Here's something to appreciate: A Nashville-based sculptor, Alan LeQuire, is paying homage to the history of the women's rights movement with a series of lovely sculptures of American suffragists. The series focuses specifically on the role that Tennessee women played in passing the 19th Amendment, which happened (not so long ago) on August 18, 1920. This summer marks the 95th anniversary of the amendment's ratification, which gave women in the U.S. the right to vote. LeQuire's work consists of five life-sized statues, which will become a monument once completed.
One particularly moving and inspiring aspect of the monument is how all five of the women will be depicted as touching one another in some way, either holding hands or gently guiding each other. The women who appear in the monument are Carrie Chapman Catt, Anne Dallas Dudley, Abby Crawford Milton, Frankie Pierce, and Sue Shelton White. These women were all instrumental in the passage of the 19th Amendment in Tennessee, which was the final state needed to ratify it to the U.S. constitution. The monument's base will feature statuettes of three other important political women from the era: Lois DeBerry, Beth Harwell, and Jane Eskind.
The monument will be dedicated on October 27, 2015, and will be placed on the Tennessee Performing Arts Center bridge, which overlooks War Memorial Plaza. This piece holds significance for the world of public art, as well as that of women's history and the women's rights movement. Public art in large U.S. cities overwhelmingly features men, especially when it comes to statues. In Chicago, there are 48 public statues of men, and only one of a (fictional) woman (Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz). New York City's Central Park has a similar problem. Of the 22 historical figures depicted in sculpture in the park, none of them are women. LeQuire's monument will be the first statue depiction of a woman in War Memorial Plaza when it is dedicated later this year.
The group supporting LeQuire, The Tennessee Woman Suffrage Monument, hopes that this will make a difference in the public art gender gap. According to The Tennessean, the group's president, Paula Casey, said: "Public art represents what people think is important. The fact that we don’t already have a statue like this shows people don’t know the story, and we want people to be grateful that this happened in Tennessee.”
LeQuire is currently working to finish this piece in his gallery, where, The Tennessean reports, he is surrounded by photos of the suffragists and replications of attire from the early 1920s, to ensure that every last detail is captured accurately. The unveiling and dedication of the completed monument will not only be a celebration of history, but will also be a historical event itself. Regarding the significance his piece has for the history of women's rights, LeQuire was quoted saying:
I always wanted to do statues of real women. The human body is the ultimate subject for an artist, because it’s the one object that carries meaning for everyone, and this fills a void [of statues of women].