Made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Federal Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission
Proposal Images by Adri Norris, September 15, 2021
About the Project:
To mark the centennial of the landmark legislation that granted women the right to vote, WESTAF (Western States Arts Federation) commissioned the creation of a mural related to Women’s Suffrage in Denver's Montbello neighborhood in partnership with the District 11 Office. The mural is located along the neighborhood canals located within the median across from the Montbello Student Campus near the intersection of Crown Boulevard and 51st Avenue. The selected site is central to many of those who reside in District 11. This project was made possible through a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Federal Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission.
"A love of creating art and a passion for learning led to my niche as an artist: to tell the stories of women in history through art. The turning point came in my early 30’s, after years of drawing and painting. I discovered the stories of several impressive women—women I’d never heard of—and watched those women show up in my paintings. I saw the portraits come alive and knew I had found my calling as an artist. Today I use art as a platform for my work with schools and in the community."
Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts to parents who had been enslaved, Elizabeth Piper Ensley (1847-1919) was an active leader and educator in African American women’s clubs and the Colorado women’s suffrage movement. Ensley played a major role in gaining the right to vote for women in Colorado years before the 19th Amendment passed.
Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) Mary Jane McLeod Bethune became one of the most important twentieth century black educators, civil and women’s rights leaders and government officials. Born to parents who had been enslaved, Bethune eventually founded a college that set the precedent for educational standards for today’s black colleges. She was an advisor to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
(1858-1929) Armijo was the New Mexico State Librarian, who, in 1912, filed a gender discrimination lawsuit after the governor sought to replace her by court order—citing that as a woman, she was unqualified to hold office. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in Armijo’s favor. Legislation followed that allowed women to hold appointed office in the State of New Mexico.
Adelina Otero-Warren (1881-1965) Otero-Warren was the first Hispanic woman to run for U.S. Congress and the first female superintendent of public schools in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She emphasized the necessity of the Spanish language to reach Hispanic women in the fight for women’s suffrage and strove to improve education for all New Mexicans, emphasizing the importance of preserving cultural practices among the state’s Hispanic and Native American communities. Read More
Gretchen McRae (1898-1978) Originally from Surry, North Carolina, McRae moved to Colorado Springs as a young girl. She moved to Washington, D.C. where she held clerkships for the U.S. Government and attended art classes at Howard University. After returning to Colorado Springs, McRae became the first black woman to be included on the ballot in the 1943 City Council election. McRae also became known for her publication A Free Republic, which highlighted inequalities in minority communities.
Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977) Born in Montgomery County, Mississippi, Hamer was involved in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee to help grant African Americans the right to vote. Hamer later founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), “which challenged the local Democratic Party’s efforts to block Black participation.” Hamer later helped to found the National Women’s Political Caucus and the Freedom Farm Cooperative, formed to buy land for Black farmers.
Polly Baca (1941-) Baca was the first minority woman to be elected to the Colorado State Senate and served in the Colorado legislature for 12 years. She was also the first Latina woman to co-chair a National Democratic National Convention and the first Latina to receive a major party nomination for the U. S. Congress. Baca was regional administrator of the General Services Administration of the Rocky Mountain Region, as special assistant to President Bill Clinton and as director of the U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs. Read More
Vilma Socorro Martinez
Vilma Socorro Martinez (1943-) Since the early 1970s, Mexican American attorney and activist Vilma Martinez has been a leading advocate for the civil rights of Hispanic Americans. Martinez worked for the Legal Defense and Educational Fund of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She served as the attorney in the case of Griggs v. Duke Power Company, a landmark action that ultimately went before the U.S. Supreme Court and helped establish the doctrine of affirmative action.
Thanks to the following people and organizations for project support:
National Endowment for the Arts (project funder)
Women's Suffrage Centennial Commission (project funder)
Denver's District 11 Office, the Office of Stacie Gilmore (project support) with special thanks to Melissa Soleto and Magen Elenz
Rooshieka Leslie (artist support)
Ciara Bourne (artist support)
Efrain Escalera (artist support)
Members of the Artist Selection Committee (selection of the artist)
Denver's Parks and Recreation Staff (prepping the site)
Powered by WESTAF
WESTAF (the Western States Arts Federation) is a regional nonprofit arts service organization dedicated to strengthening the financial, organizational, and policy infrastructure of the arts in the West. For more information about WESTAF, visit westaf.org.