Celebrating 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage

August 25, 2020

Detail: Marisol, Women’s Equality, 1975; full image below

From Our Collection

On this day 100 years ago, women gained the right to vote through the certification of the 19th amendment. This was due to the efforts of many, including early activists Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, featured in this print in the Museum’s Collection. Stanton was the main author of the “Declaration of Sentiments” (1848) signed at the first women’s rights convention in the U.S. at Seneca Falls. Along with Susan B. Anthony, she also founded the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869. Mott, another leading voice in the feminist movement of her time, helped to form the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society too.

In this somewhat surreal lithograph, the two activists seen here (Elizabeth Cady Stanton on the left and Lucretia Mott on the right) are represented with vivid colors and in an embrace, depicting their united stance on the 19th Amendment and Women’s Rights. The print was created by the Venezuelan-American artist Marisol in 1975 in celebration of the bicentennial of the United States. Considered a pop artist, Marisol often worked in three-dimensions and was well-known for her commentaries on gender, which she expressed in unique and fanciful ways, such as we see in Women’s Equality.

We have reached out to local artist Tara Cady Sartorius, a member of the same family as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, for her thoughts, read more below.

Reflections from Tara Cady Sartorius

What does it mean to you to share a name with Elizabeth Cady Stanton?

I’d love to think of myself as a strong human (like ECS) who will stick up for human rights and decency. My mother’s last name was Cady and she gave all of her 5 children the same middle name. When someone asks how I am related, I usually reply, “Somehow.” This means that the lineage from ECS is more indirect (more over and down, not directly down) but we both do seem to trace back to Nicholas Cady (England, 1600s) and Cornelius Cady. One thing I know about ECS is that she was determined in her mission, and I am definitely that way, too…only my purpose(s) might change from time to time. When ECS was married she deliberately made them leave out the “obey” part of the vows, and instinctively I did that, too, not knowing refusal to “obey” was a Cady trait! I have always liked having “Cady” as part of my name, partly because it sounds cool between my other two names: perhaps a musical thing. That may be a superficial reason, but it also ties me to some amazing people I love and admire. The Cady side of my family has always been funny (as in good senses of humor), imaginative, independent, and practical.

What do you see in the way the artist Marisol has represented your ancestor and Lucretia Mott?

The serious nature of their faces reveals some hard times, or perhaps a mix of weariness, anger, and frustration. Their faces are monochromatic in a nearly deceptive spectrum of color. The two, in real life, were united in their efforts to abolish slavery, and later for women’s rights. There is absolutely no romanticized femininity in their presence. Marisol plays with the serious nature of their political views and pins the gravity on their faces in a palpable way. A welcome relief from their exhausted and severe expressions can be found in the negative spaces: especially within and between the hands and fingers draped over each other’s shoulders and in a “forever” handshake.

Marisol (American, born France, 1930–2016), Women’s Equality, 1975, from the Kent Bicentennial Portfolio, Spirit of Independence, color lithograph on paper, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Lorillard, a Division of Loews Theatres, Inc., 1976.159, ©2020 Marisol Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Tara Cady Sartorius, Dodecahedron
Tara Cady Sartorius, Passion Flowers

Purple and gold are the colors of suffrage – have you created anything in this palette or related to women’s rights that you could share with us?

Complementary color combinations are wonderful for depicting contrast in any work of art. Purple has been my favorite color for a long time. I try not to overuse it. The pieces I am sharing with you come from two very different times. The Passion Flowers piece (encaustic painting) is one of a series of flower images I created to explore the balance between the real and the imaginary, control and lack of control. If anything, it contains a message about caring for the living environment. The platonic solid (dodecahedron) was created during the pandemic quarantine in a wonderful online class about Islamic Geometric Design with Adam Williamson. I was exploring color relationships, and oddly it does contain a bit of a social message: the silver and green represent male and the gold and purple stand for female. Both need to co-exist to complete the whole dodecahedron. There are places where the delineation is not clear, and that brings in the human connection. Male/female are both human, they both contain a bit of each other, there are many blurred lines of separation, and no one is pure.

What do you think the suffrage slogan “Forward through the Darkness, Forward into Light” means to women today?

Funny you should use that quote. I am fascinated with imagery and visual movement in art that leads from dark to light spaces. We are nowhere near the place we need to be for there to be true gender equality. No woman (and no man, for that matter) should suffer rape or abuse. Until misogyny stops and kindness and caring prevail in our society, we will all remain walking somewhat aimlessly in the dark. Finding and following the direction toward light will take effort from everyone, not just women alone.

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