Chairman's Corner: August 27, 2020
Jo Reed: I'm Josephine Reed from the National Endowment for the Arts with The Chairman's Corner, a weekly podcast with Mary Anne Carter, Chairman of the Arts Endowment. This is where we'll discuss issues of importance to the arts community and a whole lot more.
This week, we continue our conversation about Creativity and Persistence. The book that the National Endowment for the Arts published to mark the 100th Anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment. And there was so much to talk about we had to have a two-part podcast, didn't we, Mary Anne?
Mary Anne Carter: We did, yes. We could probably make it a five-part series. <laughter>
Jo Reed: So tell us a little bit more about the book.
Mary Anne Carter: So the book, of course, is titled Creativity and Persistence, Art that Fueled the Fight for Women's Suffrage. The book explores how poetry, song, editorial cartoons, posters, postcards, fashion-- all of those things helped rally support for the Suffrage Movement. And gave women new tools to make their voices heard.
Jo Reed: Well, of course, I'm really interested in some more of your favorite moments from the book.
Mary Anne Carter: So a lot of favorite moments, but I want to talk about two facets today of the book. They're not dominant themes, but they're really interesting and important, especially for the time. What is it, long before August 26, 1920 when the 19th Amendment as certified to the U.S. Constitution, 11 States, mostly in the West had already given women the right to vote. The first State to allow women the right to vote wasn't even a State at the time, it was the Territory of Wyoming. And women were able to vote there beginning in 1869, followed by the Territory of Utah a year later. And then as they became States, they continued their support of Women's Suffrage.
Jo Reed: I'm glad you brought this up, because this is something that I learned this year. I honestly did not know that millions of women were voting before the passage of the 19th Amendment, and that Women's Suffrage really moved from West to the East.
Mary Anne Carter: It did, and there's a great iconic image in the book called The Awakening. And it shows all the States in the West that already had the right to vote, and Lady Liberty is marching across the country from West to East, and you can just see the symbolism of women on the East Coast thinking, "If them, why not me?"
Jo Reed: Exactly.
Mary Anne Carter: And so I just love that piece. But the Suffragists on the East Coast, they really looked to the Western States for inspiration, and they were celebrated in posters and postcards and other illustrations. And I'll give you two examples. One is an artist named Nina Allender, she was one of the most important Suffrage cartoonists of the early 20th Century. She produced more than 200 cartoons for Suffragist Magazine, including my favorite Victory, which I chose for the cover of the book. And another of her cartoons is called Wise Women of the West, and it shows three women standing before the U.S. Capitol, which is below a blazing star that looks very much like the Star of Bethlehem, and instead of bearing gold and frankincense and myrrh, the women bring Loyalty, Power and Courage to Washington. And I think that's a really significant image.
Jo Reed: Speaking of images… It’s interesting the way the Suffragists used symbols, and especially heraldic and classical symbols in their artwork.
Mary Anne Carter: A lot of different symbols. Religious symbols were used, but also heraldic symbols. Classical styles like women in Grecian dresses, with laurels in the hair and sandals on their feet. And classical settings, such as a colonnaded garden, connected the artwork visually to the authority and grandeur of Ancient Greece. Another good example in the book is Evelyn Rumsey Cary's dramatic painting Women's Suffrage, that features a young woman in classical dress in front of a peach portico supported by columns, and the woman's fingers grow into tree branches, and legs extend into roots. And the painting harkens to the Greek story of Daphne and Apollo, in which Daphne turns herself into a tree to escape the unwanted romantic intentions of Apollo. And you know, especially back in that time period, these heraldic symbols were enormously popular. Think of tall standards with waving banners atop, or Suffragettes calling their compatriots with long trumpets, or sitting astride horses that are bedecked with splendid regalia. And of course, Joan of Arc! That 15th Century girl warrior was a fascination in turn of the Century America. And the Suffragists found that she was an excellent metaphor for their own woman warriors.
Jo Reed: And, Mary Anne, we do have to talk about the audiobook that we produced of Creativity and Persistence.
Mary Anne Carter: Yes! <claps> So we're very proud to be able to offer Creativity and Persistence as an audiobook. The narrator is Julia Whelan. She is the voice of over 400 audiobooks. And she was actually recently named one of Audiophile Magazine's "Golden Voices." She's won numerous other awards, including the "2019 Best Female Narrator Audie" for Tara Westover's Educated.
Jo Reed: That's like the Academy Award of audiobooks. <laughs>
Mary Anne Carter: Yes! Absolutely. So we're very pleased to get her, Jo, I know at the end of this podcast, you're going to let all the listeners know how they can download a copy of the book, or listen to it on audio. But I just want to encourage all of our listeners to take the opportunity to read about the history of the arts and how it pertained to Women's Suffrage. And I'm just so pleased we are able to offer this to the American public.
Jo Reed: And I think that is a great place to leave it, Mary Anne.
Mary Anne Carter: Thank you, Jo!
Jo Reed: Thank you! And we’re taking a break from the podcast next week—and will pick back up on September 10. I hope you have a really great Labor Day!
Mary Anne Carter: Thank you, you, too!
Jo Reed: That was Mary Anne Carter Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Check out arts.gov for a PDF of Creativity and Persistence and the audiobook of Creativity and Persistence narrated by Julia Whelan and while you’re there take a look at the latest issue of American Artscape which focuses on arts’ projects that celebrate women’s suffrage and equality. It’s all at arts.gov.
For the National Endowment for the Arts, I’m Josephine Reed. Stay safe and thanks for listening.
Music Credit: “Renewal” composed and performed by Doug Smith from the cd The Collection.
In the second of a two-part podcast, the chairman shares some of her favorite moments from the Arts Endowment’s recently published book Creativity and Persistence: Art that Fueled the Fight for Women's Suffrage.