One of San Francisco's largest and best loved murals adorns the Women's Building at 3542 18th Street in the Mission District. It was painted in 1994 by some of the Bay Area's best muralists: Juana Alicia, Miranda Bergman, Edythe Boone, Susan Kelk Cervantes, Meera Desai, Yvonne Littleton and Irene Perez. The mural celebrates courageous women who have changed the world. Cards and gifts representing the mural can be purchased at reception inside the Women's Building.
The Women's Building, Edificio de Mujeres, is a woman-owned
community center dedicated to social justice, gender equity, as well as the
health and well-being of women. The Center serves up to 25,000 community
members each year. It rents space to tenants, meetings, and community events.
The Women's Center was founded in 1973 during the feminist movement to address
the needs of women in San Francisco's communities. By 1979, the Center needed
more space to hold a conference on violence against women, and, having been
turned away by San Francisco State University, the organization purchased the
current Women's Building.
There was opposition to the organization's feminist
activities at the new site. In the first year of opening, an attack of arson
caused $50K worth of damage to the building by a pipe bomb explosion on its
The Women's Building currently houses nine community health organizations
in its non-profit hub, including a girls' running club, a group helping women
escape from domestic violence, washrooms for the homeless, immigration
services, and support for survivors of sexual assault. It offers a head start
day care, CalFresh & food pantry, a computer lab, job search assistance,
legal aid, tech tutoring, tax help, and wellness programs such as yoga, Tai
Chi, and Mambo. The Center also helps women make connections to other services
in the community.
The Women's Building
does not function exclusively as a community center. It also hosts an enormous
mural, the MaestraPeace Mural. This mural celebrates the achievements of women
worldwide and is a favorite of both locals and tourists. The nearly 12,000
square foot MaestraPeace Mural cascades over the two facades of the Women's
Building. It was painted in 1994 by a diverse group of artists: Juana Alicia,
Miranda Bergman, Edythe Boone, Susan Kelk Cervantes, Meera Desai, Yvonne
Littleton and Irene Perez.
Dominating the 18th Street entrance is a nude, pregnant
goddess with butterfly wings. She holds up the sun, while fountains of water
and fish descend from her image to the entrance. The Lapidge Street facade is
topped by a portrait of Rigoberta Menchu, who won the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize
for her advocacy work with indigenous peoples of Guatemala. Below Menchu are
portraits of Georgia O'Keeffe, Joycelyn Elders, a Latina healer, and a
traditional female African drummer. Poet Audre Lorde is portrayed penning the
words, future generations.
The mural even extends inside the entrance to the Women's
Building. “It makes you feel like you’re walking through the mural. When you
come through to the other side, you’re still a part of it,” explained artist
Susan Kelk Cervantes. Artist Miranda Bergman called it, a standing
ovation for women's liberation; a non-negotiable demand for respect; a healing
waterfall of women's love; a prayer for everybody in the world; a sweet
subversive dream of peace.