On February 15, 2017 at 7 pm, celebrate Susan B. Anthony’s 196th Birthday with a book launch at Lake Flower Landing (421 Lake Flower Avenue) in Saranac Lake.
Sandra Weber’s new book, The Woman Suffrage Statue: A History of the Portrait Monument to Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in the U.S. Capitol (McFarland & Company, 2016), recounts the jubilation, condemnation, and hullabaloo surrounding the Portrait Monument to Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.
The neoclassical work of art seemed destined to provoke controversy; it was an unconventional form with a strange unfinished appearance, composed of portraits of real women and a mysterious fourth hump, and inscribed with a provocative message.
From its conception by sculptor Adelaide Johnson as separate busts in the 1890s, there was little hope of getting marble portraits of women into the United States Capitol; Congressmen didn’t want women — real or marble — “puttering around” on the hill. Years later the National Woman’s Party commissioned Adelaide Johnson to sculpt new versions of the three busts and place them atop a large pedestal. The eccentric, passionate artist decided to merge the busts and pedestal into one large, group sculpture, an extremely difficult and risky task. Despite earthquakes, labor strikes, and quirky accidents at her studio in Carrara, Italy, Johnson completed the monument and placed it aboard an ocean-liner on January 1, 1921.
Though women had the vote, it was still no easy task getting a woman’s statue into the Capitol. First, a Congressional committee labeled it ugly, calling it “three women in a bathtub.” Finally convinced to accept it, the seven-ton monument had to be moved up the steps and into the Rotunda. It did not fall through the floor as predicted, but it rested in its rightful place of honor for only one day. For the next 76 years, it was relegated to the Crypt.
Women’s groups traditionally held celebrations at the statue on February 15th, Susan B. Anthony’s birthday. The statue was often neglected or misrepresented by Capitol guides. Even worse, the inscription on the back was erased. It was finally relocated to the prestigious Rotunda amidst hostile political battles and tricky maneuvering up a narrow staircase.
The statue is the national symbol of the woman’s movement. In her book about it, Weber also speaks to larger issues of woman’s rights/human rights. She brings new perspectives and new voices to women’s history, intermingling stories of art and activism for both the famous and the forgotten.
For more information, contact Karen Davidson, [email protected] 917-887-6342 or Sandra Weber at [email protected] 518-873- 1137