Advanced Search

Anthony, Susan B.

LETTER: ALS to Adelaide Johnson.


Anthony to Johnson
on the Suffragist Busts for the Women's Pavilion
Anthony, Susan. Autograph letter signed, "Susan B. Anthony," to Adelaide Johnson, Somerton, PA, September 5, 1892.
Single 5-3/4 x 9" leaf of NAWSA letterhead listing Anthony as President, both sides covered, with two small creases where folded for mailing. In a specially made cloth slipcase.
Anthony greets Johnson upon her return from a decade-long stay in Rome, where Johnson studied painting with the famed artist Giulio Monteverde. The financing details of Johnson's next project is the subject of this letter-an exhibition of sculpted busts of the prominent suffragist figures to be displayed at the Women's Pavilion of the World's Colombian Exposition Fair in Chicago the following year.
The letter reads in full:
Welcome home again-I see by this morning Phila. Paper that ship Fulda's Cabin passengers are allowed to land-so I suppose you are on your native [hearth?]-en route for Washington-Mrs. Stanton is away-so I hope you are not trudging about to find her-I sent you two drafts to Rome-$85 and $55-in all $140-And I have in Bank awaiting your order $291-which came too late to venture forwarding it to Rome-So tell me of whom you loaned & how much to get home-so we can start out appeals for enough to keep you out of the sheriff's hands-for a time at least.
Write me here-please-care Ms. Foster Avery-she got $25 this A.M. in return to one of her appeals-that I have counted in the amount and have named-as well as $90-that  Ms. Spofford returned to me-to forward to you-And you write-please tell me-how much- in all-you have had paid you toward the busts-if you got the $85 & $55 drafts in [home?] before [starting?]-
 Lovingly yours-Susan B. Anthony  
Adelaide Johnson (1859-1955), born Sarah Adeline Johnson, grew up in Illinois and attended the St. Louis School of Design. While still in school, she won fame in many local competitions and established a solid artistic reputation as a sculptor, painter, and woodcarver. In 1883, Johnson began living abroad, studying painting first in Dresden, and then in Rome, where she maintained a studio for twenty-five years. At various points in her career, Johnson had studios in Carrara, London, New York, Chicago, and Washington.
Johnson perceived feminism as "the mightiest thing in the evolution of humanity," and this perspective is very much reflected in her artwork. She believed it was her mission to record and immortalize the history of the suffrage movement. She began by exhibiting busts of suffragists Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and pioneer physician Caroline B. Winslow at the Woman's Pavilion of the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. In 1904, she secured a commission to create a national monument in the Capitol to commemorate the achievements of the suffragists.
Though Johnson had hoped to finance the project with the help of NAWSA, she and Anthony had a falling out over where the monument should be erected-Anthony preferred the Library of Congress to Capitol Hill. Johnson therefore enlisted the help of another suffragist, Alva Belmont of the National Woman's Party, and after much lobbying, got her funding and desired location. Sadly, her disagreement with Anthony permanently severed her ties with NAWSA. Her seven-ton sculpture of white Carrara marble entitled, "The Woman Movement," was presented to the nation on behalf of American women by the National Woman's Party on Anthony's birthday, February 15, 1921, fifteen years after Anthony's death. The reception for Johnson following the ceremony was the first ever given to a woman in the Capitol building. In 1936, Johnson's sculpture of Anthony was used as a model for the three-cent postage stamp commemorating the sixteenth anniversary of woman suffrage.
Throughout her life, Johnson spoke enthusiastically about women's rights and feminist issues. In a speech delivered on Anthony's birthday in 1934, she declared that "the awakening of woman" was "the central and supreme fact in the world of today." However, as this letter foreshadows, financial issues were often at the forefront of Johnson's career and in the end gained her almost as much notoriety as her artistic contributions. Her career as an artist waned in the 1930s and in 1939, as she faced eviction from her home, she invited the press to watch her deface her own sculptures as a demonstration of her frustration over her commercial failure. As a result of this display, several people offered her aid, including New York Congressman Sol Bloom, and Johnson was able to keep her house. However, eventually she was forced to sell her home to pay her taxes and moved in with friends living in Capitol Hill area, where she remained until her death in 1955. (NAW, The Modern Period, 380-381)

© 2011-2018 Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, Inc. All Rights Reserved.