Tag Archives: pictorial quilts

Suffragette Movement: Lucy Burns on Women’s Work

Lucy Burns (1879-1966)

Lucy Burns on the quilt Women's Work, stands in the foreground holding a sign in front of her that reads "Votes for Women". She wears a white dress with a blue stripe sailor collar.

Lucy Burns, voting rights activist.

Lucy Burns, a key figure in the Suffragette Movement, appears on the Women’s Work Quilt at the very front, holding a large protest sign that reads, “VOTES FOR WOMEN”.  She was a dynamic force in the National Women’s Party.  Her courage and sacrifice helped lead to the passage of the 19th amendment.

An Apt Scholar

 Lucy was born in Brooklyn, New York into an Irish Catholic family in 1879. She had a quick mind, an engaging spirit, and a gift for language.  After attending Packer Collegiate Institute where she received instruction in social graces and religion, Lucy went on to study at Columbia University, Vassar College, and Yale University.  She earned a teaching degree and taught English at Erasmus High School in Brooklyn for two years, but had a strong desire to continue her own studies. She was lucky to have a father who encouraged, and financed her education.  Lucy headed abroad to study at the University of Berlin in Germany, and Oxford University in England.  She used her linguistic skills to charm audiences with her spoken, and written words. 

Trading Education for Experience in the Suffragette Movement

In England, Lucy learned about the suffragette movement.  She abandoned her studies and took up the cause.  Lucy practiced her skills and became an eloquent “Street Speaker” who was arrested four times for being a public nuisance.  While in jail, she met and became good friends with another American, Alice Paul.

Together, they brought the militant tactics they had learned in England to the suffragette movement in the US. However, as members of the National Women’s Suffrage Association, they were impatient with progress and split to form a new group that eventually became the National Women’s Party (NWP).

The Suffragette Movement: Silent Sentinels at the White House

suffragette movement deploys women to line up in front of White House to pressure Pres. Wilson to support 19th amendment inspired the presentation of Lucy on the Women's Work quilt holding a picket sign.

Silent Sentinels picket the White House

Suffragette Movement Women hold large banner on display when dignitaries visit.

Large banners for special visits.

Lucy organized protests and edited The Suffragist, a weekly NWP journal.  A key player in organizing the “Silent Sentinels”, Lucy oversaw more than 1000 women who picketed in front of the White House during the Wilson administration.  When important dignitaries visited the President, Lucy made sure that extra large banners with messages such as, “America is not a free democracy as long as women were denied the right to vote.” we’re prominently on display.

Woodrow Wilson found the protests irritating.  In a letter to his daughter he wrote  that these women “seem bent on making their cause as obnoxious as possible.” He also encouraged the police to crack down on the demonstrators.  Police brutality increased, and they began arresting the women for charges such as “obstructing passage on the sidewalk.”

Lucy Burns was taken to this three story stone building, along with other suffragettes, in paddy wagons.

Suffragettes taken to prison for protesting at White House.

Officers took the women to the Occoquan Workhouse, outside of Washington, DC.  Conditions were dire.  There were maggots in the food, the water was dirty, and the bedding was filthy.   Arrested six times, Lucy never backed down.  She led a hunger strike within the jail.  For this, the warden put her in solitary confinement. She persisted, and he initiated forced feedings. This was a brutal practice that involved strapping the victim to a chair and shoving a tube down her throat.  As time passed, the sentences increased in length, and the brutality worsened.

 Suffragette Movement and The Night of Terror

The most brutal events occurred on November 14, 1917.  Thirty-three women, who had been

Lucy Burns sits before a jail cell door possibly holding newspaper containing published account of the Night of Terror.

Lucy Burns in Occoquan prison

peacefully protesting, were arrested and brought to Occoquan.  They demanded to be treated as political prisoners.  Exasperated, the Prison Superintendent instructed his guards to teach the women a lesson.  They drug the women down a hall and threw them into dark, dirty cells. Through the night, the women were beaten and tortured.  Guards threw them against iron beds and benches until some lost consciousness.  They cuffed Lucy’s hands to the top of her cell door so that she was forced to stand through the night.  One woman, witnessing the violence, had a heart attack, but was denied medical treatment until the following morning.  By that time, she had died.

Lucy kept a diary of her experiences in the jail, and others shared their stories.  Published accounts of what became known as “The Night of Terror”

Suffragette movement gains public support as Lucy Burns and others were finally released from Occoquan. One women helps another, wrapped in a blanket, as they walk away from Occoquan prison

Prisoners released from Occoquan.

prompted public outrage.  The Prison Superintendent, under pressure released the women. Eventually, the women received pardons on all charges  With public sentiment now on their side, this night became a turning point in the campaign for the 19th amendment.

After passage of the 19th amendment, Lucy withdrew from prominence in the suffrage movement, and she performed charity work for the Catholic Church until her death in 1966.

My Personal Take Away…

The courage and determination these women determined to gainthe right to vote astounds me.  Even more, the brutality of the opposition startles me.  In the present day, I know that my right to vote is now secure, but I’m also aware that the voting rights of other US citizens is at risk.  Just as others fought for me, I feel compelled to fight for equal treatment of all citizens.  However, we live in strange times where truth and fairness are under assault.  I’m left wondering:  What am I willing to endure? and,  When the time comes, will I make the necessary sacrifices in the name of justice? 

What about the Workhouse?

The Occoquan Workhouse has been converted into the Workhouse Arts Center. It now offers over 800 arts education classes and workshops in a broad spectrum of art disciplines.  Each year the Workhouse Arts Center provides more than 100 exhibitions, 300 performances, and it hosts multiple large-scale community events for the region. The Arts Center also houses The Lucy Burns Museum.

The Workhouse Arts Center is located at:  9518 Workhouse Way, Lorton, VA 22079.  If you can’t visit the museum in person, visit the website.  Hear the words of the suffragettes read aloud by museum staff from the original diaries and writings: 

See the Women’s Work Quilt

Lucy Burns appears on Women’s Work holding a picket sign as she might have done in front of the White House.  The Women’s Work Quilt will debut as a featured work in the exhibit Women’s Voices, Women’s Votes, Women’s Rights, at the Clinton Presidential Library, in September 2021.  Look for more details on the Events page of this website.

