She had a job at the Birmingham (Women’s Social and Political Union Headquarters), near New Street station, and threw a stone at Prime Minister Asquith’s train as it pulled away, soon after he attended a male-only budget meeting. She was then imprisoned at Winson Green prison.
Ida B. Wells visited Birmingham in 1893, speaking twice to the Young Men’s Christian Assembly Rooms. She stayed at number 66 in Gough Road – the site where Edgbaston Community Centre now stands. A memorial plaque was unveiled in 2019 at the community centre by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, and Ida’s great grandson, Dan Duster, appeared via video link from America.
With both women having such strong connections to the railway industry, we are proud to have shown both artworks in prominent locations either side of the Atlantic to further tell their story and share with others their determination and courage to gain women the right to vote.
“As the great grandson, and on behalf of the family of Ida B Wells, I am truly honoured that you are paying tribute to my ancestor with the distinguished Blue Plaque. Her travels to the United Kingdom were significant in helping to sharpen her skills to fight for justice and equal rights.
Her fight for equality and her anti-lynching campaigns which brought her to Edgbaston, are aligned to Birmingham’s rich heritage of supporting social justice. We are proud that this blue plaque will enable the legacy and amazing story of an often-forgotten heroine of civil rights to be remembered and told.”
Marshall is a visual artist based in London, United Kingdom. She has pioneered the concept of marking historical anniversaries in giant archive images recreated in a mosaic of pictures of people from all walks of life through The People’s Picture based in her East London studio.
Her tributes have ranged from the centenary of the outbreak of World War One, the People’s Monarch celebrating Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, to the‘Face of Suffrage’ marking the 100th anniversary of British women getting the vote and numerous community and corporate projects. When viewed from above, it showed Hilda Burkitt, a leading face from the British suffrage movement.
“I am beyond grateful to have enjoyed so many of the choices brought to me by the generations of women before me. In 2018, I created the ‘Face of Suffrage’ to commemorate the centenary of the women’s vote in United Kingdom and never in a million years did I imagine it would grow into a giant artwork of prominent Suffragist Ida B Wells’ at such an incredible location in the United States. Communication between women’s movements happened at mostly the same time in the U.S, Europe, New Zealand, and Australia. I see this artwork as a truly international commemoration, and I hope that many will enjoy it in person and exploring in its full interactive glory online in the safety of their homes.”
Korp is most known as the former manager of Apollo 11 astronaut, Buzz Aldrin. In recent years she was the COO & CMO of the Aldrin Family Foundation. A veteran of the mainstream entertainment and media industry, she used her experience to create and execute global marketing campaigns, brands and activations.
She co-produced the Emmy-nominated and Webby-winning “Buzz Aldrin’s Cycling Pathways to Mars” VR Experience with 8i and TIME LIFE VR. She is a professional singer and has produced two PBS TV concert specials, ten CD projects, eight book deals and several successful concert tours. She now works with other astronauts to keep the space inspiration going. This includes former NASA astronauts Apollo 16 Moon Walker Charlie Duke, ISS astronaut Nicole Stott and Shuttle Commander Greg Johnson.
“We are so proud to highlight and honor Ida B. Wells as the main subject of the Our Story photo mosaic. Her story as a suffragist, civil rights activist and investigative journalist is as relevant today as it was 100 years ago. We hope this project will inspire the public to learn more about her and countless others featured within the digital interactive mosaic online.”
The People's Picture
Each artwork is assembled from thousands of photos yet every single one tells a story. As an artist-led studio practice we create innovative photo mosaic artworks and installations at the leading edge of art, design and technology. Pictures are powerful. People connect with pictures. People share their memories, dreams and celebrate through pictures.
In 2017, The People’s Picture created the ‘Face of Suffrage’ artwork, a floor-based, 200 metre-square photo mosaic made up of more than 3,700 images of females from across the UK. When viewed from above, it showed Hilda Burkitt, a leading face from the British suffrage movement.
Women's Suffrage Centennial Commission
The Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission (WSCC) was formed by the U.S. Congress to coordinate the nationwide commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment, which was officially ratified and signed into the Constitution on August 26, 1920.
Led by a bipartisan group of 14 women leaders, the WSCC has a nonpartisan mission to ensure that Americans in every state across the country have the chance to participate in the centennial and to learn about this important but often overlooked history.
“One of my favorite quotes from the suffrage movement comes from the newspaper The Revolution. Its motto was ‘men their rights and nothing more, women their rights and nothing less’. This quote captures the spirit of the decades-long suffrage movement, and with her leadership in the fight for suffrage and civil rights, Ida B. Wells is the perfect example of someone who would settle for nothing less than full justice and equality. The Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission is excited to honor her legacy and celebrate the thousands of women who fought for the right to vote with this mosaic in Union Station.” – Anna Laymon, Executive Director of Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission
For 12 years Christina Korp managed former NASA astronauts and creating brand, licensing and marketing campaigns around space. She has 18+ years of producing events, concerts, galas, award shows, promotional videos and content.
For the past decade she’s been focused on changing the world through space initiatives and doing her best to help advance the mainstream awareness of how space impacts the world.
Library of Congress
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The 19th Amendment"The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."
On May 21, 1919, the House of Representatives passed the amendment, and two weeks later, the Senate followed. When Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the Amendment on August 18, 1920, the Amendment was adopted. While decades of struggle to include African Americans and other minority women in the promise of voting rights remained, the face of the American electorate had changed forever.