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The Documents

Women and Power

Theme Description

How many women thus waste life away the prey of discontent, who might have practised as physicians, regulated a farm, managed a shop, and stood erect, supported by their own industry, instead of hanging their heads surcharged with the dew of sensibility, that consumes the beauty to which it at first gave lustre. —Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

Femininity is often compared to a flower—soft, delicate, and lovely to look at. But another side of the female nature isn’t quite so demure. In fact, it can be revolutionary. History shows that the strength, intelligence, and passion of women are forces to be reckoned with. But not until recently have women been recognized for their influence and significance in society.

The idea that women can be rational, independent thinkers has often been met with great resistance. Deemed the “weaker sex”—both physically and mentally—women were usually expected to confine themselves to the home. Courageous philosophers who opposed mainstream thought boldly discussed the potential of women in their writings. They also turned a critical eye toward the historical situation women have found themselves in throughout the centuries, helping pave the way to the freedoms women experience today.

In modern society, it’s not so revolutionary to expect women to help govern our nation. Although no woman has ever been elected President of the United States, and since 1789, only two percent of Congress has been made up of women, we are moving ever closer toward closing the gap. At one time, it was profound to even suggest women could think for themselves. The works represented in this exhibit demonstrate that women could—and should—do far more than think for themselves.

Sponsored by the Madge Rothschild Foundation