Mary Cassatt and the Women’s Suffrage Movement - Street Art Museum Tours

Mary Cassatt and the Women’s Suffrage Movement

Mary Cassatt supported the Women’s Suffrage Movement through her art. As an early feminist activist and talented Impressionist artist, her accomplishments are many. We are briefly exploring into some famous Mary Cassatt paintings and how they influenced the Women’s Suffrage Movement in America.

Who is Mary Cassatt?

Mary Cassatt self portrait
Mary Cassatt Self Portrait

Mary Cassatt, an American painter and printmaker, was born in 1844 in Pennsylvania. She spent much of her career in France and was close friends with Edgar Degas, sharing a similar artistic style as the two were known to collaborate closely with one another.

Cassatt was trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, although against her parents’ wishes, partly because of their concern for her exposure to feminist ideals

Mary Cassatt paintings often focused on the private lives of women, especially the intimate bond between mother and child. She painted in a modern, Impressionist style and has been described as one of the three great ladies of Impressionism.

Famous Mary Cassatt Paintings

Two Women Throwing Flowers During Carnival

Her interest in Impressionism likely stemmed from all the time she spent in Europe as a girl and then later in life as a young woman while the movement was really taking hold. Her first well-received work at the Parisian Salon of 1872 was Two Women Throwing Flowers During Carnival.

This painting was created in Parma, Italy while Cassatt was working on a commission for the Archbishop of Pittsburgh. She was to copy two of Correggio’s paintings. During this commission Cassatt was accompanied by fellow American painter Emily Sartain (1841-1927). Emily's letters give a description of Cassatt's reception. Cassatt was given a vacant studio to work and that members of the faculty and students would constantly visit the studio to watch her work.



As you can see from her paintings such as The Boating Party, Tea, Summertime, and Woman with a Pearl Necklace, Cassatt had an ability to depict movement using light and color in a way that was truly captivating.


The Boating Party
Mary Stevenson Cassatt, American -Woman with a Pearl Necklace in a Loge - Google Art Project

Mary Cassatt and the Women’s Suffrage Movement in America

Cassatt was a fierce advocate for women’s rights in the early 20th century and she used her art to support the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Particularly in her painting titled, Woman with a Sunflower.

Sunflower symbol of Suffrage Movement

It could easily seem like the sunflower is simply an adornment on the woman’s dress. But, it should be known that the sunflower was a symbol of the fight for women’s right to vote and they were used on posters and pins supporting the cause.

Plus, this painting was featured in her 1915 exhibition in New York City that was hosted specifically to raise money and awareness for the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Her contributions to the world of art and feminism, therefore, did not go unnoticed.

Although Mary Cassatt was only one of many women who fought for the adoption of the 19th Amendment, her work undoubtedly speaks to the strength of all women.

Through the subtle depictions of the everyday woman in her artwork to the specific ways she supported women’s rights through her exhibitions, Cassatt is an inspiration.

Back to blog