Learn More About Lucy Burns and Women’s Work…

Lucy Burns Museum.  https://www.workhousearts.org/lucyburnsmuseum/

Nappier,  Terri   (August 17, 2020). Of Prison Cells and Suffrage. The Source: Washington Magazine. University of Washington in St. Louis.  https://source.wustl.edu/2020/08/of-prison-cells-and-suffrage/

Pruitt, Sarah, (4/17/19). The Night of Terror: When Suffragists Were Imprisoned and Tortured in 1917.  https://www.history.com/news/night-terror-brutality-suffragists-19th-amendment

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Alice Paul on Women’s Work

You can find Alice Paul (1885-1977)  on Women’s Work, standing tall as one of the three central figures on  the quilt.  They are the Visionaries, at the top of the stairs.  She holds out a glass to toast passage of the 19th Amendment. Immediately following, she began to write the Equal Rights Amendment.

Alice Paul, Susan B. Anthony, and Hillary Clinton stand together at center of quilt.

Three central figures on Women’s Work represent The Visionaries.

Suffragette from an Early Age

Alice was born on January 11, 1885 in Mount Laurel, New Jersey into an affluent Quaker family.  As Quakers, her parents believed in working to improve society on many fronts.  Alice was enlisted to the fight for women’s rights from an early age. Her mother was a suffragist, and frequently brought Alice with her to meetings and events.

Formal and Informal Education

With a strong family commitment to the education of women, Alice had excellent schooling opportunities.  She attended Swathmore College where she earned a degree in Biology in 1905.  She then earned a Master’s degree in Sociology from New York School of Philanthropy College (now Columbia University) in 1907.  Next, Alice took 3 years to travel in England and study their system of social work before returning to the US to earn a Ph.D from the University of Pennsylvania in 1910.

While in England, Alice met Lucy Burns, another American. The two friends joined the women’s suffrage movement in England, a movement that was much more radical and aggressive than in the US.  Eventually, Alice and Lucy brought the militant tactics they learned in England back home to the states.  Alice learned about protests and hunger strikes, and how to use the media to generate publicity and support.

Bringing the Fight to Washington

In 1912, Alice joined the National Women’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA), a group dedicated to establishing the right to vote for women in the US.  This group, however, focused on earning the right to vote in individual states.  Alice strongly disagreed with this approach, broke away, and started the National Women’s Party (NWP).  Her group focused efforts directly on Congress and demanded a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote.

Women marching in Washington, DC, to demand right to vote.

Women’s March in Washington, DC on March 3, 1913.

In 1913, Alice helped organize a march on Washington, held March 3, the day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration.  Nearly 8000 women marched down Pennsylvania Ave. with banners and floats demanding the right to vote.  After inaugruation, President Wilson refused to meet with Alice and members of the NWP.  Instead, he insisted that it was not yet time for a constitutional amendment.  The fight continued.

The Silent Sentinels

In  January 1917, Alice helped organize the Silent Sentinels,” a group of over 1000 women who Femal protestor stands before gate of the White House with banner that says, "Mr. President, How long must women wait for liberty"picketed in front of the White House for 18 months.  Each day, women would stand at the gates with sign that read “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?” and “Kaiser Wilson”. The women endured harsh weather conditions, as well as, verbal and physical attacks from onlookers.  Rather than protect their right to free speech, police, beat and arrested the protesters on trumped up charges of obstructing traffic.  

In the face of police brutality, Alice remained fierce.  When she was sentenced to 7 months in jail, Alice organized a hunger strike.  Doctors were brought in to force feed her.  This involved strapping her to a chair, holding her head back, shoving a tube down her throat. Doctors also threatened to declare her insane and send her to an asylum.

Young woman stands holding banner that reads, "We Demand that the American Government Give Alice Paul, a political offender, the privileges Russia gave Miyukoff

Suffragette demands fair treatment for Alice Paul

Newspaper accounts of the treatment the women were enduring in prison prompted public sympathy and support for the cause.  Finally, in 1918, President Wilson publicly announced his support for the suffrage movement.  

The 19th Amendment

Passing the 19th amendment remained a slow process.  Once taken up by the Congress,  the Senate and the House of Representatives must approve the amendment, and then at least 36 states must ratify it.  This took almost 2 years. but the 19th amendment was finally adopted as part of the US Constitution on August 26, 1920. Alice Paul on Women’s Work holds up a glass to toast the passage of the amendment. It was actually a glass of grape juice, as Alice was against drinking alcohol.

Alice sits at table sewing a star to a banner for each state that ratifies the 19th amendment.

Alice and NWP members sew stars on ratification banner.

Alice Paul stands on balcony with star banner hanging down. Many women standing on ground below looking up.

The Star banner unfurled to mark 19th Amendment ratification

What about the Equal Rights Amendment…

Following the passage of the 19th Amendment, Alice immediately turned her attention to the Equal Rights Amendment. After all, with its latest amendment, the Constitution guaranteed  women the right to vote; nothing more.  The ERA guaranteed equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex. It would end distinctions between men and women in cases of divorce, property ownership, working conditions, pay, and a host of other issues.  Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman introduced the ERA to Congress in December 1923. The bill languished for many years until it gained massive support in the 1960’s.  The ERA was passed by Congress and the Senate in 1972.  By 1977 only 35, of the required 38 states had ratified the amendment.  Alice Paul died in 1977, knowing the amendment, while close at hand, was not yet a reality.

My Personal Take Away

Alice Paul stands on Women’s Work as she stood her entire life, committed to equality for women, in fact, all American citizens. I’m struck by her unwavering dedication to the cause, and what she was able to accomplish as a result.  I’m in a period in my own life where I feel constantly distracted from the task at hand by frivolous videos, news reports, ads for things I don’t really need. In my studio,  I’m hanging a photo of Alice Paul holding up a glass as a reminder to focus on what is important, and to turn off the rest of the noise.

