Hartford Public Library Celebrates Completion of Suffragette Sculpture
The work by cantonal artist Marilyn Parkinson Thrall is titled “The Art of Perseverance” and will be part of the centre’s permanent collection. It was funded by a Creation of New Work Award from the Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation which the Hartford Public Library received in 2020.
“The Art of Perseverance” gives voice to the thousands of Hartford women who, despite the barriers, registered to vote in this city in October 1920″, said Brenda Miller, executive director of culture and communications at the Hartford Public Library and director of the Hartford History Center. “Sculptor Marilyn Parkinson Thrall, through her research of our extensive archives and working with staff, was inspired by these women. Now her work, in turn, inspires us. Despite the statements in Article 1 and the 14th, 15th and 19th Amendments to the Constitution, maintaining these rights has been a struggle since 1865.”
The sculpture showcases Hartford’s suffragists in many ways. The sash adorning the coin is in the purple and green colors used by Connecticut suffragettes as opposed to the purple and yellow used by their national counterparts. It also includes a seal of the city of Hartford. And the dress is made from reproductions of voter registration cards from some of the first women to register to vote in Hartford that were digitized by the Hartford History Center as part of its award-winning program. October 1920 Exhibition. Cards incorporated into the dress include those of Katharine Martha Houghton Hepburn, the mother of famous actress Katharine Hepburn, as well as Caroline Hewins, who served as the Hartford Public Library‘s chief librarian from 1875 to 1926 and saw the library become transform from a subscription service to a free public library.
“This sculpture is an inspiration to people of all backgrounds, races, creeds, countries of origin, gender identities and abilities,” said Hartford Public Library President and CEO Bridget E. Quinn. “It’s such a testament to the power we have when we come together to do something good.”
Thrall spoke about her research and how she approached creating the piece during a talk at Tuesday’s event. She said she learned that the suffragists’ refined sartorial choices — including high-necked blouses, long skirts, heats and novelty scarves — were intentional so the movement would be taken seriously.
“They actually call it fashion activism,” she said. “The women who were in charge decided ‘Well, first of all, let’s dress as smartly and neatly as possible. We want to present ourselves as professionals, we want to be able to be taken seriously, so let’s start there.’ “
And wearing white, Thrall said, allowed many more people to join the movement because low-income women could more easily wear a white cotton dress than more expensive colored clothes. The dresses also stood out well in black and white photography of the time.
The artwork can be viewed at the Hartford History Center during the center’s normal hours of operation: Monday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. It is accompanied by items from the October 1920 exhibit that will be on display during the rest of the year.
This press release was produced by Hartford Public Library Blogs. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.