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Washington, DC—In celebration of the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment, the National Endowment for the Arts announced today its publication of a new book that probes how the arts fueled the fight for the women’s suffrage. Titled Creativity and Persistence: Art that Fueled the Fight for Women’s Suffrage, the book features 117 images and explores how poetry, song, editorial cartoons, posters, and postcards helped rally support for the suffrage movement and gave women new tools to make their voices heard.
“The arts have a unique ability to serve as a rallying cry, with the profound power to disseminate complex messages across large audiences in a common, easy to understand manner that inspires people in a way few other things can,” said Mary Anne Carter, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. “This book commemorates how the arts were used to change the image of women in America and the narrative about the importance of their full participation in society and politics. The arts were critical to the ultimate success of the women’s suffrage movement.”
Pam Breaux, president, and CEO of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies said, “Women and the arts alike have had a profound influence on American public life. It’s important to understand, cherish, and celebrate that influence as part of our past. But it’s also crucial fuel for the future. I hope this project can inspire young women and young artists to nourish our democracy, find common cause, and continue the journey toward a society that values all—for today and tomorrow.”
Some of the artists chronicled in Creativity and Persistence include:
- An important early poet and orator, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s work addressed slavery, being Black in America, and suffrage. In her poem, “Aunt Chloe’s Politics” about voting amidst political machinations, she wrote, “And this buying up each other/Is something worse than mean,/Though I thinks a heap of voting,/I go for voting clean.”
- Painter Evelyn Rumsey Cary created a dramatic image of a young woman in a classical setting whose fingers grow into tree branches and whose legs extend into roots. Below her is the Biblical quote, “Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her own works praise her in the gates.” Cary’s painting was widely reproduced in posters, pamphlets, and magazine covers.
- Lou Rogers was one of the most notable of the early woman cartoonists, and one of the first to make a career in her artform. Her many cartoons depicted strong women, such as a welder forging the missing link of voting into a chain of women’s responsibilities or a woman vacuuming up “old fogie notions about suffrage.”
In addition to Creativity and Persistence, the Arts Endowment is producing an issue of its American Artscape magazine devoted to projects supported by seven of the 84 grants the agency awarded in 2020 that celebrate the women’s suffrage centennial. For example:
- StageOne Family Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky for a production of Lawbreakers!, an original play for young audiences. The play begins at the Akron Women’s Rights Convention of 1851 and traces the women’s suffrage movement through the stories of prominent suffragists and abolitionists such as Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Angelina Weld Grimké, and Alice Paul. The play premiered on February 1, 2020.
Also, the agency is partnering with the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Committee (WSCC) on two upcoming projects.
- The Arts Endowment is encouraging arts organizations to participate in WSCC’s Forward Into Light, a nationwide illumination of buildings in the colors of the suffrage movement white, purple and gold on the evening of August 26, the centennial day,
- The Arts Endowment and WSCC are also joining forces with the six regional arts organizations to fund suffrage-themed mural projects in each of the regions. More information on that is forthcoming.
All materials, events, and activities are in the women’s suffrage section of the Arts Endowment website.
Join the Twitter conversation at #womensvote100 and tag @NEAarts.