Breaking into the Human Race

Breaking into the Human Race, named after the 1914 feminist mass meeting held in the Great Hall at The Cooper Union, celebrates the transformative impact of the Suffrage Movement and the important stage provided by Cooper Union in the fight for women's rights.

Aligned with other urgent political movements of the day, such as the Abolition, Labor and Peace Movements, the U.S. Women's Suffrage Movement radically altered the social, political and cultural life of the country, and, specifically, New York City, from the mid 19th to early 20th century. Activists in the Movement were daring and resourceful, employing various modes of organization, protest, resistance and intellectual argumentation to win the right to vote for all women in the U.S. Galvanizing humor, spectacle and creative persuasion, the texts, speeches, broadsides, banners and protest materials created by the Suffragists demonstrate a rich and resourceful set of tactics.

The Great Hall provided a frequent venue for political meetings, speeches and gatherings by feminists and activists in the suffrage movement. Significantly, one of the earliest programs of The Cooper Union was the School of Design for Women. Opened in 1859 to provide women a free education in drawing, painting, photography, typewriting, telegraphy and shorthand, the school offered women a profession in art but, more importantly, self-sufficiency.

While the Suffrage Movement achieved the singular goal of gaining the right to vote for women, many of their larger aspirations and desires are still being fought for today. Breaking into the Human Race recognizes past, present and future feminisms as a facet of a struggle for human rights and freedoms.

Exhibition held in the Great Hall Gallery, Cooper Union, 2010. Organized by day gleeson, Rina Goldfield, Sharon Hayes and Annabel Roberts-McMichael

'Dare to be Free' banner
Rina Goldfield, 2009
exhibition wall text
Sharon Hayes, 2009
Letter from Susan B. Anthony to Miss Hewitt
Cooper Union archives
'American Woman and Her Political Peers' postcard
Handbill for the 1914 Feminist Mass Meetings in the Great Hall
Thirteen portraits of the speakers from the 1914 Feminist Mass Meetings
Stack of polymer prints of the handbill for the 1914 Feminist Mass Meetings
day gleeson, 2009.
installation view
'Shorthand Writers: Speed Fight On' guild banner
Feliz Solomon, 2009
'Susan B. Anthony' banner
Susan Little, 2009
'Marie Curie: Radium' banner
Susan Little, 2009
installation view
Letter from Abram S. Hewitt to Mrs. Robitscher
Cooper Union Archives
Drawing from the Round
Installation of work from 2009 drawing event in honor of the Women's Institute at the Cooper Union
Drawing from the Round
Drawings of the Cooper Union busts by all the artist participants
Drawing from the Round
Four drawings from the event
Photographs of classes in the Cooper Union Female School of Art
Cooper Union archives
Photographs from 'Drawing from the Round' 2009 event in the Great Hall
Christhian Diaz
'Blessed are the Peace Makers' banner
Rina Goldfield, 2009
with two drawings from 'Drawing from the Round', and the bust of Benjamin Franklin
Two drawings from 'Drawing from the Round'
'Blessed are the Peace Makers' banner
Rina Goldfield, 2009
Bust of Benjamin Franklin
Cooper Union collection
'Blessed are the Peace Makers' banner
Rina Goldfield, 2009
installation view
Wallpaper of articles, 1890s-1920s
Wheatpasted digital prints. day gleeson, 2012
Installation view with photograph of force-feeding of suffragist on hunger strike