From Wounded to Warrior: Leigh Brooklyn and The Women’s Militia

As more women are courageously sharing their stories, Jennasis Speaks continues our work of featuring women’s stories in alternate formats. We are honored to share the visual work that speaks to the power behind Leigh Brooklyn’s voice.

We all know the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Capturing the full story of figurative artist Leigh Brooklyn, however, requires a few words of introduction to Leigh’s artistic vision. 

Figurative artist Leigh Brooklyn was building her reputation in the art world and a career in biomedical illustration when her life was upended by a controlling relationship. Her circumstances put her career on hold and, at times, kept her from pursuing her craft.

Leigh was eventually able to bring that relationship to a close. At the same time, however, she was diagnosed with a serious illness. Overwhelmed by her situation, Leigh found healing support from a  close circle of women. These friends encouraged Leigh by sharing stories of the challenges and hardships they had overcome.

That experience inspired Leigh to revisit her dream of creating an art series that would drive women’s empowerment. This year, “The Women’s Militia” came to life, starting with a portrait now on display at Spaces, a Cleveland art gallery. The art and movement honor strong women who, as Leigh puts it, are warriors.

Portrait of an Artist

Leigh’s career in art began with an award-winning portrait. She entered a competition with no expectations and was genuinely surprised her work was awarded a top prize. Next came formal training with a portrait artist at the Columbus College of Art, and later she transferred to the Cleveland Institute of Art to study biomedical illustration. Just as she completed her degree, however, she found herself in a controlling relationship that carried her away from her family, her career, and at times, her art.

Leigh spent the following eight years trekking across the United States, at times relocating every six months to a year. When she was able, she used her travels to document the lives of people on the margins of society due to poverty, sexual orientation or addiction.  There were times, however, when she had to keep her brushes, palettes and canvases in storage for months.  

Enter “The Women’s Militia”

Leigh had just started unraveling the ties that bound her during her controlling relationship when she was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome. Overwhelmed by her troubles, she turned to her circle of women friends for support throughout her illness, diagnosis and subsequent surgery.

Here, she found more than support; she found healing and strength. Her experience motivated her to resurrect a  project ─ a portrait series of women in military uniform. The series represents the army of women who came to her aid and powerful women who are soldiers in the women’s movement. Leigh hopes the series will inspire women to connect and create supportive communities.

Creating Community

Leigh credits her new life to the community of women who inspired her with their experiences of overcoming challenges. Here’s her guidance for any woman who wants to find or establish a community of women to call their own:

  1. Find your niche, be it building homes or cooking.
  2. Seek women who share your passion and build your community from there.
  3. Don’t shy away from showing your passion. Your enthusiasm will spark others’ passion and encourage them to join the community.

Jennasis Speaks is a platform that empowers women to safely share their stories, promoting healing and growth through the power of collective vulnerability and acceptance. Believing that “every woman has a story…and every story matters,” founder Jennifer Malcolm hosts a new guest each week to tell her story on the Jennasis Speaks podcast and invites listeners to connect and find their own paths to passion and purpose.


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