See the Women’s Work Quilt

Women’s Work will debut as a featured work in the exhibit Women’s Voices, Women’s Votes, Women’s Rights, at the Clinton Presidential Library, in September 2021.  Look for more details on the Events page of this website.

Learn More About Alice Paul

Michals, Debra.  “Alice Paul.”  National Women’s History Museum.  2015.  www.womenshistorymuseum.org/education-resources/biographies/alice-paul. 

“The Nineteenth Amendment: A Crash Course.” National Park Service website. 2020.  https://www.nps.gov/articles/2020-crash-course.htm

History.com editors (2/8/2021). “Alice Paul.” A&E Television Networks. https://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/alice-paul

Kathryn Elizabeth Colohan, Jill S. and Krista Joy Niles (2018). “ERA History” Alice Paul Institute. https://www.equalrightsamendment.org/history

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diptych of 2 native American men on horseback crossing a river. On left panel the man turns to look at the viewer. On the the right panel, the man is riding away from the viewer.

Create Depth with Atmospheric Perspective

Art quilters can create the illusion of depth with atmospheric perspective when they apply four key color concepts in pictorial quilts.  Creating depth with atmospheric perspective was one of the topics I discussed in my monthly Color & Composition class.  Read on for a summary of that part of the discussion.  If you are intrigued,  information about future Color & Composition class sessions is at the bottom.

The Illusion of Depth in Art

There are two types of perspective that can be employed in your art quilts to create the illusion of depth in a pictorial work such as landscape or seascape. The first is linear perspective; the use of 1 or 2 vanishing point with lines in the composition converging on those points.  This is the most commonly recognized and used method for creating that illusion of depth.  Raphael’s painting, School of Athens, is a great example.  Notice that the architectural lines lead to a single vanishing point in the center of the composition.

Inspiration for Women's Work

School of Athens by Raphael, 1509-1511.

A second method is to create the illusion of depth with atmospheric perspective.  This method relies on manipulation of color to create the illusion of depth.  Saint Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata, by Jan van Eyck provides an example of this.  Compare the elements in the foreground with those that appear to be far in the distance.

An illusion of depth using atmospheric perspective is evidenced in this painting of 2 priests in brown cloaks kneeling on the ground among rock outcroppings with city visible in the distance.

Jan van Eyck, Saint Francis of Assisi Receiving the Stigmata, 1430

Keys to Create Depth with Atmospheric Perspective

With the great masters as our inspiration, let’s shift our focus to art quilting and the selection of fabrics for landscape quilts.  There are 4 key considerations.

Texture

Represent the textures of items that are close to the viewer such as plants, rocks, clothing, furniture.  Less textural detail should be visible in elements that appear in the mid-ground,  and eliminate textural detail in the background. Quilters also have the option of adding texture with stitching and surface embellishments.

An illusion of depth using atmospheric perspective is evidenced in these three sets of fabrics show heavy medium and light texture in three colors: gray, red-violet, green

Fabric selection based on texture and depth.

Value & Value Range 

Moving from foreground to background, the value range should narrow.  Render elements in the foreground  with a broad value range from very light to very dark. Reduce the value range to make elements appear further away by eliminating the lightest and darkest values.  Also, shift the value range to the lighter end of the value scale because darker values are lost to a greater degree than lighter values. 

2 grayscales, fingers show use of values used in atmospheric perspective. Light to dark used in foreground. light to medium dark used in background.

Value range for atmospheric perspective

An illusion of depth using atmospheric perspective is evidenced in this art quilt of park bend on outcropping overlooking receding ridges of tree covered hills in a snowstorm.

Winterscape

Clarity

Elements become less defined as they move to the distance.This is related to texture.  Texture would be how you represent the surface of a object, Clarity focuses on the shapes of objects The edges of your shapes will soften and become more blob-like as those objects move to the distance.  Below is a simple seascape composition that I created as a class sample.  In the detail view of the palm trees, notice how the outline of the palm fronds is simplified in the tree on the right.  Id I were to add a third tree further in the distance, the palm fronds would have gentle curving edges in contrast to the jagged edges of the foreground and mid-ground trees.

beach scene in fabric with two palm trees on the left and an island at the horizon on the right.

Beach scene

An illusion of depth using atmospheric perspective is evidenced in the tops of two palm trees showing greater clarity in the foreground tree

beach scene detail of palm tree tops

Temperature

Warm colors advance and cool colors recede.  When selecting fabrics for a composition, make note of the colors that will appear in the foreground, mid-ground, and background. For colors that repeat at various distances, selected warmer versions to appear closer, and cooler versions to appear in the distance.   For example, the color red in the foreground could be a warmer red-orange, while red in the distance could be a cooler red-violet.  Look below at Crossing Over.  The water in the foreground is a mix of blue and blue-green, but is rendered in blue-violet in the background.  The foliage on the distant back is green near the water’s edge and blue-green on the more distant hills.

diptych of 2 native American men on horseback crossing a river. On left panel the man turns to look at the viewer. On the the right panel, the man is riding away from the viewer.

Crossing Over, diptych by Lea McComas

Water detail in Crossing Over shows atmospheric perspective as foreground in in blue-green to blue, and back ground is done in blue-violet.

Water detail in Crossing Over

Figure & background detail of Crossing Over shows foliage in front in green colors with background foliage in blue green. Warm reds and blues in clothing of figure pop forward in the composition.

Figure & background detail of Crossing Over

Create Depth in the Sky

When it comes to the sky, we often forget to create depth using atmospheric perspective. Treat the sky as an element of the composition.  The top of the composition is the foreground, and sky near the horizon line is the background.  Sky should be a warmer, more saturated color at the top of the composition and move to a cooler, less saturated color at the horizon.  A common mistake is to use a solid blue fabric, or a printed sky with cloud fabric.  The problem is that these fabrics present a static representation of the sky that make it appear flat. They fight the illusion of depth, rather than support it.  I suggest a hand-dyed or ombre fabric to support depth using atmospheric perspective.

fabric sample of blue sky with clouds.

