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This image is from a series of photographs Ruth Morgan made of homeless children in New York City. With a background in sociology, Morgan often documents marginalized groups, including at-risk youth and prison inmates. In this way, she documents their inner struggles and exposes how the state has failed them. In this photograph, we see a young girl named Percenda in her classroom, which is a place of both sanctuary and confinement. Her body partially obscures a grammar lesson written on the blackboard behind her. It appears to focus on prefixes, such as “un-” and “dis-,” which make words take on opposite meanings. This topic might have symbolic weight for a child who has experienced unfair or unkind treatment. Her face appears at once serious, vulnerable, and sad. Yet her gaze and posture are confrontational and resolute. Does she feel confident in her ability to overcome the odds against her? Is her attitude a coping mechanism to deal with daily challenges such as institutional racism, instability, and environmental dangers? The answers are unclear, but Morgan’s work can begin conversations about the experiences of our society’s most disenfranchised and vulnerable citizens as central to the women’s rights struggle.

Ruth Morgan, American, born 1946

Percenda, 1995

Print | Screen print on paper

Gift of the Women's Studies Program WSU

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