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Eye of the Expert: (Anti) Suffrage

Tuesday, November 19, 2019 - 5:30pm to 7:00pm
Reception to follow
Registration is requested
Members: $25

Eye of the Expert: (Anti) Suffrage

Join Rare Materials Catalog Librarian Kaelin Rasmussen, Polly Thayer Starr Fellow in American Art and Culture Theo Tyson, and Manager of Events Elsa Fogg Vernon to explore how materials in the Athenæum’s special collections reflect the cases for and against universal suffrage. Beginning with a poster-sized, hand-colored, wood engraving celebrating the passage of the 15th Amendment, we will discuss the Constitutional history of voting rights. We’ll then look at books and ephemera to examine how nineteenth- and twentieth-century ideas of race, class, and gender influenced opponents' and proponents' positions on enfranchising women and people of color.

Kaelin Rasmussen Kaelin's long-standing affinity for the study of literature, book history, and all things bookish led her to choose a career in libraries. She has a Master's degree in Library and Information Science from Simmons College (now Simmons University) and has worked in the Technical Services department at the Boston Athenæum for five and a half years, four of which have been spent as a Rare Materials Catalog Librarian. Here at the Athenæum, she has found that one of the most satisfying aspects of her job is that she can combine her knowledge, training, and experience to help make the amazing and unique items in the Athenaeum's collection of works on paper, from incunabula to twenty-first-century artists' books, visible and available for anyone to consult, study, or simply enjoy.

Theo Tyson interrogates sociocultural themes of race, gender, and sexuality through the lens of fashion, its histories, and theories in conversation with historical and contemporary photography. As a curator and scholar, Tyson uses visual culture and accessible language to offer counternarratives of sartorial resistance with her work focused extensively on the performativity of fashioning an identity. Tyson is currently the Polly Thayer Starr Fellow in American Art and Culture at the Boston Athenæum. She seeks to reach beyond simply studying the collections to creating innovative programs and curating experiential exhibitions that engage new communities to reimagine Boston’s cultural landscape.

Elsa Fogg Vernon is passionate about engaging the Greater Boston community through the creation of accessible arts and culture-focused programs. She received a Master’s degree in English from the University of New Hampshire, where she studied gender and race theory in the context of early modern culture and literature, with a specific focus on eunuchism and William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. She currently serves as the Manager of Events at the Boston Athenæum, where she works with artists, authors, and musicians, in addition to academic and cultural institutions, in designing over 150 learning and enrichment opportunities annually at the Boston Athenæum. 

This event is part of “(Anti) Suffrage,” a program series commemorating the 100th anniversary of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. It stated that the right of citizens to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” There was, however, no amendment to address or eliminate the pervasive racism and misogyny that permeated politics and society in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Join us to explore the complexity of the struggle to secure and protect voting rights for women and people of color in the past and today.

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To request real-time captions for this event, please contact Hannah Weisman at or 617-720-7617 no fewer than four business days prior to the event.