Sky with clouds

flat light blue square

Flat sky color

blue square with vibrant color at the top and pale color at the bottom

blue sky ombre

Join our next Color & Composition Session

Interested in learning more? Every month I lead a Color and Composition class where we explore a color scheme, color concept, and a composition concept.  We meet online  the 4th Saturday of every month 1:00-3:00 PM MDT. To join us, sign up through the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum.

Subscribe to this blog for future summary updates on topics covered in the Color & Composition class.

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Shirley Chisolm fabric portrait from Women's Work quilt, front view, wearing lime green dress.

Shirley Chisholm on Women’s Work

Shirley Chisolm fabric portrait from Women's Work quilt, front view, wearing lime green dress, walking down stairs among protestors and legislators

Shirley Chisholm on Women’s Work

Shirley Chisholm(1924-2005) on WOMEN’S WORK, is located at the bottom of the stairs,  wearing a lime green dress.  She is situated between legislators and demonstrators marching forward down the stairs.  Shirley, known as a courageous, and tireless champion for the poor and working class, is famous as the first black woman to serve in Congress.  She was also the first black female presidential candidate from a majority political party. 

Fierce Advocate

Born Shirley Anita St Hill on November  30, 1924 to  Caribbean Immigrants from British Guyana and Barbados, her father was a factory laborer, and her mother was a domestic worker and seamstress.  The family lived in the Bedford–Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Believing it would provide a safer environment, Shirley’s parents sent her and three younger sisters to live with their grandmother on the island of Barbados. The girls lived there for about 7 years.  Shirley attributes much of her success to the early education she received in the traditional British school system of Barbados.  Upon her return to New York City at the age of 10, she performed well in the integrated, but mostly white classrooms.  

After high school, Shirley earned a Bachelor of Arts at Brooklyn College where she also won awards for debate.  Then, she worked in an early child care center, married Conrad Chisholm, and earned her Masters in Elementary Education from Columbia University. She worked her way up to director of the Hamilton-Madison Child Care Center in the 1950’s, and became an educational consultant to New York City’s Bureau of Child Welfare from 1959 to 1964. 

Shirley learned to fight for social justice in her teens from her father who was an active member of a labor trade union.  Her confidence, speaking skills, and grit made her an effective advocate for civil rights, women’s rights, and workers rights.  She was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1965, and became the first black woman elected to the US House of Representatives in 1968.  She served her constituents as a fierce, and vocal legislator. 

Unbossed & Unbought

Shirley’s campaign slogan, “Unbossed and Unbought,” was an apt description.  At first, Shirley

was appointed to the Agriculture Committee.  This was the result of efforts by Southern

congressmen to put her in a place where she would have little influence or power.  Angered, she waged a campaign to be reassigned.  This was unheard-of since freshmen representatives were expected to follow the rules without complaint.  In the end, Shirley got her way, but not before she found a silver lining in agriculture.  In the late 1960’s farmers in the midwest had surplus food that they couldn’t sell.  Shirley teamed with Senator Bob Dole from Kansas and, together, they started what would become the Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to provide food supplements to at-risk women and their infants.

Long desk with 3 black male legislators and Shirley Chisholm sitting behind

Congressional Black Caucus.

During her seven terms in Congress, Shirley successfully helped pass numerous pieces of legislation that gave voice and power to those who were ignored by the government.  She opposed the VietNam War and fought to reduce military spending in favor of increasing funds for domestic social programs. She pushed through legislation that expanded funding for day care and education, and expanded minimum wage protections for domestic workers. In support of women, Shirley hired only females to work in her congressional office, and half of her staff were black.

Presidential Run

Finally, in 1972, Shirley decided to run for President as the Democratic candidate. She became

campaign poster with words Vote for Chisholm, Unbossed and Unbought. Shows image of Shirley Chisholm speaking

Campaign Poster

the first black candidate from a major party, and the first woman Democratic party candidate.  A major obstacle for her campaign, were the black male colleagues within the party.  Shirley claimed that she faced more discrimination for being a woman, than for being black. Winning the nomination was a long shot, but, Shirley hoped to amass enough support to be able to influence the party platform. She planned to demand a black vice-presidential candidate, and insist on diversity in cabinet, and agency appointments.

Shirley invited all to “Join me on the Chisholm Trail” as she campaigned across the country on a shoe-string budget, and heavy reliance on volunteers. Her policy positions included support for:

  • Anti-poverty legislation

    Shirley Chisholm behind lecture, speaking at convention

    Shirley speak at Democratic Nat’l Convention

  • Ending the VietNam war
  • Abortion rights
  • Gay rights
  • National health insurance
  • Legalization of marijuana
  • Fair housing laws
  • Busing as a temporary means to desegregate schools

Shirley built a broad coalition of supporters, but, she did not win the nomination. She did, however, come in 4th in a field of 15 candidates at the Democratic Convention.  She inspired women worldwide, and was voted as one of the 10 most admired women in the world.  After the election, Shirley returned to Congress where she served another 10 years.  In retirement, she remained involved in many political organizations, spoke at colleges to encourage student activism, and continued to fight for women’s rights.  

What about those demands at the convention…

In her run for president, Shirley hoped to gain the clout to demand a black vice presidential running mate, and diversity in cabinet and agency appointments.  That was in 1972.  Not until the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in 2020, nearly 50 years later, did those demands became a reality.  At the inauguration ceremony, Harris wore purple as a tribute to Shirley Chisholm whose campaign colors were purple and yellow.

My take away…

The pace of equality is much too slow.  In researching Shirley Chisholm, I must confront the question, “What are you doing about it?”.

