The main branch of the San Francisco Public Library has become a massive Mother's Day card with its exterior covered in photographs of local moms, midwives and women.
"Making Mothers Visible" is a global photography exhibit presented by the International Museum of Women, which launched its worldwide tour in San Francisco Saturday.
The black-and-white photographs -- some 15 feet tall, others 5 feet -- are plastered on all sides of the library's Civic Center building at 100 Larkin St. with mothers young and old staring down at library-goers and City Hall visitors across the plaza.
The exhibit's opening celebration Saturday afternoon brought together the International Museum of Women, which is an online museum for women's issues based in San Francisco; the public library; and other groups who work for mothers' rights and health including the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood.
City Librarian Luis Herrera spoke on behalf of the library in lauding the museum and artists for the exhibit, which is the first installation in the branch's 16-year history to be presented on the library's exterior walls.
"It really reflects the beauty that mothers and motherhood bring," Herrera told the crowd of about 40 seated outside the Larkin Street entrance.
Photographer Margaret Silverman, 49, herself a mother and doula, or a childbirth coach, got involved with the project "in order to create
change for women, mothers, doulas and women's health," she said after the celebration.
Silverman and two other photographers created the series of 55 photographs after finding mothers in the Mission and Embarcadero areas earlier this year, along with members of the midwife community.
Liz Farsaci's portrait with her 3-week-old son Dylan is pasted on the Larkin Street side of the building. Dylan is now 12-weeks-old and was
sleeping at the end of Saturday's ceremonies.
Farsaci, who lives in the Excelsior neighborhood, was excited to be part of the exhibit of San Francisco mothers. She said the community in the city is supportive and she is excited to raise her child here.
Clare Winterton, executive director of the International Museum of Women, said the exhibit of local mothers was set to follow the San Francisco opening in Barcelona; Lagos, Nigeria; Greece and Canada.
TED, the Technology, Entertainment and Design global conference group, sponsored the project and provided free printing services to create the photographs, which were wheat-pasted to the building.
"Let's pause and reflect on the value of mothers," Winterton said, her own 3-year-old daughter Pearl by her side.
The health of mothers is a major concern for Theresa Shaver, president of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood. Her organization
is working to improve maternal health during and after childbirth and the connected issue of infant mortality.
"Childbirth remains the biggest killer of young women around the
world," Shaver said during the opening day festivities.
She cited staggering statistics, including the state Department of
Public Health's calculations that the maternal mortality ratio doubled
between 1998 and 2008 in California.
Globally women often give birth without medical assistance or with little support. Around the world there is less than one health care worker
for every 1,000 people, Shaver said.
However, she is hopeful that maternal health is improving especially considering prevention is possible; the resources to prevent childbirth death, which includes access to midwives and health care facilities, need to be distributed.
Saturday's celebrations also included crafts tables where children made Mother's Day cards and resource booths with information about local organizations that work with different types of mothers.
One such group was the On Your Feet Foundation Northern California, which works with birth mothers after placing a baby up for adoption. The group understands Mother's Day goes beyond traditional motherhood but includes birth, adoptive, foster mothers and all other mother
The photography exhibit will be on display through Memorial Day weekend.