Massachusetts State House24 Beacon Street, Downtown Crossing, Boston, MA
Hear Us, a bas relief mural by Sheila Levrant de Bretteville and Susan Sellars, 1996 is on the Second Floor South, outside Doric Hall.
In 1996, after recognizing that the State House art collection was sorely lacking in images of women, the Massachusetts legislature authorized a work of art to honor the contributions of women to public life in Massachusetts. Installed just outside Doric Hall, the work depicts six women, five of whom were actively involved in the suffrage movement: Florence Luscomb (1887-1985); Mary Kenney O’Sullivan (1864-1943); Sarah Parker Remond (1814-1894); Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin (1842-1924; see #12); and Lucy Stone (1818-1893; see #2, 9, 18, 21).
Florence Luscomb, one of the first women to graduate from MIT with a degree in architecture, was a leading Massachusetts suffragist, organizing events, selling journals, and going on the lecture circuit. Luscomb was also a leader in the peace movement, in campaigns for prison reform and factory safety and, eventually, an early activist against the Vietnam War. She served as executive secretary of the Boston Equal Suffrage Association for Good Government. (BESAGG) (see Stop #20).
Mary Kenney O’Sullivan worked as a bookbinder in Missouri and Illinois before becoming a full-time labor organizer. When she moved to Boston, she and her husband both worked and lived for a time at Denison House, a settlement house on Tyler Street. In 1903, she was one of the principal founders of the National Women’s Trade Union League. A strong supporter of woman suffrage, she wrote a circular which was distributed by the National American Woman Suffrage Association called “Why Working Women Need the Vote,” arguing that if women had the right to vote they would get equal pay for equal work.
Sarah Parker Remond, primarily known as a dynamic abolitionist lecturer, also campaigned for woman suffrage. Born in Salem to a family committed to abolition, Remond was thrown out of the Howard Athenaeum after refusing to sit in segregated seating, and later brought a successful suit against the theater. After the Civil War, Remond campaigned for the vote on behalf of women and African Americans. Eventually she became a doctor, practicing in Florence, Italy, for twenty years.
Remond’s sister, Caroline Remond Putnam (1826-1908), attended the founding meeting of the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association, served on its executive board, and was an active member the New England Women’s Club. She joined her sister as an expatriate in Italy.
The sixth woman in the mural, Dorothea Dix (1802-1887), was an activist for the mentally ill and the Superintendent of Nurses during the Civil War.
Nurses Hall, Clara Barton Marker
Clara Barton (1821-1912) was a pioneering nurse during the Civil War when she became known as the “Angel of the Battlefield.” After the war, she founded and ran the Office of Missing Soldiers and, in 1881, established the American Red Cross. She was a strong supporter of the woman suffrage movement, perhaps because of experiences in her early life, including an instance when she resigned from a teaching job when the school hired a man at twice her salary. Another instance of unfair treatment occurred when she worked for the U.S. Patent Office. After initially earning the same salary as the men in the office, her position and pay were later reduced because her boss did not believe women should work in government.
Front steps, Beacon Street, Arrest of Suffragists, February 24, 1919
President Woodrow Wilson arrived in Boston by ship on February 23, 1919, on his return from the Paris Peace Conference at the end of World War I. The City of Boston planned a huge parade to welcome him the next day. Although President Wilson had come out in favor of the vote for women, people working for woman suffrage thought he was not doing enough to convince members of Congress to make it happen. Members of the National Woman’s Party (NWP) decided to picket in front of the viewing stand at the State House where the parade would pass. The police arrived, warning the picketing women to leave. When they refused, nineteen women, including Betty Gram Swing (see #14), were arrested and taken to jail.
Katharine Morey (1891-?), prominent along with her mother Agnes Morey (1869-1924) in the leadership of the Massachusetts branch of the NWP, was arrested here as well and sentenced to eight days in jail. Previously, in 1917, she was among the first women jailed in Washington D.C. for picketing the White House. Her mother, who had participated in the “Suffrage Special” tour, an attempt to defeat President Wilson’s 1916 bid for reelection, also was arrested and served time in the notorious Occoquan Workhouse for demonstrating in front of the White House.
Woman’s Journal5 Park Street, Downtown Crossing, Boston, MA