Thank you Lieutenant Governor Donahue, Senator Nozzolio, Mayor Jones, Ms. Lynn Rollins, Ms. Jan Caracillo, and all the planners and participants in this program and the other weekend events.
This simple drama depicts an unplanned encounter that took place here --148 years ago. Who could imagine on that spring day in 1851 when Amelia Jencks Bloomer introduced her visiting friend, the young Susan B. Anthony, to Elisabeth Cady Stanton, that this polite social exchange would set the stage for a social revolution. And it all started on these streets, in this village!
It is fitting that we commemorate the moment of their meeting because the powerful alliance that was forged here is one of the remarkable stories of our time.
It is an honor and privilege, yet also a daunting responsibility, to be in the position of interpreter of history. One of the challenges of creating a sculpture like this is to fix in time a particular narrative moment, which involves paring down to an essence that which is most important.
What you see before you is my invention, not a literal reenactment. As a matter of historic and artistic interpretation, my sculpture is a synthesis of many ideas. If I were to list the conceptual components that inspired me, the following would be foremost: gentility, elegance, dignity, strength, confidence, passion and compassion, stubbornness, independence, courage, balance and equality, community, solidarity, beauty, movement, and action.
Given to me as the premise of the commission was the "moment of introduction." The historical record knows a few facts of the occasion, mostly because Stanton wrote about meeting Anthony for the first time in her autobiography:
How well I remember the day! (she wrote) George Thompson and William Lloyd Garrison having announced an anti-slavery meeting in Seneca Falls, Miss Anthony came to attend it. These Gentlemen were my guests. Walking home, after the adjournment, we met Mrs. Bloomer and Miss Anthony on the corner of the street, waiting to greet us. There she stood, with her good earnest face and genial smile, dressed in gray delaine, hat and all the same color, relieved with pale blue ribbons, the perfection of neatness and sobriety. I liked her thoroughly. . .
So we know who was there, and something about the style of clothing worn, but more importantly we sense the great affection Stanton felt toward Anthony from the start. From other accounts, we know that both Bloomer and Stanton were wearing the bloomer costume. Certain facts could be researched or gleaned from the archives such as their various bodily statistics (weight, height, ages, etc.) and this was all respected. Photographs exist but only tell a superficial story and there are only a few from the early days. The great abundance of correspondence between the two is perhaps the richest resource.
I tried to create a sculpture that reflects the humility of these three modest but refined women. The human proportion of the sculpture is intended as an invitation for passersby to join their widening circle. Circularity is a theme itself throughout the sculpture and appears in various forms – the shape of Bloomer’s hat, the ovular base, the linear flow of the arms suggesting a figure eight; symbol of continuity.
Each figure is in the process of moving and they are physically moving toward the center with Bloomer as the active catalyst that bridges the two main players. She speaks (!), a symbol of women’s voice, as she makes the introduction. The idea of movement was key for its metaphorical value and the formal visual dynamic that it creates.
There are some other symbolic objects and concepts in the work: the book Stanton is holding represents her keen intellect. She is without hat and wears a loosely draped shawl. These can be understood as subtle non-conformities consistent with her rebellious character. Her bare arms and hands refer to a rolling-up-of-the-sleeve mentality and are indicative of her direct and enduring leadership in partnership with Anthony.
Anthony moves briskly and proudly, which is suggestive of her role in the campaign as the high profile and public face of the Women’s Movement. Her left hand holds the glove taken off of her right outstretched hand. Their imminent connection is to be flesh to flesh with all the warmth that human contact can have. I felt this was important, though perhaps, unlikely in a proper greeting of the day. The physical touch is preceded by a steady visual gaze between the two, foreseeing a relationship that would last more than fifty years.
The central hands are the focal point of the sculpture. Capturing the instant "before" places the viewer in the presence of the essential moment. As a visual device, it creates tension and anticipation where past, present, and future are all rolled into one. It lends energy to the work because it forces us to play out the scenario in our mind's eye. What I have attempted to emphasize is balance, equality, harmony, and unity.
For me, the messages in the sculpture are simple but important: the power to control one’s destiny is within reach. All women and men are created equal and are entitled to equal treatment under the law. By working together we can exceed our highest standard. And finally, in the words of Susan B. Anthony, "Failure is impossible!"
What these women stood for, and indeed continue to stand for, helps us to define our place in history. If we consider time as a linear progression where small steps create pathways and pathways lead to highways, then today we pause for a mere instant to place a historic marker at the scenic overlook along that highway of history. However, this history is not fully written and therefore the work of these remarkable pioneering women is not yet complete.
We must keep their life’s work and memory alive. Hence we are here today and I thank you all for coming.
"When Anthony Met Stanton" Dedication Remarks
October 15, 1999