2002: 100 years of the SSWA - Behind us and today

Clara von Rappard, self-portrait, 1890

The SSWA began as a protest. Ten years of sterile discussions on the recognition of women artists resulted in their exclusion from any demonstration at the national level. Ferdinand Hodler, who presided many years over the destiny of the GSMBA, opposed the admission of women artists with the key argument, "No little females in our house!".  Faced with this situation several women with a strong character decided in 1902 under the leadership of Berthe Sandoz-Lassieur of Lausanne to fly with their own wings by founding the "Société romande des femmes peintres et sculpteurs" (Society of women painters and sculptors of French Switzerland). Soon after is was reunited with sections from Geneva, Neuchatel, Bern, Basel and Zurich. Since then women artists of our country represent themselves. They are concerned with the matter of equality with men in exhibits and competitions, commissions by public bodies and the right to sit in commissions and juries.

The right to vote given to women in 1973 certainly forced the GSMBA to welcome them as artists.  Nonetheless the SSWA has pursued its activities in developing exhibits and in assuring the promotion of its members. After a fierce combat, once several objectives were attained and considered established, in 1996 the majority of the members of the directing committee gave full support to dissolve the SSWA and to fuse it with the GSMBA (which had become Visarte in the meantime). A wind of resistance blew trough the sections and the general assembly of September 2000 decided almost unanimously to maintain the SSWA. The egalitarian grievances and the slogan, "Women encourage women", convinced their audience.