|MASSACHUSETTS "BLUE BIRD" VOTES FOR WOMEN SIGN, MADE FOR THE EASTERN CAMPAIGN IN 1915
|Frame Size (H x L):
|18" x 10"
|Flag Size (H x L):
|11.5" x 3.25"
|One of the most attractive and unusual pieces of memorabilia from the American suffrage movement is a figural tin sign, printed to resemble a songbird, and carrying the message: "Votes for Women Nov. 2." Known in suffrage enthusiast circles as the "bluebird," this iconic object has the very nice feature of being signed along the edge of the tail by both the organization and the specific individuals who commissioned them: "Mass. Woman Suffrage Ass'n. Gertrude H. Leonard Teresa A. Crowley." These are accompanied by the Union Bug, which shows that the sign was produced in New York City by members of Local No.1 of the Amalgamated Lithographers of America (ALA), a labor union formed in 1915 to serve the interests of workers in the printing trade.
Made in 1915, these signs were part of a push for a state referendum that would have amended were intended to be tacked up or hung wherever the recipient chose to spread the word, such as in windows, porch and sign posts, lamp posts and telephone poles.
An example of this sign is featured on the cover of "Women's Suffrage Memorabilia" by Ken Florey (2013, McFarland & Co., North Carolina). It also appears and is described on p. B6.
Gertrude Newell was elected chairman of the organization in 1913 and was replaced by Crowley, who served until 1917. Brief biographies of the two women can be found in Harvard University's Women's Rights Collection. These read as follows:
"Gertrude Halladay Leonard (b. 1868) became interested in the suffrage cause in 1905 and for the next 12 years gave an increasing amount of time to the suffrage movement in Massachusetts. From 1912-1917 she was chairman of the State Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association (MWSA) and was virtually acting president, as Alice Stone Blackwell was often unable to fulfill her duties in that office. She served as chairman of the first Boston Suffrage Parade. Along with Theresa Crowley, Mrs. Leonard was greatly responsible for the work of lobbying in the state legislature in favor of a suffrage bill. When the U.S. entered WWI in 1917, Leonard resigned her chairmanship in order to spend the next few months in France as a Red Cross volunteer. From 1925-1926 she worked as an organizer for the League of Nations Non-Partisan Association."
As an Irish Catholic, Teresa Crowley (b. 1874, Wakefield, MA, d. 1930) was unusual among her peers in the NAWSA, most of whom were upper middle class Protestants. "[She] was a lawyer, amateur actress and suffragist. As chairman of the Legislative Committee of the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association, she led several successful campaigns against anti-suffrage politicians and is remembered as one of the leading orators of the suffrage movement."
Membership in the MWSA swelled from 25,000 in 1912 to 250,000 in 1915. This year was significant to the Suffrage campaign because on November 2nd of that year, male voters in Massachusetts defeated a state referendum that could have amended the U.S. Constitution to give all women of the state the right to vote. This was a repeat of a similar result in 1895. The only community in the state of Massachusetts to vote in favor of suffrage was Tewksbury with a vote of 149 to 148. Statewide, only 35.5% voted in favor of the measure. Massachusetts was among four eastern states where the issue came to a vote, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. It was unsuccessful in all four states.
Mounting: The bird is displayed in a deep shadowbox molding that is very dark brown, almost black in color, with red undertones and highlights and a step-down profile. To this a flat molding with a distressed gold finish was added as a liner. The glazing is anti-reflective, crystal clear, museum acrylic.
Condition: There are minor to modest rust spots throughout, accompanied by moderate areas at the tip of the tail and within the letter “S” in “votes.” There are two scratches in the neck area. There is very minor paint loss along the outer edge, in a couple of places, and tiny spots of the same within the interior. There is a purposeful hole in the eye of this design, so that the bluebird could be tacked to a surface. The hole has been expanded by a nail that was larger than its original diameter.
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