Creating a Legend
The National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) traced the origins of the suffrage movement to a meeting between Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1840. Excluded from an abolition meeting attended by their husbands, the new friends discussed the legal and cultural restrictions on women. Their talk led to the 1848 Declaration of Sentiments, drafted largely by Stanton, which included a demand for enfranchisement.
Beginning with a commission from NAWSA, sculptor Adelaide Johnson created multiple marble busts of the women she called “the trinity.” Johnson believed that the Quaker abolitionist Mott represented spiritual leadership, the prolific writer Stanton intellectual leadership, and organizer and agitator Anthony “vital” leadership of the suffrage movement.
Portrait Monument, the 1920 statue of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucretia Mott, features an unfinished shaft of marble. The artist said it represents women’s rights left to win. The empty surface also calls to mind the women not depicted who should be honored. African American activist C. Delores Tucker urged Congress to alter Portrait Monument to include the women’s contemporary Sojourner Truth. Congress decided instead to commission a new statue of the African American abolitionist and women’s rights activist.
Together we create icons by choosing the women whose lives and contributions we admire and remember. Who do you think is an icon?