As a high school teacher, I work with many students from marginalized groups: young women and children of immigrants.  They often do not have a family history of education or activism, so, I try to plant those seeds.  I challenge students to be the first in their families to graduate from high school, to set a goal of attending college, and to register to vote. These steps can change the path of an entire family for years to come.

girl standing, inserting ballot into collection box outside in snow storm

1st Time Voting

In the 2020 election, a former student contacted me because she wanted to vote.  She didn’t know how, and no one she knew had ever voted in a US election.  Over the phone, I talked her through the registration process.  When her ballot arrived, I explained each of the issues, and shared a booklet from the state voting commission with more information.  After talking her through marking and sealing her ballot, I drove her to the drop-off site and told her, “Next time, bring two friends and we’ll do this again.”

See the Women’s Work Quilt

See Ida B Wells on Women’s Work in person. This quilt will debut as a featured work in the exhibit Women’s Voices, Women’s Votes, Women’s Rights, at the Clinton Presidential Library, in September 2021.  Look for more details on the Events page of this website. Follow this blog for more stories of amazing women. Follow this link to see more of Lea’s Portrait Quilts.

Learn More About Shirley Chisholm…

Michals, Debra.  “Shirley Chisholm.”  National Women’s History Museum.  2015.  www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/shirley-chisholm. 

History, Art & Archives, U.S. House of Representatives, ““Catalyst for Change”: The 1972 Presidential Campaign of Representative Shirley Chisholm,” https://history.house.gov/Blog/2020/September/9-14-Chisholm-1972/(January 30, 2021)

Shirley Chisholm: First African American Congresswoman (March 31, 2020).  Timeline-World History Documentaries.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fz-dfJIprkY

Shirley Chisholm Biography, Encyclopedia of World Biography, (January 30, 2021). https://www.notablebiographies.com/Ch-Co/Chisholm-Shirley.html

Dovid Zaklikowsk (January 20, 2021)  Turning Disappointment Into Food for the Hungry. The Rebbe.org. https://www.chabad.org/therebbe/article_cdo/aid/558041/jewish/Turning-Disappointment-Into-Food-for-the-Hungry.htm

History.com Editors (December 10, 2020). Shirley Chisholm. A&E Television Networks.  https://www.history.com/topics/us-politics/shirley-chisholm

 

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Ida B Wells portrait in fabric on the quilt Women's Work. Ida is wearing orange dress typical of 1940's. Her hair is in a know on top of her head. She is arm in arm with Gloria Steinem

Ida B. Wells on Women’s Work

Ida B. Wells (1862–1931appears on Women’s Work on the main level of the quilt, walking arm in arm with Gloria Steinem.  She is included because of her contributions as a journalist, and is notable for her investigative reporting on lynching in America.

Ida was born to slave patents in Holly Springs, Mississippi on July 16, 1862.  However, at the age of 6 months, she and her family were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation.  Following the civil war, her parents were active in Reconstruction.  Her father joined the Freedman’s Aid Society and helped star

head and shoulders sketch of Ida B Wells, circa 1940.

Journalist, Ida B Wells. Circa 1940.

t Shaw University.  This school for newly freed slaves is where Ida received her early schooling.

At age of 16, Ida lost both parents and an infant brother in a Yellow Fever outbreak.  As the oldest, she had to care for younger brothers and sisters. So, she convinced a local school administrator that she was 18 and was hired as a teacher. Over the next few years, Ida arranged for her brothers to work as carpenter apprentices, and moved her sisters to live with an aunt in Memphis, Tennessee.  Ida returned to college and honed her journalistic skills at Fisk University and continued to work as a teacher.

Injustice in the South

In 1884, Ida bought a first class train ticket in Memphis. She boarded the train, but was denied a seat in first class.  The conductor told to sit in the car reserved for blacks.  Ida refused and an argument ensued.  The conductor and fellow passengers forcibly removed her from the train.  Ida sued the train company and won a $500 settlement in a circuit court.  On appeal, the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the ruling, and charged Ida for court fees.  Outraged, she channeled her energy into several editorial articles published in black newspapers.  Using the pseudonym “Iona,” she criticized Jim Crow laws and treatment of blacks in the south.  Eventually, Ida owned and published her own newspaper, Free Speech, in Memphis.

In 1892, three balck men opened a grocery store in Memphis.  Their success drew customers from the white owned store across the street. One night, a group of white men gathered to vandalize the store.  In defending the shop, several white men were shot and injured.  Officials arrested the black store owners.  Later that evening, a white mob took them from their cells and hung them.

Investigation of Lynching

Outraged by the death of her friends, Ida carried out her own investigation of

Cover of book The Red Record by Ida B Wells, showing image of a lynching party.

The Red Record, documents lynching in America

lynching in the South. First, she published her findings in a pamphlet titled Southern Horrors. Later, she traveled to give lectures and wrote a book, A Red Record, detailing the treatment of blacks in the south.   She documented the practice of lynching black men who challenged the authority of whites, or dared to be successful in politics, or business. Using her words, she effectively painted a picture of conditions for blacks in the South.  In a speech she delivered in Boston on February 13, 1893, Ida reported, 

…since invested with citizenship, the race has been indicted for ignorance, immorality and general worthlessness declared guilty and executed by its self constituted judges. The operations of law do not dispose of negroes fast enough, and lynching bees have become the favorite pastime of the South.

The brutal honesty of her reporting angered whites who descended on her newspaper office, destroyed the presses,   The mob proved her words correct when they threatened to kill her if she returned to Memphis.  Ida escaped to England where she continued her anit-lynching campaign, and brought international attention to racial injustice in America.

In 1895, Ida returned to the US, settled in Chicago, and married Ferdinand Barnett, a lawyer and newspaper editor. Together, they raised 4 children and continued to fight social injustice on many fronts. Ida was active in several social justice issues, including women’s suffrage, and equal education for blacks.  She was a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Ida continued to write and lecture in the US, and abroad, until her death in 1931.

The False Characterization

Ida’s investigative reporting  uncovered a common justification for lynching. Whites  justified the murder of black men with the assertion that those men would sexually assault white women. Essentially, whites believed that lynching was necessary to protect the virtue of their wives and daughters. 

