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Faith Ringgold's For the Women’s House, 1971

Faith Ringgold (American, born 1930). For the Women’s House, 1971. Oil on canvas, 96 x 96 inches (243.8 x 243.8 cm). Courtesy of Rose M. Singer Center, Rikers Island Correctional Center. © 2017 Faith Ringgold / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 

Multiple Me's

Inspired by the Special Exhibition We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85

This lesson plan was inspired by educational materials from the Brooklyn Museum, which organized this special exhibition.

Conceptual Basis

Students will view Faith Ringgold’s For the Women’s House, 1971, and learn why she created this work of art. They will identify the various types of women in the piece and the roles they embrace. They will create a work of art in a similar fashion to Ringgold’s painting, drawing themselves carrying out different interests or hobbies that they enjoy.

Featured Work

Faith Ringgold
(American, born 1930)
For the Women’s House, 1971
Oil on canvas
96 x 96 inches (243.8 x 243.8 cm)
New York City Department of Correction, Rose M. Singer Center, East Elmhurst

Lesson Objectives

  • Learn about the artist Faith Ringgold and her work For the Women’s House, 1971
  • Create a personal connection with the art, emphasizing an individual’s ability to carry out multiple roles or interests simultaneously
  • Create an opportunity for self-representation through portraiture


  • Glue
  • Crayons and/or oil pastels
  • Paper that is pre-cut into triangular fourths (for the older levels, they can use rulers to draw out the sections, and cut the pieces themselves)
  • Optional: Watercolor paint (or thinned tempera) and materials (brushes, cups for water, etc.)

Background Information for Teachers

About the Artist 

Faith Ringgold—a painter, writer, speaker, mixed media sculptor, and performance artist—lives and works in Englewood, New Jersey. Ringgold is the recipient of more than 75 awards, including 22 Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees. For more information on her works of art, public works, and books, visit

About the Art

The mural For the Women’s House was dedicated to the women incarcerated in the Correctional Institution for Women on Rikers Island, New York City, in January 1972. The mural remained on view until the facility became a male prison in 1988. Deemed inappropriate for the incoming male prisoners, the painting was whitewashed, but it was later saved by a guard, restored, and reinstalled in the new women’s prison, the Rose M. Singer Center, where it remains on view.

Imagining the first female president and professional women basketball players among other positive female role models, For the Women’s House incorporates suggestions offered to Faith Ringgold by incarcerated women. The play on words in the imaginary route and destination of the bus in the upper quadrant—“2A Sojourner Truth Square”—speaks to the “long road leading out of here” that the women had asked to see depicted.

In an April 1972 interview with her daughter, writer Michele Wallace, Ringgold described her goals for the piece:

If I hadn’t done it for the Women’s House then it probably would have been more political; but these women have been rejected by society; they are the blood guilt of society, so if this is what I give them, then maybe that is what we should all have. Maybe all that other stuff we’re talking about is jive because these women are real. They don’t have anything to be unreal about. Made for women’s prison, wanted to provide positive representations of the women to inspire them which involved input from the inmates themselves.

Vocabulary for Students

mural – a painting or other work of art executed directly on a wall

composition – the placement or arrangement of visual elements in a work of art


Students should view Faith Ringgold’s For the Women’s House. Focus on one of the triangular sections in this painting and ask the students what they think the figures are doing. Go through each triangle with your students.

Now have the students step back and look at the painting as a whole. Why are there so many different women? What are they doing? Why did the artist include so many people in one work of art? Explain that Faith Ringgold wanted to create positive female role models in this work of art.

Ask: Do you have someone who you look up to? If you were to add that person into this painting, what would your role model be doing?

Explain the background of this piece of how it was made for the women’s section of Rikers, but was almost destroyed when it became a men’s prison. Ringgold interviewed various women in the prison to ask what they wanted to see; many of them wanted positive imagery to inspire them and show the diversity of women.

Artmaking Activity

  1. Give students four pieces of paper pre-cut into triangular fourths (or have them cut out the shapes themselves).
  2. With either crayons or oil pastels, have the students draw themselves doing a different activity that is meaningful to them on each paper. Examples can include a sport, drawing, playing a game, spending time with a significant person (mom, dad, sibling), etc.
  3. Optional: Once their drawings are complete, have them paint each triangle with a thin layer of paint over the crayon. Each triangle should be painted a different color.
  4. Have the students glue the triangles onto a sheet of paper. Then the work is ready for a title, and to be displayed.

Optional Artmaking Activities

For the older students, you can make this into a printmaking lesson using Styrofoam sheets cut into triangles.

With the younger ones, instead of giving the students pre-cut triangles, hand out a sheet of paper pre-drawn into triangular fourths.

Optional Reflections and Lesson Wrap-Up

Have the students share their artworks in pairs, or in small groups. They should go through each triangle, explaining what is happening in each section. Ask the students to give their artwork a title. An optional wrap-up is that the students are to write down a description for each triangle section. They then use those as a starting point to write a story, or an autobiography.

New York State Learning Standards for the Arts

Anchor Standards: 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, 3.1, 6.1, 7.1

Exhibition Sponsors

We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85 is organized by the Brooklyn Museum. 

This exhibition has been made possible at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s exhibition program is generously supported by The Seymour H. Knox Foundation, Inc.

Publication of the family guide has been made possible through the generosity of The MAK Fund. 

Additional support for educational components of this exhibition has been provided by a grant from the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. 

Technical support has been provided by Advantage TI.

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