A toddler’s portrayal of influential women throughout history is helping to tell their powerful stories and honor their legacies in an adorable way.
For the past three years, little Liberty Wexler has portrayed 147 inspiring women, both past and present. With the help of creative costumes, props and backdrops, Liberty brings these influential women and their incredible achievements to life.
Mom Jenelle Wexler began the project when Liberty was just 3 weeks old — and now their work has been seen and applauded by millions online. “Paying tribute to women who fought for and helped protect women’s rights,” the Instagram bio reads. More than 12,000 people have subscribed to the project.
But Liberty doesn’t simply dress up as these important women. Thanks to her mom’s well-researched Instagram captions, brimming with details of their trials and accomplishments, the mother-daughter duo are helping to tell the tales of these important women.
And while Liberty has portrayed many of the more famous faces of women’s history — such as Frida Kahlo, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Gloria Steinem — she and Mom are helping to tell the stories of perhaps lesser-known women whose influences are felt around the world every day.
Jenelle, 39, began her creative work when her son, River, was a newborn.
“On his first Halloween, I dressed him as a fully loaded burrito,” Jenelle told In The Know by Yahoo. “I received quite a lot of positive feedback from friends, family and clients, so I continued creating holiday-themed photo shoots.”
When baby Liberty arrived, Jenelle knew she would continue her creative photo shoots — but this time, with an inspirational spin. She decided to dress Liberty up as famous Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
“From Frida, I began to think of other influential women who should be celebrated for their contributions,” Jenelle said, “and the ideas kept coming!”
From astronaut Christina Koch and film director Rayka Zehtabchi to environmental political activist Dr. Wangari Maathai, Liberty has portrayed a wide array of impressive, notable women.
“I wanted to bring attention to these women’s specific stories, to show how important their actions were in helping to shape our current society for the better,” Jenelle explained.
“I have Liberty debuting as some wonderful women of history. They were brave, strong, entertaining, sincere and loving, and they have made such positive impacts on the lives of women of today.”
Whether pulled from the past or present, from the U.S. or abroad, Liberty and Jenelle have made it their mission to honor those whose work furthers women’s rights every day.
“I believe these women continue to inspire young females of [the] present day to push boundaries and strive beyond equality. I feel it is important to pay tribute to the women who fought for, helped protect and further women’s causes. I only hope these are the individuals Liberty herself chooses to admire and aspire to be like.”
“The response has been amazing and unlike anything I could have ever imagined,” said Jenelle.
But it’s not just media outlets that have taken notice of little Liberty’s portrayals. “She has had quite a few of her portrayals comment on her photo dressed as them and even reposted or shared!” Jenelle said.
Billie Jean King, Abby Wambach, Simone Bikes, Ali Wong, Ashley Longshore, Kathi Lee Gifford and Kathrine Switzer are just some of the amazing women who have taken notice of Liberty’s project.
But celebrities aren’t the only ones affected by Liberty’s portrayals and Jenelle’s history lessons.
“We have received very positive responses from all of Liberty’s followers,” said Jenelle.
“Women have messaged me personally through Instagram letting me know how inspired and thankful they are for Liberty’s page. That her photos bring joy to their day.”
And while Jenelle and Liberty have a blast working on their photo shoots, they aren’t the only ones who enjoy the project. The whole Wexler family, located in the suburbs of Chicago, make the photo shoots a family affair.
“This project is a great family experience,” Jenelle said. “Not only does it get my husband involved by getting Liberty to smile [for the camera]; it is also piquing River’s interest. He is always asking me, ‘Who is Liberty going to be next?’ or, ‘Who is Anne Frank?’ I am happy to see him taking interest in such important historical figures.”
And as for the adorable tot behind the iconic getups? Jenelle says Liberty loves dressing up and getting her photo taken. “She’s a girly-girl who loves anything pink, purple and sparkly,” said Mom.
“I am hopeful that when Liberty is older and looks back at these photos, she finds them to be fun yet informatively positive. I attempted to capture these women’s essence in Liberty; the emotion of the person sometimes really can be seen in Liberty’s photos,” Jenelle said.
While Liberty is still a little too young to pursue the paths of those she’s portrayed, Jenelle hopes that the project will influence her little girl when she’s an adult.
“Liberty changes her mind daily about what she would like to be when she grows up. When asked today, her response was a princess or a veterinarian because she loves kitties,” said Jenelle.
“Maybe Liberty won’t go on to do the profound things that these women she portrays have, but hopefully she will be able to do it at her own level on a daily basis as a positive influence on herself and the people around her,” said Jenelle.
But there’s no doubt that filling such shoes as those of Grace Hopper, Theresa Kachindamoto and Joan of Arc will have a huge impact on the woman Liberty grows to become.
At the beginning of their project, Liberty and Jenelle were debuting several new women each week. But due to COVID-19 and their focus on homeschooling, Jenelle has had to slow their pace and output.
But with a catalog of over 145 influential women, they continue to honor these trailblazers’ legacies.
Jenelle continues to maintain her little one’s Instagrams — including big brother River’s account — updating them when time allows. In her latest post, the mom and daughter announced an exciting new project that’s still under wraps: Liberty’s very first movie role!
With such inspirational women behind her — including her own mom — there’s no doubt Liberty is destined to go very far in this life. And who knows: Perhaps one day there will be a little girl portraying Liberty in her own women’s history project.
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