Who Holds the Mirror: Breast Cancer, Women's Lives and the Environment

A mural on display at the entrance of the St. Albert Hall Library honors women who have survived breast cancer and women who have died from the disease.

Beth Sauerhoff, director of the Breast Cancer Oral History Action Project, shared the inspiration behind the mural, "Who Holds the Mirror: Breast Cancer, Women's Lives and the Environment," during an opening reception on March 17: "The mural honors the stories of women of low income affected by breast cancer who have no way to share their story, or don?t feel that anyone would be willing to listen," said Sauerhoff.

Sauerhoff, whose aunt's battle and death from the disease was kept a family secret, wanted to hear the stories of more than just the women who had the money and the education to go public with memoirs about their experience with breast cancer. She created The Breast Cancer Oral Action History Project 10 years ago to educate women on health and body issues, particularly breast cancer, through interviews and speeches from women with the disease.

The passion behind the 8-by-12-foot mural is evident in the use of color. Bright blues and green symbolize hope in an outdoor scene at the top of the painting, while deep red, orange, and purple seem symbolic of the anger and fear of the surrounding images of women protesting the environment or their medical care. The vibrant colors fade at the bottom of the painting, where grayish images of women in hospital beds undergoing treatment leave a lasting impression.

Sauerhoff worked closely with San Francisco muralist Miranda Bergman to ensure the painting included the women who helped in the project. Those honored in the mural are women who fought for their own medical testing for the disease, women who protested the chemicals used in their hometowns that may have caused their breast cancer, women who survived, and women who did not. In one portion of the mural, alongside the women, men are depicted holding candles. "Because breast cancer touches men's lives too," she said.

Sauerhoff describes the mural as a reflection of how women see themselves in the face of breast cancer: "It encourages women to come together to discuss and be compassionate together about breast cancer."

"Who Holds the Mirror: Breast Cancer, Women's Lives and the Environment," on display for Women's History Month, will be in the library until Tuesday, March 28. Viewers are encouraged to write the names of those they know who have had breast cancer in the notebook on the display table below the mural.

--Brianna Hardy
Office of College Communications