Agents of Change: Female Activism in Virginia from Women’s Suffrage to Today

Time Period
1877 to 1924
1925 to Today
Black History
Civil Rights
Politics & Government
Women's History
Agents of Change photo blend of historic women with modern women

About the Exhibition: The passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 radically re-defined the meaning of American democracy by banning gender-based restrictions on voting. This landmark legislation marked the culmination of a concerted fight for women’s suffrage and heralded a new age of female participation in American civic life.

Organized in conjunction with the statewide Women’s Suffrage Centennial, this exhibition featured artifacts from the museum’s vast collections and new acquisitions made through a major collecting initiative, celebrated a century of women’s social and political activism in the Commonwealth. Highlighting the efforts and impact of a selection of female change-makers these women brought about positive change in their communities, the Commonwealth, and the nation. They also created new models of female empowerment and new opportunities for women—ultimately fostering a more inclusive and equal society.

Thank you to our exhibition sponsors: The E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. G. Gilmer Minor III.

Today's Agents of Change Photo Project

Agents of Change -- Contemporary women activists pose in the same place on the Virginia Capitol grounds as suffragists did in 1915.In association with the Agents of Change exhibition, the VMHC engaged a group of contemporary “agents of change” to recreate an iconic 1915 photograph of the Virginia suffrage movement (seen at the top of this page). About 100 years after the original was taken, the VMHC brought together a group of contemporary “agents of change” to recreate the image. Although not a comprehensive picture, this 2020 portrait captures the dynamism and diversity of female activism in Virginia today.⁠

The photograph was unveiled at the VMHC on Sunday, March 8, 2020 to celebrate the opening of Agents of Change and International Women’s Day. The photograph was displayed at the VMHC in conjunction with the Agents of Change exhibition.

Learn more about the project and participants.

Explore the Online Exhibition

Explore our online exhibition of Agents of Change: Female Activism in Virginia from Women’s Suffrage to Today with a 360-degree virtual tour.

Tour Agents of Change with VMHC exhibition curator Dr. Karen Sherry.
Tour Agents of Change with VMHC Manager of Museum Programs Maggie Creech.

Associated Programming

"Moral, Maternal, Mannish, & Monstrous: Suffragist Images, 1900-1920" is presented by Dr. Karen A. Sherry, Museum Collections Curator About the program: As the fight for female suffrage in America intensified in the early 20th century, pro- and anti-suffrage forces deployed propagandist imagery to convey their message. Images of suffragists appeared in a range of guises from nurturers fostering a more perfect union to shrews wreaking chaos on the establishment. Discover what period images of suffragists tell us about historical attitudes toward women and their role in American civic life. This program was produced as part of the VMHC's Curators At Home Series taped by curatorial staff members from their own homes as they worked remotely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

League of Women Voters logo"Votes for Women: 100 Years, 1920-2020 and Going Strong!" Driving Tour

In commemoration of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial, the League of Women Voters - Richmond Metro Area created a self-guided tour of historic sites around the Richmond area that have been significant to the struggle for the women’s vote in Virginia. View the tour map and site listing here.

These Things Can Be Done film poster"These Things Can Be Done" Documentary

A century ago, women were not assured a voice in American democracy. In August 2020, the U.S. celebrates the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote. In “These Things Can Be Done,” a new documentary produced by Boedeker Films and VPM with support from the Commonwealth of Virginia's Women's Suffrage Centennial Commemoration in partnership with the VMHC, the often overlooked narrative of women’s suffrage in Virginia is brought to life through rare archival footage, photographs, oral histories, radio broadcasts, and interviews with historians, descendants of suffragists, and modern activists.  Watch the film on YouTube and view a panel discussion from the historians featured in the film on YouTube.