“Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”
For International Women’s Day 2021, we’ve rounded up some inspiring Chicago street art murals that celebrate remarkable women and pay tribute to their personalities and achievements. Art has forever been a means of pushing boundaries and challenging social views, but today art fights for justice and champions equality more than ever before.
Here are some of Chicago’s must-see street art murals featuring remarkable women: both local heroes to have put their mark on Chicago and international icons of worldwide acclaim.
Where else could we start than with Chicago’s very own Michelle Obama? Rising over the terrace of the Korean-American Perilla Restaurant, you will find a stunning mural of the Southside Chicago-born attorney and author. Created by @royyaldog, the former first lady of the United States stands in front of the moon in a traditional Korean hanbok dress. The South-Korean artist is known for photorealistic murals of African American women in traditional Korean clothing and for this piece one of Chicago’s most adored daughters was chosen to symbolize opportunity and hope.
The Michelle Obama mural gained quite a bit of attention when it went up in 2019 and in response, Perilla announced that they wanted a Chicago role model who resembled determination and fortitude. “We wanted a person who represented the City of Chicago, a place that gave us growth and opportunity. We wanted someone who represented hope, a powerful tool in our industry that pushes us to persevere and succeed.” Last year, Michelle Obama was voted the most admired woman in America in Gallup’s annual poll for the third year running.
Where: 401 N Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago
It is hard to put into words the incredible effect “The Notorious R.B.G.” has had on the world. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the second woman appointed to the Supreme Court and the first Jewish woman. She served in office from August 1993 until her death in September 2020. From her renowned wisdom and inspirational quotes to her sheer grit, the former Supreme Court Justice left an enormous mark on the planet. She spent her distinguished legal career advocating gender equality and women’s rights and tackling laws that treated women as second-class citizens. This vibrant piece by Kristine Campbell depicts the feminist icon wearing a crown and her signature lace collar in front of a colorful background of red, white, and yellow. Her quote “women belong in all places where decisions are being made” is today one of the most famous quotes about feminism and women’s rights.
Where: 1813 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago
The Jennifer Hudson mural in Chatham honors another of Chicago’s most celebrated daughters. The successful and philanthropic actress and singer is, like Michelle Obama, today synonymous with our city. As a Grammy Award-winning artist, Academy Award-winning actress, and best-selling author, Hudson’s achievements and abilities cannot be overemphasized. Last year Time magazine named her one of the most 100 most influential people in the world and she continues to inspire and galvanize globally. Devins’ Chatham mural is one of many shows of pride the neighborhood has for its most famous alumni.
Where: 79th and Evans in Chatham, Chicago
Frida Kahlo is another woman to have had a resounding impact on the world. Her work was relatively unknown until it was discovered by political activists and art historians in the 1970s. Today she is an internationally recognized artist, a champion of the feminism and LGBTQ+ movements, and perhaps one of the most famous Mexican icons of all time.
Frida Kahlo defied stereotypes and refused to change her ‘masculine’ features consistently challenging gender norms, beliefs, and prejudices during her life. Her own art often deviated from how female beauty was portrayed and gave a new, more honest approach while uncompromisingly exhibiting the female experience and the female form. Today she is one of the most celebrated artists of the twentieth century. This mesmerizing mural of Frida Kahlo with butterfly wings sits on the side of a Frida-themed Mexican restaurant and was painted by Robert Valadez and Traz Juarez.
Where: 1713 W 18th Street, Chicago
Described by those she nannied for as a feminist with a unique and fascinating personality, she had an affinity with the poor due to her own economic constraints, and as such her photos often portray the lives of those struggling to get by. The Vivian Maier mural was vandalized in 2019 but residents of Wicker Park stepped in to fund its restoration, proving what an important part of the neighborhood it has become.
Curators and Producers: Beauty & Brawn
Where: 1651 W North Avenue, Chicago
Where: 401 N Racine, Chicago
Marilyn Monroe has often been called an “unlikely feminist” that was ahead of her time. The glamorous actress, model, and singer was one of the most well-known sex symbols of the twentieth century and remains a prevalent icon of pop culture today. She was universally admired but multiple times during her life she spoke out about her frustration at being pigeonholed. In 1959 she said “I’d like to be known as a real actress and human being, but listen, there’s nothing wrong with glamour either. I’ll never knock glamour… But I want to be in the kind of pictures where I can develop, not just wear tights.”
She had a unique and modern outlook far beyond the general ideas that were held in her heydey. In another interview, though neglecting to call herself a feminist, she expressed how she did not believe that “the world can be run in compartments, but by the joint endeavors of men and women as equals.”
Jeffrey Zimmerman’s recreation of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe portrait stands high above the Magnificent Mile 150 feet in the air and is now part of the very fabric of Chicago.
Where: 663 N Michigan Avenue, Chicago
Sam Kirk’s Fulton Market District mural went up in September of 2020. Funded by the National Workers Alliance, it pays respects to the millions of domestic workers, essential workers, and women in this country. The piece features four portraits of real-life workers in Chicago who continue to be essential to the thriving city in the midst of a pandemic.
The workers portrayed in the mural are Carilla Hayden, a USPS Postal Worker, Veronica Sanchez, Leader with the Latino Union of Chicago and Nanny, and Maggie Zylinska, a Domestic Worker, and Juan Burrell, a Chavez Elementary school lunchroom manager.
Where: The B_Line, 1030-1044 W Hubbard Street, Chicago
[Featured image from Instagram / @_kristinecampbell]