Anthony and Stanton writing the Nineteenth Amendment is the nucleus, the beginning of the women’s movement. To the side of the authors stands the elder Sojourner Truth, a beacon for the movement. The young Harriet Stanton Blatch represents the future. From them rises the next generation of the movement, the “daughters” who ratified the nineteenth amendment, represented by Ida B. Wells and Alice Paul. Standing on the shoulders of giants, these women were elevated by what came before. From this height, the ratification flag cascades to the innumerable circles that ripple outwards.
Sojourner Truth, an African-American abolitionist and women’s right activist, was among the first voices of the women’s movement. She propelled the movement in its early days because she was willing to speak at time when few women did so. I have depicted her standing on a pulpit to illustrate how she willingly projected her voice against injustices. Her gaze is to the future – to the horizon – looking to a place where women – together – will turn the world “right side up again.” In my composition, I have sculpted her in her early 50’s, around the time she would have delivered her seminal speech, “Ain’t I a Woman?” Within the composition, she is a guardian of the belief that women should have the right to vote.
I used the same iconic photograph of the co-authors of the Declaration of Sentiments as inspiration for Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, but I depicted them at their age at the time of the writing of the Sentiments. The two women are physically connected in the sculpture, forming a unified force that truly speaks of the one-ness of their purpose. Their words, speeches and wisdom launched a worldwide, peaceful revolution. Even today, these two women offer us the courage and the tools to be the stewards of human rights.
At a joint appearance for Hilary Clinton’s campaign, Michelle Obama echoed Stanton’s words: “With every action we take, with every word we utter, we think about the millions of children who are watching us, who hang onto our every word, looking at us to show them who they can and should be.” Just so, Harriet Stanton Blatch hangs on the words of her mother. She has a look of intensity. She feels it. Blatch is nestled between her mother’s hand that holds a pen and foot that breaks the conformities of the base. She holds onto a bonnet, a symbol of the suffragist she will become. Blatch literally grew up during the suffragist movement, and when it was her time, she absorbed the sentiments of her mother’s words: “We’ve got to bring to the President, individually, day by day, week in and week out, the idea that great numbers of women want to be free, will be free.”
Alice Paul and Ida B. Wells are at the peak of the coalescence, one in their mission. Although these two women would not have marched side by side, their juxtaposition at the height of the sculpture, symbolizes their shared vision of equal rights. Neither one of these women would take no for an answer. In the photos of the suffragist women marching, they are wearing elaborate hats, an announcement of their presence in the movement. I have depicted Alice Paul and Ida B. Wells wearing such hats. Both women also hold a flag.
The portrait of Alice Paul is inspired by the photo of her draping the ratification flag with its 36th star over the balcony of the suffrage headquarters in Washington D.C. I chose to depict Paul and this celebratory moment to capture the monumental triumph of the nineteenth amendment, an accumulation of the efforts of thousands of American women. She appears youthful and weightless in this monument, and yet she was militant in her efforts. She dedicated her life to the movement and after the vote continued until her death the work for the equal rights amendment.
Ida B. Wells began her career as an activist at a young age. She fervently rallied against the practice of lynching even with the threat of being lynched herself. Wells was known for using the pen and her voice to battle sexism, racism, and violence. In this sculpture Wells stands proudly with a flag of the United States, representing the hope for justice and the rights of every human being. The open gesture of her hand outstretched to the other women around her in this monument reinforces the invitation to join the cause.