The acronym WITASWAN (“wit-uh-swan”) stands for “Women in the Audience Supporting Women Artists Now.”

Drawing on knowledge I’ve gained from dozens of conversations, discussions & presentations on this topic over almost a decade now, let me begin by explaining what WITASWAN is not. WITASWAN is not an “organization.” No one pays dues to WITASWAN or serves on the board of WITASWAN; WITASWAN has no standing committees and no fund raising appeals.

WITASWAN is a movement, a cause, an idea, a concept: WITASWAN is a totally grassroots, internet-based “initiative.”  My life literally changed one day and my memories of this day (Sunday June 2, 2002) are extremely detailed & specific: like the Disney cartoons where the light suddenly goes on or the apple bounces down on Newton’s head & goes “plunk,”  I read Dana Kennedy’s article in the New York Times, I fixated on the quotes from Martha Lauzen, & lifetime of feminist activism began to coalesce into a single point of focus. 

Luckily for me, I had a dynamite group of women who responded with dedication & enthusiam.  The members of AAUW-Illinois created an incubator for WITASWAN, & the infant they nurtured is fast becoming a cause heard ’round the world!  Then I met Martha Richards, together we created International SWAN Day, & the rest is history!

2002:    I read an article about the “Celluloid Ceiling” in my Sunday New York Times quoting statistics by Communications Professor Martha Lauzen that were so outrageous I was prompted to take action.  I wrote a letter to the Times, they published it, and a new project was launched.

2003:    Working with [then] Program VP Linda Henning Cohen, I presented a workshop at the AAUW-Illinois Spring Convention. 42 people attended, including Penny Parish, Donna Sprotson, and many others who have since become critical to WITASWAN’s success.  As we watched A Jury of Her Peers together, the power of the film, combined with the subsequent discussion with filmmaker Sally Heckel, resonated with all who were there that day.  AAUW-Illinois branches began inviting Jan to come speak.

2004:    At the summer board meeting, [then] President Kim Benziger and the AAUW-Illinois Board asked me to provide an update for the five Fall District Conferences, so the project needed a name. After weeks of brainstorming with input from over two dozen AAUW-Illinois members, Barbra Zeitz had a brilliant insight: with a slight but significant modification to the acronym WITASWA, we could all be swans. Everyone agreed: We were “Women in the Audience Supporting Women Artists NOW!” The roll-out began at Illinois Valley Community College on October 2, 2004, and we’ve been growing ever since!

 Click here to read more background: HuttnerTraction2007

As Martha Lauzen told me during our 2003 chat:


>Read 2003 chat with Martha Lauzen.

>Read 2007 article about WITASWAN in the Chicago Reader.

>Read the 2006 “Celluloid Ceiling” report by Martha Lauzen, Ph.D.

>Read the 2002 “Celluloid Ceiling report by Martha Lauzen, Ph.D.

Our first logo (“SWAN at the Movies”) was designed by Wayne Harlow in 2004.  I found Wayne by searching for swan images on Google.  I found the stencil created by his wife Lynell, and when I contacted the Harlows, Wayne agreed to place “their swan” in front of a silver screen for us.  The colors of this logo are deliberately silver & teal (AAUW colors) because WITASWAN began as an AAUW-Illinois project.

Our second logo (“The Power of the Purse”) was designed by Sharon Rosenzweig (the designer of my Penny cartoon) in 2008.  Once again, Wayne gave us permission to use “their swan” in this new iteration.  Colors are now pink & green to reflect WITASWAN’s new role as part of the WomenArts International SWAN Day initiative as well as my own cyberspace persona: “The Hot Pink Pen.” 

Our current logo was designed by Melissa Wilks of WomenArts in 2009.

Note that I did the initial “conceptual design” for all three logos.  I drafted sketches, and worked closely with each artist to create the final version (with input from many AAUW members and interested others over the years).

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