Sunday, January 17, 2010




Tess, original mixed-media purse

I wonder what life was like during the 1920’s. Imagine being born at a time when women were not allowed to vote and the first World War was looming on the horizon.

Last April I posted a new series called “Sepias.” As strange as this may sound, I completely immerse myself into a sepia picture of a woman and come up with a story of what her life could possibly have been like.

I never know where or when a new idea for a series is going to hit.

Here is how the sepia series began.

An old box was among several items that I bought at an estate sale several years ago. When I opened the tattered, antique container, I found newspaper clippings, old letters, and keys – fragments of a family’s life. I learned a great deal about these people by the simple mementos someone had hidden away. More than just satisfying my idle curiosity about a family, this discovery inspired me to create a series of objets d’art named "Sepias"

Antique box with treasures

To create my Sepias, I started with an old photograph, preferably one of the sepia-tinted photographs so common in the 1800’s. Then, I made a pouch for the photo using an antique-looking fabric. Within each pouch I placed other items, often antiques themselves, depicting a life I imagined the woman in the photograph might have lived. The items acted as a catalyst to jolt my intuition into action. Then, I wrote a vignette from the woman’s life as I imagined it from my study of her photograph. This, too, was placed in the pouch.

Sepia photo of Tess

My friend, Karen, sent me a sepia photo that she found in an antique shop in Warren, Ohio. She loved the flirty, mysterious look on the woman’s face and thought I could use her in my new series. Since she appeared to be quite special, (notice she was smiling, which wasn't in vogue at the time) Karen instructed me to “write her well.”

I usually have to research the time frame of each one of the “Sepias,” and in the case of Tess, by the time I finished, I felt like I knew her.

I think she lives up to the name and photo. She turned out to be a very high-spirited kind of gal. I used authentic flappers beads for the fringe on the purse and other interesting items that seemed appropriate for the ‘Roaring Twenties.”

"Flapper" fringe

Scroll with Tess story and antique beads


January 1, 1917

Dear Diary,

It's 1917 and the world is changing faster every day. A while back, my friend Emily and I began a discussion about how we wanted to open a business together. We were thinking about a little clothing shop. We imagined ourselves selling all the popular styles like flapper dresses and cloche hats. We'd be the cat's meow! But then we began to wonder if this was a good idea. Here and in most of the country, women still can’t vote. The legislature will be making laws that could have a huge impact on our business, and we won’t have any say about them.

I wanted to talk to Daddy about this to see what he thinks, but I think he’s too preoccupied to be bothered. There’s more and more talk that the United States is going to get involved in that war in Europe. And Daddy always seems a little harder to talk to since Virginia approved statewide prohibition. I think he’s afraid that the whole country will be dry before long. Then it will be even harder to sneak a little drink now and again.

Well, Emily and I decided that if we’re going to be able to live our lives the way we want to, we need to be able to vote. So, we decided to join the National Women’s Party. Rumor has it that the suffragists in the NWP are going to hold protests in Washington starting this month. We want to help out.

January 10, 1917

Dear Diary,

We picketed the White House today. (I got all dressed up for the occasion, wearing my new long pearls and my Mary Janes). I was a little scared. It’s hard to believe a bunch of women can take on the whole federal government and win. But, we all feel very strongly about not being allowed to vote. Women all over the country are taking action. With strong leaders like Alice Paul, I think there’s hope.

March 4, 1917

Dear Diary,

Our little marches are being noticed, but it’s hard to say how much progress we’re making. We’re picketing the White House almost every day now. President Wilson still doesn't support a constitutional amendment allowing women the right to vote. We have been peaceful, letting our signs do the shouting for us. Today, I carried one that said, "MR. PRESIDENT, HOW LONG MUST WOMEN WAIT FOR LIBERTY." But I think the president has too much else on his mind to pay any attention to us.

May 16, 1917

Dear Diary,

We have kept our vigil at the White House for months now. We have members of our group raising banners everywhere. Women all over the country are standing up for themselves.

June 22, 1917

Dear Diary,

One of our members was arrested today. Still, we won't give up.

August 10, 1917

Dear Diary,

More arrests today. Alice Paul was arrested in July. She went on a hunger strike to protest the horrible conditions in the jail. Now we hear that the jailers have been force-feeding her through a tube. I wonder how much longer we’ll be able to keep this up.

January 30, 1918

Dear Diary,

This month, President Wilson finally asked Congress to pass legislation granting women the right to vote. He called it a necessary “war measure.” It’s sad to think that we need the horror going on in Europe to help us gain a right we should have anyway.

October 2, 1918

Dear Diary,

Day before yesterday, the Senate failed to pass the suffrage amendment again. The House of Representatives passed it in January, but we just can’t seem to get the support we need in the Senate.

June 5, 1919

Dear Diary,

What a day!! On May 21, the House of Representatives passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Yesterday, the Senate followed. We are just waiting for it to be ratified by the states now. Soon, Women all over the United States will have the right to vote!

I'm so proud to have been a small part of this struggle that has been going on in this country for more than 70 years. Women's lives will be changed forever. Perhaps someday in the not-too-distant future, the laws will finally give us all the same rights as men, and maybe we’ll even have a woman elected as president!


On my next post, I will be introducing everyone to the 4th annual “One World One Heart” blog event. I will be giving away one of my hand made creations in a drawing as well as showing you my studio and other areas of Woodloft, my home. Nothing here is what would fall into the category of “norm” but if you have been following my posts, you already know that. You won’t want to miss this post!

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