It is important to note here, that multiple sources, over many decades, consistently show that sexual violence data, disaggregated by race, shows that perpetrators are most likely to be white. In fact, sexual violence by whites occurs at a level of more than double that of blacks. For current statistics visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website: RAINN.org.

My personal take away…

The research for Ida B Wells on Women’s Work led me to a startling realization.  The false notion that black men are inherently “dangerous” exists in my own consciousness. Growing up in a white suburb of Kansas City, I had very few interactions with blacks, so how did I learn this? Upon reflection, I realized that the lessons were part of my growing up. For example, when my family drove into the city, through predominantly black sections of town, my parents instructed us to lock our doors. Now, in my 50’s, I’m adamant that I’m not racist.  However, driving through Denver, the thought that I should lock my car door sometimes pops into my mind.  Those irrational ideas still echo in my head.  Because I’m aware, I will stop it, and I’ll speak up when others perpetuate that idea.

See the Women’s Work Quilt

See Ida B Wells on Women’s Work in person. This quilt will  debut as a featured work in the exhibit Women’s Voices, Women’s Votes, Women’s Rights, at the Clinton Presidential Library, in September 2021.  Look for more details on the Events page of this website. Follow this blog for more stories of amazing women. Follow this link to see more of Lea’s Portrait Quilts.

Learn more about Ida B. Wells…

Biography.com Editors (2020, June 24). Ida B. Wells Biography. A&E Television Networks and the Biography.com website. https://www.biography.com/activist/ida-b-wells

Norwood, Arlisha (2017). Ida B. Wells-Barnett. National Women’s History Museum.  www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/ida-wells-barnett.

Steptoe, T. (2007, January 19) Ida Wells-Barnett (1862-1931). BlackPast.org. https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/barnett-ida-wells-1862-1931/ 

Editors of BlackPast.org (2007, January 29). Ida B. Wells, “Lynch Law In All Its Phases” transcript of speech delivered at Boston’s Tremont Temple on February 13, 1893,as published in Our Day magazine, May 1893.  BlackPast.org. https://www.blackpast.org/uncategorized/1893-ida-b-wells-lynch-law-all-its-phases/ 

Ida B Wells, The Red Record Lynching in the United States. Available free through pdfbooksworld.com. https://www.pdfbooksworld.com/The-Red-Record-by-Ida-B-Wells-Barnett

Wells-Barnett, Ida B., “Southern horrors : lynch law in all its phases,” Digital Public Library of America, http://dp.la/item/3f4d5d3a67f8ce16f1b00b3cb01dc143

Ida B. Wells, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing front. , None. [Between 1940 and 1960?] Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2009633545/.

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repetition and rhythm

Repetition and Rhythm Add Comfort and Excitement

Today I want to focus on the design concepts of repetition & rhythm, and how we can put these to work in our quilts. This content was covered in the last session of my Color & Composition class.  If you are interested in joining us for future sessions,  I’ll put a link at the bottom, but for now…

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

Repetition is about using a design element over and over.    A repeated element gives a sense of familiarity and comfort. This could be a repeating line, shape, or pattern.

Repetition is something that we are naturally drawn to;  something we bring into our world. Here are some examples that I found in my own environment.

repetition of design in furniture drawers and hardware

multiple drawers with repeating hardware

example of repetition in design

Repetition in the stair railing.

repetition as design element in hand woven rug

repeating design in a rug

Many artists will repeat an element in every piece.

elements of my art extend beyond the edge.

Beyond the Edge: My Signature Move

It becomes their signature move, something that makes their work easily recognizable to viewers, and fans. My signature move is to take an element off the edge of my work. See more examples in my genre gallery.

Within a composition, repetition can be as simple as repeating a line, shape, color, texture.  

As I’ve been working in recent months to update the  online galleries for the Border Wall Quilt Project, I’ve found many wonderful examples of repetition.  Here are a few.

BWQP brick by LK

Repeating element-hearts. Brick by L K.

BWQP brick by Cynthia Catlin

Repeating element – woman. Brick by Cynthia Catlin.

BWQP brick by Cynthia Catlin

Repeating element – brick. Brick by Cynthia Catlin.

Pattern is created when more than one element is combined and repeated.

Here are examples from the BWQP where I think this idea of pattern is used effectively.

BWQP brick by Maude Wallace Haeger

Pattern of repeating vertical and diagonal lines. Brick by Maude Wallace Haeger.

Repeating pattern of stripes and coffins. Brick by Karen Sullivan

 

 

Rhythm,     Rhythm,          Rhythm,     Rhythm

Conversely,  Rhythm is about the space between repeating elements. It adds interest and excitement..Today, let’s look at 5 types of Rhythm:

  1.  Random Rhythm has no regular interval between repetitions. They can be all over the place.

    BWQP by Ramona Bates

    Random Rhythm. Brick by Ramona Bates.

2.  Regular Rhythm occurs when the interval between repetitions is the same.  For example, your heartbeat is a regular rhythm, or, at least it should be.  Here is a quilted example.

 BWQP brick by Price & Pampusch

Regular Rhythm. Brick by Price & Pampusch.

3.  Alternating Rhythm is the switching back and forth between 2 regular rhythms. Chess board is a simple example. However, these rhythms can be much more complex.

BWQP brick by Ramona Bates,

Alternating Rhythm. Brick by Ramona Bates,

4.  Flowing Rhythm exists when repeated elements follow a curved or undulating line. Here are some examples.

BWQP brick by Carol D Chewning

Flowing Rhythm. Brick Carol Chewning.

  5. Progressive Rhythm results from changing a characteristic of an element as it is repeated. These next examples show different ways that rhythm can progresses.

This sample shows an increase in size and color change.

BWQP brick by Lourdes Cruz

Progressive rhythm. Brick by Lourdes Cruz, Mexico.

This next brick shows multiple scenes of a story.  This is called simultaneous narrative.

