St. Kate’s Alum Revisits Suffrage Struggle in Updated Poster Series

What started as a student project is now a fundraiser supporting the League of Women Voters

Four years ago, Briana Turnbull ’17 was an apparel design student starting one of her first graphic design projects at St. Catherine University. The project — a series of posters that helped educate and motivate women to vote — is now refreshed and updated, and serving as a fundraiser supporting the League of Women Voters.

“The first year I was old enough to vote in a presidential election was 2016 and at the time I was a student graphic designer at St. Catherine University,” Turnbull shares on her website. As a student employee in the St. Catherine University Student Center and Activities, Turnbull joined a campus-wide discussion of tactics to encourage students to vote. Out of that ongoing work emerged the Civic Engagement Collective, which in turn asked Turnbull to create a series of posters to support the effort. “I thought, since this was my first election, I could focus on the suffrage movement,” Turnbull recalls. “The first thing I noticed as I did the research was that not all women were granted the right to vote at the same time — and that's where the idea for this project originated.” She illustrated this expanded view of suffrage by depicting the faces of women of different racial minority groups with a focus on the year that group of people was finally granted the right to vote.

After Turnbull completed her posters, she continued with her final academic year at St. Kate’s, graduated, and launched her career in graphic design. Yet appreciation of her posters continued to grow far beyond the campus gates. “[The posters] were reposted at St. Kate's ahead of the 2018 midterm election and a photo of them was shared on social media, where it went viral,” Turnbull recalls. “The original posters resonated with people more than I could have hoped.”

In view of both the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment and the upcoming presidential election, Turnbull was inspired to update the designs for 2020. They now feature a fresh look and incorporate more information. Turnbull discussed these works as a panelist at the October 15 event of this month’s St. Kate’s Integrated Learning Series, which focuses on Suffrage.

“I think voting is so important, but I also completely believe that it’s kind of the least that we can do,” Turnbull says. “Voting is a hard-won right for many of us, and to take that information and encourage people to use that right and use their voice… there is something kind of jarring-to-action in the idea that your people might not have always had a voice. You recognize [...]all who fought for this right, and what a privilege it is to have that opportunity.”

The updated posters are available as downloadable, printable files from the artist’s website. Half the proceeds of each sale will be donated to the League of Women Voters.