For International Women’s Day 2023, 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 female icons of worldwide acclaim.
1. Michelle Obama by Royyal Dog
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.”
Where: 401 N Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago
2. On The Wings Of Change by Jasmina Cazacu
“On the Wings of Change” is a mural created by local Chicago artist Jasmina Cazacu. It is the first public artwork commemorating the Women’s Suffrage Movement in Chicago.
In Jasmina Cazacu’s post announcing the piece, she wrote “a young girl is enthralled in wonder as she opens a magical book from which the history of Chicago’s women’s suffrage emerges as enchanted pages that whirl all around her. The animated pages contain portraits of key figures in the local suffrage movement. Among the portraits dance a flight of swallows, who are well known for their resilience in long-distance migrations, representing the inspiring journey of women who dared to soar to new heights.”
The suffragists depicted in the mural are the following: Mary Livermore, Myra Bradwell, Frances E. Willard, Fannie Barrier Williams, Jane Addams, Catharine Waugh McCulloch, Ida B. Wells, Grace Wilbur Trout, and Agnes Nestor.🙏
Where: 635 S Wabash Ave, Chicago
3. Jennifer Hudson by Chris Devins
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.
Time magazine has previously named her one of the 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
4. Alas De Frida by Robert Valadez
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
5. Vivian Maier by Eduardo Kobra
Wicker Park’s Vivian Maier mural painted by São Paulo-born Eduardo Kobra and curated by Beauty & Brawn is now one of Chicago’s most renowned street art murals.
Like Frida Kahlo, Maier’s work did not come to light until after her lifetime. She was a nanny working in Chicago with a passion for photography but falling behind on payments she was forced to auction her negatives. Years on these would become a viral phenomenon and a much-sought-after collector’s item.
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 the mural and the subject have become.
Where: 1651 W North Avenue, Chicago
6. Priya Shah by Nicole Salgar
The subject of this stunning mural is Priya Shah, an artist, model, author, social entrepreneur, TEDx Speaker, and the founder of “The Simple Good.” As a non-profit organization The Simple Good runs programs that seek to bring positivity into communities through art and discussion while empowering youth to become change-makers and mindful leaders in the future.
Through Social-Emotional Learning and youth art programs, The Simple Good spreads its message that “no matter where you go in the world, good means the same to all of us – and that is what connects us as human beings.”
Nicole Salgar’s prismatic mural honors Priya Shah, a local Chicago woman doing amazing things for the community.
Where: 401 N Racine, Chicago
7. Marilyn Monroe by Jeffrey Zimmerman
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
8. Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Kristine Campbell
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
9. Essential Workers by Sam Kirk
Sam Kirk’s Fulton Market District mural went up in September 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
10. New Frontiers, Same Old Nine by Max Sansing & Kayla Mahaffey
Though this beautiful piece does not represent somebody of worldwide renown, it has become an iconic mural in South Side and it felt appropriate to end this list on a ‘new frontier’ with a piece that symbolizes the potential for anybody to be remarkable.
Created by Max Sansing and Kayla Mahaffey, two artists both born and raised in South Side, the piece depicts a woman in a heroic stance wearing a Bulls jersey, a helmet, and a cape looking into the distance. Upon revealing it in 2019 the artists said that they hoped it would help people see that there are possibilities everywhere.
Where: 1843 East 79th Street, Chicago
[Featured image from Instagram / @jasladiosa]