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Susan B. Anthony Plaque

Susan B. Anthony, plaster, Diameter: 6 ¼ in. (medallion only). Fenimore Art Museum Research Library, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Horace Moses, Fenimore Art Museum Research Library Collection, N0031.1976.

Pick up any quarter and look at it. The back may be different depending on the year it was minted, but the front always depicts George Washington with a staunch look and stiff upper lip.  This portrayal of the staunch and stiff bust is represented not only on coins and for men but is also shown for women and artwork. A fine example of this can be seen on a white plaster plaque depicting Susan B. Anthony’s profile. [1] This white plaque is set within a square frame, a yellow-brown velvet mat with a glass covering and is preserved by the Fenimore Art Museum Research Library, in Cooperstown, New York. [2] Having Susan B. Anthony depicted in this fashion, like George Washington on a quarter, represents how prestigious her image was to the public and federal government history.

The first indication of this representation is the color that was used for the plaque. Even though plaster can easily be painted over, this piece was left in its clean white state. In a bust artwork like this one, usually, marble is used. However, the plaster may have been used instead because it is well suited to capturing detail like human features. [3] Art historian Charmaine A. Nelson, writes how the use of pink marble or added tints made human sculptures look like realistic Euro-American skin, which could spark sensual and even sexual reactions from male viewers. White, however, created a harsh contrast compared to pink marble because it “guarded against the threat of flesh.” [4] By having the plaster kept white, this took away the sexual features of Susan B. Anthony’s femininity and replaced it with a more serious tone. This harsh cold color helps the nation “manifest political and cultural cohesion,” an important element to neoclassicism and the suffrage movement. [5] By removing the sexual connotations of the pink color scheme, this plaque forces us to focus on the issues of suffrage and not the fact that Susan B. Anthony was a woman in a political realm. [6]

This plaque is similar to a Susan B. Anthony dollar coin that was minted in 1979. By having this coin minted, it represented how Susan B. Anthony’s contribution to women’s suffrage was highly valued by federal institutions like the Department of the Treasury. [7] Even though this coin was discontinued after two years, the plaque described before shows how not everyone in the public disliked the representation. In fact, with its protective glass casing and fancy velvet decor, this plaque represents how some people had great reverence for Susan B. Anthony being a role model for leadership. [8]

Because of Susan B. Anthony’s work in the suffrage movement, she was proven to be a leader to the public and the federal government. This representation can be seen in the plaque because of the color that was used and the bust illustration that was fashioned.  Susan B. Anthony’s representation here shows how girls can that run the world.

By: Brielle Cameron

[1] Susan B. Anthony was a famous suffragist during the late 19th century to the early 20th century.

[2] Susan B. Anthony, plaster, Diameter: 6 ¼ in. (medallion only). Fenimore Art Museum Research Library, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Horace Moses, Fenimore Art Museum Research Library Collection, N0031.1976.

[3] Sally M. Promey, “Chalkware, Plaster, Plaster of Paris,” Yale Center for the Study of Material & Visual Cultures of Religion, http://mavcor.yale.edu/conversations/reflections-on-medium/chalkware-plaster-plaster-paris#End2 (accessed March 26, 2017).

[4] Charmaine A. Nelson, “White Marble, Black Bodies and the Fear of the Invisible Negro: Signifying Blackness in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Neoclassical Sculpture,” RACAR: Revue D’art Canadienne/Canadian Art Review 27, no. 1/2 (2000), http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.depaul.edu/ stable/42631206 (accessed March 26, 2017), 89.

[5] Ibid., 88-89.

[6] Rosa Gallagher, “Profiles in Plaster: Susan B. Anthony in U.S. Women’s Suffrage,” Cooperstown Graduate Program, (Cooperstown, New York: Cooperstown Graduate Program, 2017), 3.

[7] Ibid., 4.

[8] Michael J. Lewis, “Of Kitsch and Coins,” Commentary 108, no. 3 (October 1999), 32. ezproxy.depaul.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=2336350&site=ehost-live&scope=site (accessed March 26, 2017).

At a glance, this suffragette sash held by the Fenimore Art Museum, is but one of many surviving examples of a national movement for women’s suffrage in the United States. However, while the sash features the colors purple and white, universally used in the American suffrage movement, the third color, which makes up the second stripe along the edge of the sash, appears to be a faded green. The inclusion of green in lieu of the typical gold, departs from the tricolor iconic of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. It is this differentiation in the color of the sash that signifies a movement for women’s suffrage in the United States divided not only by usage of the colors gold and green but a militancy of tactics.

n01471945(02)

Sash, 1910-1920. New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Rebecca Clark, N0147.1945 (02).

