After visiting the Elizabeth Freeman Monument, we drove north to Susan B. Anthony's birthplace in Adams, Massachusetts. As I wrote in my previous blog (9/13), Smitty Pignatelli, a state representative, was inspired to erect a statue of Elizabeth Freeman after attending the dedication of the Susan B. Anthony Monument in Adams on June 24, 2021.
Sculptor Brian Hanlon created two Susans for the monument: The 8-foot-tall bronze statue represents her as she delivered the "Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States" at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 4, 1876.
The seated figure represents six-year-old Susan holding a book opened to a page, on which, according to the nearby marker: "She studies the Quaker precepts—simplicity, peace, integrity, equality, and social justice—that formed her core beliefs and fired her activism."
The second paragraph on the marker describes how Susan B. Anthony and four coadjutors interrupted the proceeding at the July 4 centennial celebration for which the planning committee had neglected to plan events that honored women's contributions, or even to include women participants at the gala celebration.
I love this daring and bold incident and wrote about it in my book, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony: A Friendship That Changed the World: After presenting their Declaration to Thomas W. Ferry, vice-president of the United States, the women “went to a platform in front of Independence Hall, where eighty-three-year-old Lucretia Mott presided over a five-hour-long ceremony at which Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other women spoke. The Hutchinson Family sang. Susan B. Anthony read the Declaration while Matilda Joslyn Gage held an umbrella over her head to protect her from the the broiling sun. People applauded as she ended with the words: "We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all the civil and political rights that belong to citizens of the United States, be guaranteed to us and our daughters forever."
The memorials of Elizabeth Freeman and Susan B. Anthony that we visited on the same day are by the same sculptor—Brian Hanlon. Although most of his sculptures feature men, Hanlon, by my count, has created more of the sculptures of historic woman than any other contemporary sculptors. In addition to Freeman and Anthony, he has created statues of Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer, Dorothy Day, and Althea Gibson. Other Hanlon sculptures featuring women are: 1999 Women's World Cup Tribute; Carol Ann Elizabeth Drazba Memorial, one of first two American nurses killed in Vietnam; Jody Conradt Memorial, head basketball coach, University of Texas; and Miss America.
I have been thinking about the role of gender and race and sculptors.
In 2000, there was a furor that the five finalists for the Sojourner Truth Memorial in Northampton, Massachusetts, were all men, chosen from a field of 49 entrants about equally balanced between men and women. Local artists vigorously and successfully protested. “Women Added to Finalists for Abolitionist’s Statue,” read the headline in The New York Times, February 20, 2020, p. 36: “Some of the first set of finalist were not happy. ‘I’m trying to bite my tongue and not say anything negative,” said one of them, Thomas Jay Warren, of Vilas, N.C.”
Adding women did not change the outcome—Thomas Jay Warren’s design was selected.
Warren’s statue of Sojourner Truth was unveiled on October 4, 2002, and I very much like it. I also very much like the Sojourner Truth Memorial, Walkway Over the Hudson, Highland, New York, by Vinnie Bagwell, a Black woman sculptor, that was dedicated twenty years later on February 28, 2022. (Images l-r: Warren's statue, Bagwell's statue)
The issue of a sculptor’s race recently erupted in Philadelphia when the city, without an open call for submissions, commissioned Wesley Wofford, who is white (as is Brian Hanlon), to create a permanent sculpture of Harriet Tubman. (The idea for a permanent Harriet Tubman memorial originated after a well-received visit by Wofford’s Harriet Tubman traveling sculpture “The Journey to Freedom.”) “Philadelphia Asks if Race of Tubman Sculptor Matters,” read the headline of Christopher Kuo’s article in The New York Time, August 30, 2023: Wofford is quoted as saying, “I didn’t have
much of a voice. No one wanted to hear from me.”
Some of Tubman’s relatives released a statement supporting Wofford: “Harriet Tubman worked with people of all races who were like-minded, and Mr. Wofford is like-minded . . .Harriet Tubman stood for people of all races.”
In the end, the city severed its agreement with Wofford and issued an open call. Wofford decided not to compete, but offered a larger version of “Journey to Freedom” at cost, if an alternative was not selected.
Currently the designs of five semi-finalist—3 men and 2 women, all of whom appear to me to be Black—are under consideration. The selection process begins in October.
Here is a link to the five semi-finalists, if you want to weigh in:
Here is a link to the "Declaration of the Rights of the Women of the United States
Regarding photographs on my blog: Unless otherwise indicated all the photographs are taken by me, Penny Colman. If I am in the photo, the credit belongs to Linda Hickson.