Out of the Broom Closet and into the
by Susan Brandell
When it was presented
to the U. S. Capitol in 1921, the "Portrait
Monument" represented to sculptor Adelaide
Johnson and the members of the National
Women's Party a breakthrough of the
feminist spirit into the all-male enclave
of the old order. A gala ceremony, including
a pageant of 50 women's organizations,
celebrated the milestone in the Rotunda.
But within two days,
the statue - which captures the images
of suffrage pioneers Lucretia Mott,
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B.
Anthony - was banished to a basement
broom closet. The "all-male Congress
did not want these radical women" in
the Rotunda, says Joan Meacham, co-chair
of the Woman Suffrage Statue Campaign
that seeks to return the monument to
its intended place of honor.
With its gold-gilt inscription
whitewashed to make it unreadable, the
monument was stashed next to buckets
and brooms, unseen, until 1963 when
the room, renamed the Crypt, was renovated
for public access. Even today, the statue,
sculpted from an eight-ton block of
marble from Carrara, Italy, is positioned
so that our foremothers' names are hidden
Organizers of last year's
75th Anniversary of Suffrage
celebration planned to have the monument
moved back to the Rotunda for the observance,
and legislation in the Senate approved
the move unanimously in July 1995. Stalled
in the House until October, however,
the legislation found an opponent in
Representative Sue Myrick, who objected
to using public money for the $75,000
Undaunted, despite the
inequity (it was public money that paid
for the monument's original banishment,
Meacham says), the committee is raising
private funds to finance the move. About
two-thirds of the total has been raised:
"We are encouraged," Meacham says, "but
we still have work to do."
If the House doesn't
pass the resolution to move the monument
before the end of this legislative session
(December 1996), The resolution will
have to be reintroduced in the Senate
next session. In other words, it is
back to square one.
Meacham says this is
the fourth attempt to move the statute;
three prior resolutions died in committee.
This struggle has now taken as long
as it took to get suffrage in the first
place. As we near the end of this century
that brought us the right to vote, and
much more, we are sharply reminded that,
while we have come a long way, indeed,
we aren't there yet.
So, this year celebrate
Women's Equality Day, August
26 - the anniversary of ratification
of the 19th Amendment, by supporting
the cause to return our foremothers
to their rightful place in our Capitol,
and our history.
Write of your outrage
to this delay to
House Speaker Newt Gingrich and
the congresswomen leading the pack against
the statue legislation:
Sue Myrick (R-NC);
Linda Smith (R-Wash.);
Helen Chenoweth (R-Ind.); Nancy
Johnson (R-Conn.). Thank Sen.
John Warner (R-VA) for his strong
support of the effort.
And send a check to the:
Woman Suffrage Statue Campaign
303 West Glendale Ave.
Alexandria, VA 22301.
For more information, call co-chairs
Joan Meacham (602) 924-5847 or Karen
Staser (703) 299-0552.