Gold became associated with the movement for women’s suffrage in the United States beginning with Elizbeth Cady Stanton and Susan S. Anthony’s use of the colors in a campaign to pass a suffrage referendum in Kansas in 1867. Soon after, suffragists of the National American Woman Suffrage Association led by Susan B. Anthony rallied gold pins, ribbons, sashes, and yellow roses to their cause declaring “the more who wear it, the greater our strength will be.”[1]

Juxtaposing the use of gold by more moderate organizations, were the colors of purple, white, and green synonymous with the women’s suffrage movement in the United Kingdom and the militant Woman’s Social and Political Union.[2] This British tricolor was adopted by certain suffrage organizations within the United States including Harriot Stanton Blatch’s Women’s Political Union and other American suffrage organizations to signify the militancy they shared with their British counterparts.[3] The tendency of these militant organizations for violent protest led more moderate groups to disassociate themselves from such tactics through the adoption of an American tricolor similar in the inclusion of purple and white with green replaced by gold.[4]

Purple, white, and gold began to feature prominently in suffrage campaigns across the United States and soon became associated with the American women’s suffrage movement as a whole.[5] So ostracized was the color green within the American women’s suffrage movement, when Alice Paul’s more radical National Women’s Party declared its official colors in 1913, they included purple, white and the American gold in lieu the color green.[6] The “Votes for Women” sash with its inclusion of the color green and exclusion of the more iconic gold represents an allegiance of the wearer to a level of militancy generally dissociated with the movement for women’s suffrage in the United States through the exclusion of green from the American tricolor.

By Conner A. Wolfe

[1] “An Introduction to the Woman’s Suffrage Movement,” National Women’s History Museum, accessed March 26, 2017, https://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/votesforwomen/exhibit_text.html.

[2] Ibid.

[3] National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center. “Woman Suffrage Votes Sash.” Americanhistory.si.edu. Accessed February 6, 2017, http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_509474.

[4] Florey, Kenneth. Women’s Suffrage Memorabilia: An Illustrated Historical Study (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2013), 80.

[5] Lacroix, Allison. “The National Woman’s Party and the Meaning behind Their Purple, White, and Gold Textiles” NationalWomensParty.org. Accessed February 6, 2017. http://nationalwomansparty.org/the-national-womans-party-and-the-meaning-behind-their-purple-white-and-gold-textiles/

[6] Ibid.

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“Our Bugler Girl carries her bugle and her banner; her sword is sheathed by her side; it is there, but not drawn, and if it were drawn, it would not be the sword of the flesh, but of the spirit. For ours is not a warfare against men, but against evil; a war in which women and men fight together.”[1]

Bugler Girl Button

Campaign Pin, 1910-1920. New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Rebecca Schenck Clark, N0319.1950 (06). Photograph by Melissa Nunez.

 

This pin, dated between 1914-1917, is a small object packed with symbolic meaning for the suffrage movement in the twentieth century.  It tells the story of the militant side of the movement through imagery and color, and would have marked the wearer as a radical suffragette. Mass produced by the Ehrmann Manufacturing Company in Boston, Massachusetts[2], the pin features the image of the Bugler Girl, an armor clad woman, sword hanging from her belt, and a bugle pressed to her mouth to trumpet the call for women’s equality and voting rights.

The Bugler Girl was adopted as a symbol of suffrage by those who were looking for an assertive, active model for women in the movement. The Bugler Girl was the antithesis of the domestic woman. Far from the passive role women were confined to, the Bugler Girl was ready for battle, disrupting the status quo with her trumpet blasts calling for change. Though her image is war-like, the above quote demonstrates that violent protest and a war against men is not what the movement called for. Rather, the sword represented the commitment to the struggle, and the recognition that women would not be passive actors in the movement.

In the U.S., the Women’s Political Union was known for its militant ideals and strategies. Founded in 1907 as the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women, the organization had strong ties with working class women, and with its predecessor and English counterpart, the Women’s Social and Political Union.[3] Known for its aggressive tactics and protests, the English organization became a model for the WPU in America. Eventually, not only the organization’s name, but its colors were adopted. Unlike other U.S. suffrage organizations that used a white, purple and yellow color scheme, the WPU used white, purple and green to differentiate itself and align itself with the ideals and tactics of its English predecessor. Yet, the colors still showed solidarity with the suffrage movement overall.

The Bugler Girl pin boasts these colors in conjunction with the image of a woman at war, calling out for “Votes for Women.” As a mass produced, wearable object, this pin, with its color scheme and imagery, would have marked its wearer as a radical, active, and militant suffragette, with ideals that matched those of the WPU and a desire to carry on the rallying cry of the Bugler Girl.

By Melissa Nunez

 

[1] Crawford, Elizabeth. “The Bugler Girl”. womanandhersphere.com. https://womanandhersphere.com/tag/the-bugler-girl/. 2011.

[2]   Florey, Kenneth. Women’s Suffrage Memorabilia. 1st ed. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. 2013. 128

[3] Trueman, C.N. “Women’s Social and Political Union”. History Learning Site. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/the-role-of-british-women-in-the-twentieth-century/womens-social-and-political-union/. 2016