Votes For Women Textile In Purple And Green, Of A Type Worn As Sashes And Waved As Banners, Made In Hartford, Connecticut For The Women's Political Union Of New York, Connecticut, And New Jersey, Organized By Carrie Stanton's Daughter, Harriot Eaton Stanton Blatch, 1910-1915.
American textiles produced to advertise the Suffragette movement are scarce and highly coveted. This small example, printed in purple and green on fine, white-painted canvas, laid over a thin paper backing, is of a type both flown as banners and worn as sashes. Made in at least three sizes, of which this was likely the smallest, the textile was produced by the Calhoun company of Hartford, Connecticut. This information is known because at least 3 of this variety, in the largest scale, are known with a maker’s mark printed in the lower right-hand margin. Also present on the same banners was the union bug of the Allied Printing Trades Council of Hartford, which denotes that they were printed with union labor. This small version was discovered with the three larger examples.
The textile is very likely to have been produced for the Women's Political Union (WPU), the primary chapter of which was headquartered in New York City, with subsidiaries in Connecticut and New Jersey. The WPU was the brainchild of American suffragette leader Harriot Eaton Stanton Blatch (b. 1856, d. 1940). Harriot was the daughter abolitionist Henry B. Stanton and suffrage pioneer Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who served as the first president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWS) and co-authored the landmark, four-volume, "History of Woman Suffrage" with Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Ida Husted Harper. Following graduation from Vassar College, Harriot assisted these women by compiling research for the book. She then moved to England for 20 years, marrying a British businessman. In 1902, she returned to the States and became involved with two significant suffrage groups, the Women’s Trade Union League and the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In 1907, disgruntled with their ineffectiveness and stagnation, she founded the Equality League of Self-Supporting Women, which appealed to the working class. Before this time the suffrage organizations in America were largely represented by socialites, whose numbers could not effectively influence the vote. In 1910 the Equality League changed its name to the Women's Political Union (WPU) and organized America's first large-scale suffrage parade, which took place on Fifth Avenue in New York.
To differentiate the activities of the WPU, Harriot adopted the purple, white and green colors of her British suffragette peers. Yellow was generally the color most used in America to represent the movement, but Blatch sought to distinguish the organization. In 1915 the WPU merged with suffragette leader Alice Paul's Congressional Union, which later morphed into the National Woman’s Party. This banner likely represents Blatch's use of green and purple for promotion of the WPU between 1910 and 1915.
Examples of this exact type of banner, in all three aforementioned sizes, are recorded in a 1915 photograph of Suffragettes advertising an August 26th rally at the casino in Long Branch, New Jersey, where Anna Howard Shaw was the keynote speaker, in anticipation of the forthcoming New Jersey state election held on October 19th of that year. At least four of the five women in the image are wearing this particular size, pinned across their chests, being worn as sashes. It's amazing to see this exact textile recorded in early images of the period. It is also of interest to note that I discovered an example of this exact type affixed to one of the small, black-painted, bamboo canes that are crossed behind the second woman from the right.
Brief History of Calhoun Press:
The Calhoun company, which, like many 19th century businesses, changed its name many time, was a pioneer in large scale printed banners and broadsides. Foremost it was a producer of circus, wild west show, theatrical, and other posters, though its work expanded to many other areas, including newspaper printing. An article published in the Hartford Courant on November 13th, 1908, provides a concise summary of maker's history until that year:
"For more than half a century the name “Calhoun” has appeared on theatrical paper, but the property of the concern, which has so long made Hartford its home, is now for sale, under and order authorizing Timothy Drake, the receiver of the Calhoun Show Print Company to sell. The Calhoun Steam Printing company, which was a pioneer in the line of large-type printing, was formed in 1852 by Alexander and Robert Calhoun, brothers, and Alexander Calhoun is considered the father of the house which was dealt with show people and others all these years. Both of the original Calhoun’s are dean and no member of the Calhoun family has been connected with the business for a number of years, but the name has been an asset and it has always been retained."
By the turn-of-the-century the firm had been renamed Calhoun Printing Company. In 1910 it was sold to Thomas F. Dignam, who re-named it Calhoun Press, Inc. When Thomas passed, in 1934, his son, John V. Dingham took over and ran the company until he passed, in 1979. Although no longer run by a member of the Dingham family, Calhoun Press is still in business today.
Mounting: The flag was mounted and framed within our own conservation department, which is led by expert staff. We take great care in the mounting and preservation of flags and have framed thousands of examples.
The flag has been hand-stitched to a background of 100% cotton twill, black in color. The black fabric has been washed and treated for colorfastness. The mount was placed in a two-part frame that consists of a cove-shaped molding, dark brown in color, nearly black, with reddish undertones and highlights, to which a rippled profile molding, black with gold highlights, was added as a cap. Spacers keep the textile away from the glass, which is U.V. protective.
Condition: There is very minor soiling in limited areas and there are some significant rust stains near the right edge. There are some worn and weaker areas in the fabric, especially at the center. There are some tiny holes, apparently made by pins so that the textile could be worn as a sash. There is minor fading and pigment loss. The textile presents beautifully and the great scarcity of suffrage textiles well-warrants the condition.
Frame size (H x L): 7" x 19.5"
Flag size (H x L): 2.25" x 14".