Votes for Women 100
The Challenge: Gathering the Community to Celebrate 100 Years of Suffrage
The League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area connected with us to create communications that would help the public access a year of events celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment. Funded by a grant, partner organizations across Washtenaw County, from libraries to historical museums, came together to unify and amplify their individual efforts to educate, inform, and celebrate the long path that led to women getting the vote in 1920. We were honored to be brought into this collaboration!
We worked directly with Nan and Nancy of the League of Women Voters. They emphasized the importance of reflecting the 19th Amendment in a wider context. When women won the vote in 1920, it was just one achievement in an ongoing struggle toward voting and civil rights that continues today. They wanted to acknowledge that the 19th Amendment excluded many—voting rights for Black, Asian, Native American men and women came many years later.
How can we position this celebration so that it honored history but felt relevant to the present? How can the ideas of advocacy, activism and resilience connect and inspire us today? Can we ensure this project is accessible and inviting to as many people as possible?
We began with research. We shared resources and we were deeply inspired! The exhibit Liberty Awakes in Washtenaw County, a project of the League’s from a few years ago, helped us understand the local context for the movement. We learned about the vibrant activist scene that happened in our community— and discovered that our office is a block away from one of the key organizing sites. Many of the names of activists were familiar ones — their names grace university buildings, streets and more. A visit to the University of Michigan’s Bentley Historic Library led to an amazing sight: a librarian showed us a box labeled with a post-it note that said “Exciting Finds” containing Lucia Grimes’ (Michigan’s pioneering political strategist in the women’s movement) sash, which had just been found neatly folded inside a book.
We worked through concepts that explored using the idea of the sash as one of the iconic, well-recognized symbols of suffrage (thank you Mary Poppins!). We used the familiar colors of the National Women’s Party, gold, white and purple— “The organization described the meaning of these colors in a newsletter published December 6, 1913: “Purple is the color of loyalty, constancy to purpose, unswerving steadfastness to a cause. White, the emblem of purity, symbolizes the quality of our purpose; and gold, the color of light and life, is as the torch that guides our purpose, pure and unswerving.”
Logo Concepts / Sketches
The centennial committee was pleased with the identity and the way it was accessible and modern yet rooted in the history of the women’s movement. We launched the identity at a community partner meeting at a library, and created brand identity standards that would help partners use the logo.
The project website featured a system for ongoing exhibits and events culled from many participating organizations, current voter registration information, and a timeline that helped users understand the arc of the movement from a local perspective. Writer (and League of Women Voters member) Mary Seelhorst provided the copy for the site.
As the pandemic began to unfold, it became clear that community celebrations were going to need to move online. This required changes to site — from moving exhibit content online to restructuring the site structure. Though the year did not unfold as expected, the League of Women Voters and partners were able to find innovative and intimate ways to illuminate the work of Washtenaw County’s women’s rights advocates. We were honored to be part of their project!
CLIENT Q & A
What was it like working with us?
Enthusiasm : Provide engaged minds and spirits, day in and day out
Flexibility: Turn on a dime. Speed up, slow down. With good cheer!
Resiliance: When difficulties arise, as they always do, Invisible Engines is ready with alternate methods, new ideas, and cheerfulness. They are good sports (highest praise).
They became our team members: We counted on them.
What did we do best?
Your use of color is bold and powerful. The designs are strong.
What could we do better?
Can’t think of a single thing.
What would you say to someone who was on the fence about working with us?
Don’t hesitate for a minute. You will be in supportive hands and the work will be brilliant.
-Nan Elder and Nancy Schewe, League of Women Voters Ann Arbor Area