Following the Traces of #3 Forgotten Women in History
From a young age, it is difficult for adolescent women to follow in the footsteps of great women in history, because they are sadly underrepresented. Young women lack female role models in the historiography taught in schools. It is primarily men and their heroic deeds in war, research, literature, art, etc. that are reported, but only a few women are represented in the canon. For me, as a young woman still finding my place in life and in the world, it was of great importance that I got to know different life plans and careers of other women in order to find my way, respectively to create new paths where none existed before. In this process, historical women can act as role models and have served as inspiration and motivation for me. Many of these women have had a positive and lasting influence on my growing up.
Therefore, for my art project HIDDEN SHEROES, I borrowed the following question from Marguerite Nebelsztein, a member of Georgette Sand, as a premise:
"If this woman had been a man, would she appear in the history books?"
Surely many people in the world know the iconic Guggenheim Museum in New York. But very few know that it was initiated by a woman.
"The Baroness" Hilla von Rebay founded an art genre, managed Solomon Guggenheim's art collection for him, initiated and planned the museum and even invented the characteristic snail shape.
But it is not only in culture that the canon is very one-sided. The whole world talks about the climate crisis and the pollution of the world's oceans, but only very few people know what Elisabeth Mann Borgese, the "Lady of the Seas", did for our lives and the climate. She was not only Thomas Mann's favourite daughter, but also initiated and co-wrote the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, amongst other things.
The Convention also contains important rights for the protection of the oceans against pollution and overfishing. It is thanks to her that, after years of persuasion, all the states of the world signed the agreement. Through her commitment, the oceans were regarded as the heritage of all people in the law of the sea that is in force today, and it was also thanks to her that the Tribunal for the Law of the Sea was established in Hamburg in 1996.
Many women have achieved great things throughout history. However, their words and deeds, unlike male heroic deeds, are often not anchored in the collective memory. The phenomenon of the "invisibilisation" of women has occurred very often in the course of historiography.
Since the historians were almost entirely male, their historiography also takes a rather one-sided view of the past. Thus, it was primarily male deeds and works that were reported, and women who acted were either left out, i.e. made invisible, or were only credited with a secondary role.
In addition, there is also the phenomenon of self-invisibility, where women voluntarily put their work and needs behind those of their environment. Often throughout history, women have not been supported by their families and spouses in their professional realisation, have not been admitted to trainings or have not pursued their careers due to family planning. Many of these women have left a lasting mark on a particular field, but are mostly unknown outside this circle of interest.
The aim of the HIDDEN SHEROES is to help the forgotten "heroines" of history regain visibility so that they too can be given a permanent place in people's collective memory and the historical canon, and so that young women can also get to know female role models with alternative lifestyles.
The HIDDEN SHEROES began in 2019 in the form of art in public space. In cooperation with Deutsche Post, I created a design concept for drop-off and distribution boxes and started by visualising 6 boxes.
The artwork does not end on the street, however, but is expanded through the interactive participation of the viewers. The printed website www.hiddensheroes.de provides further information about the women and their exciting biographies.
Later, the theme of the forgotten women migrated into the museum space and thus the series of more than 20 works on canvas came into being. Through mixed media collages, I visually tell the stories of the lives of inspiring women from around the world.
Follow me on the traces of Mascha Kaléko, Clara Schumann, Elsa Schiaparelli, Mia Bernoulli, Lili Elbe, Hedy Lamarr and many more!