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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.

Bust of Susan B. Anthony by Adelaide Johnson, 1890s

Gift of Elizabeth Johnson Cristal

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Bust of Lucretia Mott by Adelaide Johnson, 1890s

Gift of Elizabeth Johnson Cristal

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Bust of Elizabeth Cady Stanton by Adelaide Johnson, 1890s

Gift of Elizabeth Johnson Cristal

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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?

Portrait Monument by Adelaide Johnson, 1920

Portrait Monument by Adelaide Johnson, 1920

The National Woman’s Party (NWP) commissioned sculptor Adelaide Johnson to create a statue based on her busts of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucretia Mott. It was briefly displayed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in 1921; it was then out of sight in the Capitol crypt, until 1997, when it was moved back to the rotunda.

Courtesy of Architect of the Capitol

Sojourner Truth by Artis Lane, 2009

Sojourner Truth by Artis Lane, 2009

Sojourner Truth was a captivating speaker for abolition and women’s rights. In 1850 she spoke at the first national women’s rights convention where women demanded full equality with men. Truth also demanded equality with white women. Her bust is displayed in Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center. It is the first statue in the Capitol of an African American woman.

Courtesy of Architect of the Capitol