Founding Mothers: From the Ballot Box to the University is an online exhibition that recognizes and celebrates the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in the United States and the 45th anniversary of the founding of Women's Studies at the University of Arizona.
Women have been speaking up and demanding their rights to be citizens since the founding of the United States. This exhibit focuses on women in Arizona and asks what strategies led to their success in winning representation at the ballot box and in the university. Who were their allies? Whose voices were heard in these debates? What forces divided women and how did they work together despite differences? Who was left out of these changes? Which issues continue to be challenges in our times?
In 2017, a small group of faculty from the early days of Women’s Studies - Susan Philips, Chris Tanz, and Patricia MacCorquodale - met to strategize about ways to capture stories about the founding of the program before those memories faded. The group later expanded to include Eliana Rivero and Susan Aiken. After meeting several times to reminisce, MacCorquodale volunteered to go to Special Collections at the University of Arizona Libraries to find out what materials about Women’s Studies were available. She discovered that although there is an extensive archive of the Southwest Institute for Research on Women, there was no archive specifically on the Women’s Studies Department. MacCorquodale decided to create an archive for Women’s Studies that would include interviews with the founding mothers, documents and photos, official records and proposals, and other materials.
To honor these milestones in equal rights, MacCorquodale proposed that the UA Libraries host a special exhibition. Thus began a partnership with Mary Feeney, UA librarian specializing in women’s studies, and Erika Castaño, Special Collections archivist with knowledge about UA collections on Arizona, the southwest, and the university.