Local photographer’s update of an historic portrait now in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
Most are familiar with Dan Winn’s 1971 “Raised Fists” portrait of Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes that became an iconic image of the fight for equal rights for women and blacks. In 2013, St. Augustine photographer Daniel Bagan captured a re-enactment of that moment when the two women shared dinner in the Springfield home of local activist Chevarra Orrin. Bagan’s portrait now joins its predecessor in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection, validating the historic significance of the first and championing its message with renewed vigor.
“The moment was right, the women were dynamically engaged in their iconic stance, and the result was inspiring,” says Bagan. “Even decades later, their power and beauty show no sign of age, just wisdom reflected in a soft smile.”
Bagan and Orrin worked together locally on the We Are Straight Allies campaign, and Bagan’s portrait of Steinem and Pitman Hughes inspired a subsequent portrait series entitled Age of Beauty, featuring women over fifty.
In attendance that night at Orrin’s home was her friend and fellow Jacksonville resident Heather Moore, who reflects on the original portrait with sustained awe. “They so perfectly symbolized unity and strength when they heroically raised their fists back in 1971 … who could ever forget the image of Ms. Steinem with her flowing long hair, blonde highlights framed her face, and Ms. Pitman Hughes with her full, round Afro and large hoop earrings with small chains freely dangled at each ear?”
Of Bagan’s capture of the re-enactment, Moore says, “ History was made on a balmy night in Jacksonville.”
Bagan’s portrait is also included in the Museum of the City of New York’s current exhibition, Beyond Suffrage: 100 Years of Women and Politics in New York, and was recently placed on permanent display at the Thomas G. Carpenter Library at the University of North Florida.
Steinem and Pitman Hughes say they hope the new portrait will initiate new conversations about the equality struggles that still exist today.
“We must have difficult conversations, and it’s also important to talk about the learning, growing, friendship and joy that come from having them,” says Steinem. “So it’s important to say that in real life, neither Dorothy nor I would give up – or be the same without – our nearly half-century of shared hopes, differences, laughter and friendship.”
Pitman Hughes, a Jacksonville-area resident, echoes the sentiment. “The symbolism of a black woman and a white woman standing together, demonstrating the black power salute, is as important now as it was in the ’70s,” she says. “A hundred years of the suffrage movement has not eliminated racism, classism and sexism. Black women and white women can make this change together, but not until we acknowledge and resolve the racism problem that stands between us.”
Pitman-Hughes and Steinem first teamed up as speaking partners in the ’70s, with the shared commitment to civil rights activism, and founded Ms. magazine to give printed voice to the effort. Pitman-Hughes continued to advocate not only for women and African Americans, but also for child-welfare, and has authored several books. Now, in partnership with Dr. Judi Herring, she is hosting a series of speaking engagements, Conversations With Dorothy, during which she retells her history-making personal journey as a way to share the broader story of American activism. For more on these events, visit DorothyandGloria.com.