BOARDMAN — Artwork commemorating the passage of the 19th Amendment is on display at the Davis family YMCA in Boardman through the end of November.
The exhibit gives local residents a chance to see the three-part mural before it travels to Columbus, where it will adorn the walls of the Ohio Supreme Court.
“People don’t know these ladies weren’t given the vote, they won it,” said local artist and Johnson and Johnson law firm’s senior partner, attorney Nils Paul Johnson Jr.
Johnson, of Canfield, said he was a member of a commission overseeing the Supreme Court building in Columbus and that the commission wanted to improve the building’s iconography, which primarily depicted the achievements of white men.
“When I joined the Commission, I said, ‘We need to expand the narrative,'” Johnson said.
The group decided to focus on women’s struggles, emphasizing that four of the seven justices currently sitting on the Ohio Supreme Court — a majority — are women.
Johnson used the local judges as models to complete the mural. A dedication ceremony will be held Thursday at the Columbus Supreme Court in the presence of Johnson and his family.
Panel one of the mural is a recreation of women pro-suffrage demonstrations in 1912, shown outside the Mahoning County Courthouse.
Reenactors include 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Carol Robb; Youngstown City Judge Carla Baldwin; Sharon Roncone Velasquez; Mahoning District Court, Canfield Judge Molly Johnson; Cheryl Waite, Judge, 7th Circuit Court of Appeals; Darla Pensa; Katherine Garlick, professor at Youngstown State University; Mahoning County Court of Common Pleas Juvenile Division Judge Theresa Dellick; and Kathleen Johnson.
Historical accuracy was achieved with the help of Youngstown State University’s theater department, which provided period costumes, and by choosing the Mahoning County Courthouse (built 1911) as the backdrop. The phrase “Votes for Women” and the colors purple and gold are also historically accurate hallmarks of the movement.
The struggle, which culminated in women’s electoral victory, lasted many decades. The first women’s rights convention was held in New York State in 1848. It declared men to be monopolized profitable occupations, denied women a thorough education, and thus prevented “roads to wealth and distinction.”
Before the Civil War, many Northern women took part in the abolition movement, and some said that the growing awareness of the injustices faced by women was fueled by this struggle. However, the women’s rights movement was drowned out by the Civil War and subsequent struggle for the 14th and 15th amendments. The campaign for women’s suffrage lost momentum.
Shortly after the turn of the 19th century, the early movement’s stalwart leaders, such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, died and a new generation of leaders emerged.
The second panel depicts a 1920 parade in New York City celebrating the passing of the 19th Amendment by Congress and ratification by the states.
In the lower right corner, Alice Paul, one of the most important women’s liberation leaders of the 20th century, toasts the revelers. She was a Quaker from New Jersey who, while graduating in England, became an active lieutenant in the suffragette movement in Britain, where she was repeatedly arrested, imprisoned and ill-treated.
Returning to the States in 1910, she started the publication The Suffragist and soon organized a national protest parade in Washington, DC, to be held the day before President Wilson’s inauguration in 1912. She was denied a parade permit and had to encourage senators’ wives to engage in “pillow talk” to be allowed to march.
The police in the capital showed no understanding and only turned away 100 officers to check 500,000 people. As the parade began, the women were crowded together, many were mistreated, and mounted militia had to be called in to complete the parade. The tension with the police is reflected in the panel by the policeman in the lower left corner clutching his baton.
Paul also founded the “Silent Sentinels,” female protesters who maintained a non-stop vigil outside the White House, standing still while holding signs. More than 500 were arrested over many months, including Paul, who the artist says was detained and force-fed while she went on a hunger strike.
Ohio played a prominent role in the struggle for the woman’s voice, which was attended by many black Ohioans. Harriet Taylor Upton of Warren was the treasurer of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Their Warren home, now a historic landmark, served as the group’s national headquarters from 1903-1910.
Upton House provided Johnson with research materials while he worked on the mural, he said.
FULL CIVIL RIGHTS
A third plaque shows the result of the attainment of full civil rights for women. Pictured are all the women justices who have served on the Ohio Supreme Court since 1923. The first woman in office, Florence Allen, is said to have been considered by President Harry Truman for nomination to the US Supreme Court.
Johnson said creating the panel was a challenge because he had to use historical and current photos, some of which were in black and white and many with different lighting.
Pictured are the four female judges currently seated, with Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor in the center of the front row.
Staff writer Allie Vugrincic contributed to this story.