Joan of Arc. Anne Frank. Rosa Parks. Helen Keller. These extraordinary women are only a few from an endless list of influential, inspiring women who have changed the world for the better. Today, women contribute in ways both big and small to the social, cultural, economic and political spheres around the world. International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on these achievements and to celebrate the accomplishments of women both past and present.
Officially established by the United Nations in 1975, International Women’s Day was born out of the labor movements of the early 20th century. Since its inception, International Women’s Day has assumed a new role in promoting women’s political aspirations, their well-being, and overall human rights. From Amelia Earhart’s brave flight across the Pacific to Georgia O’Keefe’s pivotal and pioneering artistic vision and Harriet Tubman’s heroic efforts to lead fugitive slaves to safer land – this day celebrates them all.
Now, more than ever, this day serves as a day for remembrance of the progress and courageous acts that women in the world have made. Like many of the tenacious women above, American artist Martha Walter is surely an equally courageous and dauntless female leader. Studying at the Pennsylvania Academy for Fine Arts, Walter’s artistic talent was apparent from an early age. Under the direction of her mentor, William Merritt Chase, Walter soon developed a distinct style, with brushwork reminiscent of the groundbreaking impressionist style.
After traveling to and studying in the artistic nuclei of the world, including Paris, Italy, and Holland, Walter’s knowledge of the canvas and brush expanded. Even more so, these travels introduced Walter to the modern styles of artists such as Van Gogh, Monet, and Cezanne. In a groundbreaking act, Walter established her own studio in Paris with other female American artists. Rejecting the Neoclassical, academic style, Walter painted en plein air and established herself as an artist.
The 20th century brought an era of monumental change and transformations to the entire world. World War I changed the course of modern life, and America’s efforts turned to the war. Returning to America, Walter’s sense of national pride prompted her artistic endeavors to veer towards social realism. Painting poignant, emotional scenes, such as the immigration experience, Walter’s style took on a new strength of character. Her work, Employment Station, is the perfect encapsulation of Walter’s empowering and progressive style. Depicting a young women waiting to be seen at an employment station, the rich color palette of the work adds to the sense of strength and hope in her female subject. In this dramatic work, Walter not only depicts the emotional reality of early 20th century America, but also mirrors Watler’s personal endeavors and courageous acts as a female artist.