Women Vote - 19th Amendment
A powerful historic moment crafted with a modern artistic spin is presented on a new stamp marking the centennial of an important victory in a painful decades-long civil rights struggle – the Constitutional right for women to vote.
The vertically-oriented Women Vote - 19th Amendment stamp issued August 22 was the last of four releases that month from the U.S. Postal Service. The stamp marks the centennial of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees women the right to vote. The amendment was officially adopted August 26, 1920.
The stamp was to be issued in Seneca Falls, New York, the site of the country’s first women’s rights convention. The convention, held July 19-20 1848, culminated with the adoption of the Declaration of Sentiments, which called for equality between the sexes and included a resolution urging women to secure the vote. Because of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the first-day ceremony was canceled and, instead, a dedication was held online (watch below). First-day covers received an official Seneca Falls, N.Y. cancellation.
Jakki Krage Strako, chief commerce business solutions officer, called it a “truly special stamp” in the digital unveiling. “The stamp ... celebrates that momentous day and hard-fought achievement.”
Inspired by historic photographs, the stamp features a stylized illustration of suffragists marching in a parade or other public demonstration. The clothes they wear and the banners they bear display the official colors of the National Woman’s Party — purple, white and gold. “Women Vote,” “19th Amendment, “and “Forever USA” appear in shades of purple across the bottom, Art director Ethel Kessler designed the stamp with original art by Nancy Stahl.
Since Stahl’s first stamp – the 37-cent Snowy Egret (2003) – she has designed several U.S. animal stamps, including the Endangered Species Amur Tiger Cub semipostal (2011), plus other topics, such as Soda Fountain Favorites (2016) and the Christmas Holiday Knits (2007), for which she actually knitted items for each of the four designs.
Stahl shared a lot of fascinating details about her design process in both the summer edition of USA Philatelic catalog from the U.S. Postal Service and online August 21 in a presentation during the Virtual Stamp Show.
Stahl created the artwork for the stamp on her computer using historic references plus photographs of herself she took at her home in New York City.
“Stahl put on a white shirt, wrapped a white tablecloth around her waist, donned a sun hat and stood on her coffee table to pose for the camera,” USA Philatelic reported. “I always pose myself when I can’t find what I want.”
“We wanted to make this our contemporary celebration of what these women did 100 years ago,” Kessler added.
During her digital presentation for the Virtual Stamp Show, Stahl said she received the Women Vote assignment three years ago, “and believe me, I used all the time.”
“I wanted a lower viewpoint to make the figures look more heroic,” she said while explaining why she stood on her coffee table for modeling photos.
Aside from the colors on the stamp – Purple, Gold and White – representing the National Women’s Party. there is a significance to the stars on the banners on the stamp.
Alice Paul created a ratification banner as the amendment was going through the approval process, Stahl explained. Each time a new state ratified the amendment, Paul sewed a new star onto the banner. “I knew that banner was important,” Stahl said.
None of the figures shown on the stamp represent anyone specific, Stahl noted. The artist was not sure where lettering would go or how large it would be, so she presented Kessler with several preliminary designs, which showed any number of figures, from one to five.
Stahl attended Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles and also studied at School of Visual Arts. She has worked in a career split equally between traditional media and digitally created art. Aside from creating artwork for more than three dozen stamps, her assignments have ranged from editorial work for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Time magazine to corporate identity, packaging and advertising for diverse companies including: the Disney Family Museum, Stonyfield Farms, Time-Life Music and the National Park Service.
The suffrage movement’s official beginning is traced to the women’s rights convention of 1848 in Seneca Falls. There was little publicity, but 300 people showed up.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the meeting’s organizers, began with a speech on the convention’s goals, according to the Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls.
Stanton proclaimed, “We are assembled to protest against a form of government, existing without the consent of the governed — to declare our right to be free as man is free, to be represented in the government which we are taxed to support, to have such disgraceful laws as give man the power to chastise and imprison his wife, to take the wages which she earns, the property which she inherits, and, in case of separation, the children of her love.”
Prior to the convention, Stanton and others prepared the Declaration of Sentiments, which proclaimed “all men and women are created equal” and was signed by 68 women and 32 men at the convention. Former slave and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass was among the attendees.
Of the attendees who signed the Declaration of Sentiments at Seneca Falls, Rhoda Palmer (1816-1919) was the only woman who to live long enough to legally vote, in 1918, when New York legalized women’s suffrage.
The suffrage amendment was first introduced in Congress in 1878, but it wasn’t until 1919 that it finally passed the House and Senate. Three-quarters of the 48 states then in the Union were required to ratify the amendment. When Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment on August 18, 1920, the amendment was adopted.
This is at least the third U.S. stamp to note the 19th Amendment. A Woman Suffrage stamp in 1995 notes the amendment and shows women marching and a there is a Women Vote stamp in the 1920s Celebrate the Century pane. The 100 Years of Progress of Women stamp was issued in 1948 in Seneca Falls to commemorate the centennial of the first women’s rights convention. That stamp depicts three leaders – Stanton, Carrie Chapman and Lucretia Mott – while other single stamps have honored such leaders as Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul and Ida B. Wells.
This is at least the third U.S. stamp to specifically note the 19th Amendment. Other single stamps have honored suffrage leaders such as Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul and Ida B. Wells.