Exhibition | Women of Achievement in the Early American Republic

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on April 27, 2012

From the exhibition website:

A Will of Their Own: Judith Sargent Murray and Women of Achievement in the Early Republic
Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., 20 April — 13 September 2012

John Singleton Copley, "Judith Sargent Murray,"
1770–72 (Terra Foundation for American Art)

At the time of the American Revolution with Great Britain, women did not share the same status or rights as men. They could not vote or hold political office, enjoyed few property rights, were not equal in marriage, and had limited access to educational opportunities. As the debate about liberty and the rights of men took center stage during the Revolution, some women began to question their position in American society. Whereas many believed that women’s primary responsibility was to raise their children to be productive, moral citizens, some women began to argue for certain legal and economic rights and to pursue various professional careers. The Revolution created new opportunities for women to do work outside the home and to voice their opinions and concerns in public. Given the racial and class divisions that existed during the period, however, not all women were permitted to step forward in this manner. The eight women who are highlighted here did not produce a collective movement for women’s rights, but they were important in sowing the seeds for future progress. While the nature of their achievements differed, each demonstrated through their work that women possessed a will
of their own.

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