When I was asked to create a quilt for the Deeds Not Words: The Power of Persistence, Celebrating 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage exhibit that is being curated by Pam Weeks (curator of the New England Quilt Museum) and Sandra Sider I was first flattered to be asked and then I was terrified that I wasn’t going to be able to rise to the occasion and create a quilt worthy of the significance of this exhibit. Suffrage is such a big overwhelming subject and to be honest up until now, I’ve never given it much thought nor did I really have a good understanding of the suffrage movement. I know that I can walk into a voting booth and cast my ballot and it counts and really that was about as much thought as I had ever given it. That is, until now….
Because I waited so long to choose what I would focus the subject of my piece on (almost 10 months after I had been asked to make one), the field was already narrowed for me. It was brought to my attention that nobody had chosen Elizabeth Cady Stanton as their focus so I picked her. I’ll be honest, I had no clue who she was but I had no other ideas and so I said sure would make a piece celebrating her. First I had to find out who she was so I pulled up my library app and ordered a bunch of books about her and written by her. I read through them all and once I did I was really happy that she was my subject. She was an amazing woman! I made lots of notes and sketches and narrowed down what elements I wanted to include on my quilt.
A quote of hers – “the right is ours, have it we must, use it we will” really spoke to me and so I wanted it to be a key element on the quilt. I decided I wanted this quilt to be more than just a homage to Elizabeth her fight and the time she lived in because the things she fought for then, we are still fighting for today and this quote is definitely relative to how I am feeling about today’s political landscape and the world we are living in today.
Once I chose the quote I had to find just the right font for it. I auditioned a bunch of them and once I had the one I liked I spent a day cutting the letters out of black fabric which were then laid on the quilt base and fused in place. (more on how I did this in another post)
But the quilt had to be about more than just a quote on a white background. I wanted to include some kind of imagery that represented the long climb from the moment that Elizabeth gave her speech at Seneca Falls in 1848 to the year that Congress finally adopted the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote. So I decided on a ladder that would include a quote from the Declaration of Sentiments that she wrote. She very cleverly expanded on the Declaration of Independence when she wrote the Declaration of Sentiments by adding the word “woman” or “women” throughout it. This pivotal document called for social and legal changes to elevate women’s place in society and listed 18 grievances from the inability to control their wages and property or the difficulty in gaining custody in divorce to the lack of the right to vote. It was a rallying cry for political, social and economic equality for women and it launched the beginning of the women’s suffrage and equal rights movements in the United States.
After all that I have read about her I have no doubt that if Elizabeth Cady Stanton was alive today she would wear a pussy hat proudly even though it would muss up the curls she favored wearing in her hair. She was a formidable women, steadfast in her belief that it was a woman’s right to control her own circumstances and fought tirelessly for it. I mentioned above that I wanted this quilt to be more than just an homage to her and the fight she and so many brave women led at a time that was much different (and in a lot of ways more dangerous for women who dared speak out) than the one we are living in now. I want this quilt to stand for the fight that was and the fight that still is. So I added a silhouette of protestors that represent the women of today that continue the fight for our right to control our own bodies and destinies.
Artist statement: Author, lecturer, feminist and a passionate leader of the woman’s rights and suffrage movements for 50 years, Elizabeth Cady Stanton formulated the agenda for woman’s rights that guided the struggle well into the 20th century. She authored, “The Declaration of Sentiments,” which expanded on the Declaration of Independence by adding the words “and woman” or “ and women” throughout. This pivotal document called for social and legal changes to elevate women’s place in society and listed 18 grievances from the inability to control their wages and own property or the difficulty in gaining custody in divorce to the lack of the right to vote. When she delivered the Declaration of Sentiments in her speech at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention near her home in upstate New York, it served as a rallying cry for political, social and economic equality for women and it launched the beginning of the women’s suffrage and equal rights movements in the United States. She was a formidable woman, steadfast in her belief that it was a woman’s right to control her own circumstances and she fought tirelessly for it. Women today owe her a great debt of gratitude for all she did. It was her courage and conviction to her ideals that paved the way for women today to have the right to be able to stand up and be heard, fight for the right to control our bodies and destinies and to proudly cast our votes in support of our own personal principles, values and ideals.
This exhibit will premier at the National Quilt Museum in 2020 and then travel for two years across the country at various museums and venues. The list of artists making a piece for this exhibit are: Teresa Barkley, Alice Beasley, Sue Bleiweiss, Hollis Chatelain, Shin-hee Chin, Marion Coleman, Sandy Curran, Jennifer Day, Susan Lenz Dingman, Jane Dunnewold, Ree Fagan, Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry, Jayne Gaskins, Patricia Kennedy-Zafred, Jill Kerttula, Pat Kumicich, John Lefelhocz, Patricia Malarcher, Therese May, Pixeladies, Arturo Alonzo Sandoval, Robin Schwalb, Joan Schulze, Susan Shie , Laura Wasilowski, Hope Wilmarth., Martha Wolfe and Adrienne Yorinks
I will post more information about the exhibit and the catalog that will be published by Schiffer Publishing when it becomes available.