Transylvania student’s art project to educate grade schoolers about women’s history

After Transylvania University senior Shawna Morton got to college, she learned a lot about important women in history — which was great, but it made her wonder why she hadn’t been taught about any of them earlier.

That inspired her to design a deck of trading cards representing historically important women. She will distribute them to an art club at Cardinal Valley Elementary School, who will in turn make art inspired by the cards.

Transylvania awarded Morton a Kenan Fund for Faculty and Student Enrichment grant to buy materials for her work. As with baseball cards, the front will be an image of a person and the back will provide biographical details. Each deck will contain 31 cards — one for each day of Women’s History Month in March.

That’s when her cards along with the elementary students’ works will be displayed in a Kentucky Theatre art gallery.

Morton will also make a poster of the cards for the Cardinal Valley classroom.

Morton’s Hedy Lamarr card

At first, she had some doubts about whether she was the right person for the project. “I’m a religion major, and I’ve never had any formal training in art,” she said. But her adviser, art professor Kurt Gohde, encouraged her to follow her passion about it. So she did.

One of her favorites cards is Hedy Lamarr, an Austrian immigrant and actress who during WWII helped develop technology that evolved into Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. “I was just like why don’t I know that — that’s something that I use every day.”

Others in the deck of diverse notables include Ella Fitzgerald, Sybilla Masters, Claudette Colvin, Dandara dos Palmares and Henrietta Leavitt.

These are all women grade school students might not otherwise learn about. “I just hope they see the possibilities of what you can do, and there are just no limits to what you can do,” Morton said.