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Mason activists' quilts chronicling women's right on their way to Art Prize

The '1990s to 2020' quilt made by the Designing Divas to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in U.S.
1848 to 1890s, men and women are created equal
Suffragettes traded their yellow roses for pay raises by the '70s
Posted at 10:44 AM, Aug 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-20 10:44:54-04

MASON, Mich. — Almost 101 years ago, to the day, women were granted the right to vote in the U.S. In honor of that, a group of five local women got crafty to highlight the strides that have been made and the work that still has to be done.

Women in the U.S. were granted the right to vote in 1920
Women in the U.S. were granted the right to vote in 1920

They call themselves the Designing Divas. And they an exhibit of quilts showing the shift in women's rights in the U.S. will be at Bestsellers Book Store in Mason through Saturday afternoon and will eventually make its way to Art Prize in Grand Rapids.

But they started with another issue.

"We came together around our concern with gerrymandering," said Laura Delind, a local artist, activist and design diva. "We wanted to do something that would make a public statement about the nature of gerrymandering and why we need to reconsider how we district the state."

So, they created a quilt. It took them about a year to do it.

Laura Delind with the Designing Divas' gerrymandering quilt
Laura Delind with the Designing Divas' gerrymandering quilt

"Of course, every county in Michigan is represented and we have overlays which show the gerrymandered districts that are really stretches of the imagination, that have been done for political reasons, which disenfranchise lots of parts of the population," Delind said.

The divas tackled that project in 2018. By 2019, they were ready for another.

Mary Brown, communications coordinator for Designing Divas, explains the second quilt in the five-part series
Mary Brown, communications coordinator for Designing Divas, explains the second quilt in the five-part series

"It really was a lot of fun, and the women are so wonderful to work with and full of ideas and energy that we decided after it was done, that we needed to do another project," Delind said.

This time, they wanted to highlight women's suffrage, commemorating the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote in 1920.

They made five quilts that chronicle five eras of women’s rights in the United States: 1848 to 1890s, 1890s to 1920s, 1960s to 1970s, 1990s to 2020, and the future.

The colors of the quilts are purple, yellow, white and gold -- colors associated with women's suffrage
The colors of the quilts are purple, yellow, white and gold -- colors associated with women's suffrage

"The earlier parts of the struggle are darker and we come forward to the present and ultimately into the future, they get lighter, and lighter, and lighter and that was very deliberate," Delind said.

"So this is the 1960s to the 1970s," said Mary Brown, communications coordinator for the Designing Divas,. "And in that era, Title IX and Title VII were passed. That opened up both education and sports and childcare and jobs to women. I'm pre-Title IX, so I can tell you I never played any sport in high school."

Mary Brown explaining the advances in women's rights the '60s and '70s brought
Mary Brown explaining the advances in women's rights the '60s and '70s brought

Each quilt was made with fabrics indicative of the era, and the center of each quilt showcases prominent female activists.

"You'll have to look at the night of terror. One of them at least was hung from her hands overnight like this...," she said, holding her hands together above her head. "These were very brave women. They fought for your vote."

"Her hands were bonded like this."
"Her hands were bonded like this."

The divas finished this project a month ago, and this is the first public presentation they've made.

"We all have a voice," Delind said. "We should exercise that voice. We can do it in artful ways, we can do it in playful ways, we can do it in very serious ways, and we should do it in all those ways."

Advancements the '60s and '70s saw for women's liberation
Advancements the '60s and '70s saw for women's liberation

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Lauren Shields

Lauren Shields

8:25 PM, Aug 21, 2019

Your Neighborhood Reporter

Lauren Shields