Skip to main content Start of main content

Andrea Bowers’s History Lessons

Consider this photorealistic drawing. Seated at a table, a young woman fixes her eyes on something, or someone, beyond the photograph’s frame. She raises a finger in admonishment, perhaps, or instruction. Look here, she seems to say. Before her, caught in the shadow she casts on the table, a sign reads ‘Abolish All Abortion Laws’; behind her another sign, the kind used in demonstrations, relays a sobering tally: ‘US Deaths 1966; Viet-Nam 3,000; Abortion 7,000’. Death tolls in Vietnam would soon surpass those related to illegal abortions, but both figures would grow exponentially for seven more years until US troops began withdrawing and Roe v. Wade was passed. The young woman – she is Andrea Bowers’s Young Abortion Rights Activist, San Francisco Bay Area, 1966 (Photo Lent from the Archives of Patricia Maginnis) (2005) – cannot know this in 1966. But her face is turned toward the future. She fixes her eyes on something, or someone – maybe us.