BWQP brick by Sheryl D Rodda

example of progressive rhythm with simultaneous narrative. Brick by Sheryl D Rodda

Put Yourself to the Test

Look at the examples below and identify the type of rhythm in each.  The answer key is below.

1.

Brick by Sally Maxwell

2.

BWQP brick by Pat Hilderbrand

Brick by Pat Hilderbrand.

3.

Brick by Linda Laird

Monthly Color & Compositions Class

If you would like to join us, my Color & Composition class is sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum on the 4th Saturday of every month through the end of 2021.  In each session we explore a color scheme, a color concept, and a concept related to composition.  

Sign up here.

Answer Key: 1. alternating, 2. Flowing  and progressive. 3, random 

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Women's Work by moonlight

Women’s Work: When Will It End?!?

Women’s Work, a masterwork that has consumed, and fed, my artistic spirit for the last year and half, may finally be coming to an end.  This journey started in September 2019, when I was approached by a representative from the Clinton Foundation about creating an art quilt for Women’s Voices, Women’s Votes, Women’s Rights.  This is an exhibit to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote in the US.  Originally scheduled to open at the Clinton Presidential Library in September 2020, COVID-19 delayed the opening 1 year.  Not to diminish the devastating effects of this virus, but isolating at home gave me the opportunity to create the most ambitious project I’ve ever attempted.

What do you want to do?

This question stopped me in my tracks.  Initially, I couldn’t decide on a single person or event to celebrate in my work; there are just too many options.  The more I researched, the more difficult the decision became. Finally, inspired by Raphael’s painting, School of Athens, I realized that I could create a piece celebrating the work of dozens of women whose voices and deeds have contributed to the fight for women’s votes, rights, and equality.

Inspiration for Women's Work

Raphael’s painting titled School of Athens.

My vision:

In my mind, I saw a gathering of women representing a variety of time periods and vocations, and gifts. I would group them by theme to demonstrate how women’s work has progressed through the centuries, with each generation building on the progress of the previous.

Now, this was a bold, big idea, and big ideas need big space, so I decided to make the piece 10 feet wide and 8 feet tall.  The unintended consequences of this decision are fodder for a  future blog post titled “Bloopers and Blunders”.

How Do You Eat an Elephant?

Having a vision for Women’s Work, and knowing how to bring that vision to fruition are two very different things.  My progress stalled as I just couldn’t decide what to do next. The project was enormous; something like eating an elephant.

One Bite at a Time.

Women's work: Lea drawing a life-size pattern of the quilt

Drawing the pattern

Finally, in November 2019, this vision took off in 2 directions. First, create an appropriate setting

for the composition. Second, choose the women to be represented in the quilt.  The project started to disaggregate into bite size pieces, and I found a way forward.  Hungry for progress, I began to devour the tasks.

On physically active days, I drew a life-sized pattern and built structures from fabric.  I discovered that organza made a great glass ceiling, as pillars morphed into caryatids. All the while, insufficient amounts of fabric prompted creative design decisions.

Women's Work: progress photo shows entry, steps, floor, wing walls, glass ceiling, pediment carving and distant sky

Distant sky is creative solution when there is not enough fabric.

Women's Work: shows first 2 phases of creating building setting of the pictorial quilt.

Glass ceiling and marble floor.

 

 

 

 

 

Women's Work in progress: working out statuary.

Working out statuary with paper versions.

On mentally active days, I researched women and their achievements. Going “old school”, I

Lea doing research for Women's Work

Lea, conducting research for Women’s Work

wrote information about each woman on a 3×5 notecards.  Over and over, I laid them out, rearranged,, stacked, and paper clipped them.

Now, with Women’s Work is nearly complete, I’m impatient to share what I have done. Please, subscribe to this blog to get the full story. (A pop up window will appear when you leave this page.)  In the months to come, I’ll share essays about the women who are depicted in the work, (there are more than 50) and tell you more stories about how the quilt was made. Later, when the conditions are right, I invite you will join me to see the quilt in person.

Women's Work by moonlight

Solo exhibit in the time of COVID

 

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Color Temperature

Fabric Fever: When Color Temperature is Cause for Concern

In these winter days, especially now, having a fever is cause for concern. Staying home and

Does you fabric have a temperature?

away from others gives me more time with my fabric, where temperature has also been on my mind.  Last year, I started teaching a monthly Zoom class on Color & Composition through the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum and our color focus last month was about temperature.  Here is a bit of what we discussed…

What is Warm? What is Cool?

The exact dividing line between warm & cool colors has been an open topic for centuries.

various versions of color temperature

What is your preference?

Your preference likely depends on your medium: a digital graphic artist lives in a different color world than a fiber art quilter.  Here is what I work with…

my take on color temperature

Here are my play groups for warm and cool colors.

I also think of red and green as temperature neutral.  They can function with either play group, but will be the coolest kids in the warm group, and the hottest kids in the cool group.

color temperature - warm

What’s cool in the warm group?

color temperature - cool

What is warm in this cool group?

How is Temperature a Tool?

It’s a fact that warm colors advance and cool colors recede!  In a composition, we can create a sense of depth using temperature.  Warm colors will seem closer to us and cool colors will fall to the background.  Or do they?  Do we know this because someone told us, or because we have experienced it?  I say, “You don’t really own that knowledge until you test it out.”  

So, I created a series of simple compositions of a box on a background.  These are only  8 x10 inches, easy to make, and keep on hand for future reference.

Warm vs Cool – Round 1

First, here is a box in a warm color sitting on a cool color background. 

Does the box visually pop off the surface?

Now, here is the reverse: a cool color box on a warm color background.

What about this box?

If the concept holds true, the first version should appear to have more depth, and the background should fight for dominance in the second.  What do you think?

Warm vs Cool – Round 2

In my next experiment, I pitted warm and cool colors against each other in the same composition.  Using a temperature neutral color green for the back ground, I put a large and small box together in the composition.  Size will indicate to the viewer that the larger box is closer, but, how does color temperature amplify, or mute that message?  

 

Warm vs Cool in Pictorial Quilts

These examples are very dramatic, but the concept can be used in more subtle ways.  Color temperature is relative.  Even within the “Warm” or “Cool” color play groups, each color will appear warmer, or cooler depending on what color plays next to it.  For example, orange is cooler than yellow, but warmer than red.  Also, blue is cooler than green, but warmer than violet. 

I use this concept in all of my work.  Look through my genre and portrait galleries to see how warm tones advance from the cooler backgrounds.  When more than one person is included in a composition, I employ subtle temperature changes in flesh tones to make one figure more prominent, or appear closer than another. 

Which figure has the warmer complexion?

How does temperature amplify depth in this piece?

Experience is the best teacher

Now, if you really want to own knowledge of this concept, you need to conduct your own experiences.  It can be a simple as cutting out some circles of various sizes and colors, and then experiment with placing those circles on different backgrounds.  You don’t even need to fix them permanently.  Try one version, take a photo, rearrange, and take another photo.

If you try this, share a photo of your experiment with me:  Lea@leamccomas.com

Learn More About Color Concepts

Every month, I teach an online Color & Composition class through the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum.  We meet via Zoom on the 4th Saturday of every month from 1:00-3:00 (Mountain Time zone).  Each meeting is a chance to explore a color concept, a color scheme, and a composition concept.  Come every month, or participate when you can.  The cost is $20/ session. Click this link to join us.

Here is what we’ll be exploring at our next meeting on January 23:

Color Concept: Creating Depth

Color Scheme: Analogous

Composition Concept: Variety & Unity

Sign up for the next Color & Composition class with Lea McComas

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New Work: Dogs & Cats

My last blog entry was last summer when I gave a teaser about my new work, and now, we’re fully in the winter holiday season. Has it really been that long?  The winter solstice, at our house, is a time to stop and reflect on the events & accomplishments of the closing year, and set goals and expectations for the approaching year.

Body Building

I set a goal last year to lose some weight and get in shape (sound familiar?). My body building efforts were really about  building up a body of new work.

Got Kibble? at CF Gallery opening,

Got Kibble? is just one of the new works that I completed this year.  It was a hands-down favorite at my show in the Creative Framing Gallery in Louisville, CO in Sep-Oct.  Pet compositions are fun to show in the Boulder area is because we are such an animal oriented community.

 

 

Cat Nap, 44″ x 24″, fabric & thread, © Lea McComas, 2018.

Not to be left out, that other favorite pet, the cat, is featured in my new piece, “Cat Nap”.  This work was inspired by a photo I took while traveling in Greece, back in the mid-1990’s.

Pet Portrait class sample

Previously, I completed a couple of small studies using this image.  Two versions were made for my online Pet Portrait class. Here is one with a tetrad color scheme. Prior to that,  a small work was donated to a charity event. Finally, after 20 years, the full up composition has come to fruition. Now, it’s subtle charm makes it one of my new favorites.

Cats VS Dogs?

At the show, a survey of viewers revealed that cats are more popular pets than dogs. Now, I’m getting a lot of pressure (and fun photos) for a series featuring cats.  What about you? Are you a dog person? or a cat person?

I’m thinking dogs rule.

    Cats rule, Dogs drool!

Stay tuned, there is more work to share in a future blog. In the meantime, if you’ve been inspired to attempt your own pet portrait in fabric, check out my online Pet Portrait Memory class with The Quilting Company.

No time for that?!?  I do commission work.  Contact me and let’s talk about capturing a favorite image of your pet in fabric and thread.

Border Wall Quilt Project

Can’t write a blog without mentioning the Border Wall Quilt Project.  We’re still accepting bricks and the wall continues to grow.  

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Vigil is Finished. See This Endearing New Work

It is exciting when a new work is completed. Vigil is finished and I’m thrilled with the results. It’s been photographed and added to the Genre gallery on my website. However, in this week’s blog, I want to share some of the details.

The lonely dog, a faithful companion, lies, waiting, and ever hopeful of the return of a loved one.

Vigil: Stitching the Dog

One challenge I faced in stitching the dog was to get the direction of the hair just right.  Stella, the dog in this composition, is similar to my own dog, Bosco.  So, anytime I was uncertain about the direction I should be stitching, I would sneak up on Bosco as he napped and use him as my reference.  Of course, he would wake up and expect to be held and petted in return for his services.

Lea McComas Fiber Art - Vigil detail

Detail of dog hair

Lea McComas Fiber Art - In the Studio

When you ask Bosco for help on a project, he is all in.

 

Vigil: Creating Depth

Lea McComas Fiber Art-Vigil

subtle value changes create feeling of depth

Another challenge was to give a sense of foreground and background.  For this, I rely, as I often do, on value changes. It is very subtle, but the black fabric used at the lower edge is slightly lighter than the dark fabric used for the upper part of the composition.  This subtle contrast was  enhanced with the thread choices in the stitching phase.  As a viewer, you may never consciously notice the changes, but the image will register in your mind as having depth.  Also, creating a broader field of gray below the white band brings that area forward.

 

Vigil: Stitching the Background

Lea McComas Fiber Art-Vigil detail

Subtle changes in thread and stitch design hint at what’s behind.

A final challenge was to add variation and subtle detail to the very large dark background area. I wanted to give the impression of a floor with a wall in the distance, but didn’t want to get too specific on where one transitioned to the other, and also wanted to maintain the feeling of a dark abyss.  For this, I employed a circular stitch design for the carpet, and an elongated vertical stitch pattern to represent the wall and then varied where I transitioned from one pattern to the other.  I also used two threads in this area: a solid black in the area around the dog, and a variegated thread of very dark values as I stitched further away from the figure.

In the end, I think this resulted in a very sweet piece that will be hard to part with. However, plans are already being made to exhibit this piece. When things finalize, I’ll let you know.  For now, visit the Genre Gallery of my website to see some of my other works.  You may notice another new work, Cruisin’.  I’ll be sharing the story of this piece in the weeks to come.

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