Tag Archives: $20

Senator backs campaign to put female face on $20

The first woman to serve as both governor and U.S. senator is backing a campaign to put a female face on the $20 bill.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen filed legislation this week that would create a citizens panel to recommend an appropriate choice to the treasury secretary. She is hoping to build on the work of Women on 20s, a national campaign pushing for new $20 bills by 2020, the 100th anniversary of the constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote.

“I think there are a lot of opportunities that we sometimes don’t think about to point out the significant contributions women have made in U.S. history,” Shaheen said. “And this is one of those opportunities.”

The current portrait of former President Andrew Jackson has stared out from the face of the $20 since 1928. But paper currency is redesigned every seven to 10 years to thwart counterfeiters, and the latest $20 notes entered circulation in 2003. Changes can be ordered by the treasury secretary or president without an act of Congress, and Shaheen’s bill wouldn’t compel either to do so. Still, she and campaign supporters hope it will boost public support for redesigning the currency and spur broader conversation about the achievements of American women.

Barbara Ortiz Howard founded Women on 20s last year to honor historic women by making them visible in everyday lives. With help from experts in women’s history, the group compiled a list of 15 candidates that was narrowed to four finalists after a month of online voting: former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, escaped slave and leading abolitionist Harriet Tubman, civil rights icon Rosa Parks and former Cherokee Nation Chief Wilma Mankiller. More than 230,000 people voted in the first week after the finalists were announced April 6, said the group’s executive director, Susan Ades Stone.

Stone said voting will continue as long as interest remains high, though the group may approach the White House in the next few weeks.

“The name of the winner is not what this is about. What it’s about is showing that there’s wide support for a woman on our paper currency,” she said. “We are not under any illusions that the person who comes out of our polling will be the person who ends up on a bill because there is a process and that process usually involves empaneling a group of experts to make certain design choices.”

In a speech in Missouri last year, President Barack Obama described getting a letter from a young girl suggesting a long list of women to put on currency, and he said he thought that was “a pretty good idea.” Although others have started online petitions urging the change, none has reached the 100,000-signature threshold required for an official White House response, Stone said.

Shaheen, a Democrat, became the first woman elected governor of New Hampshire in 1996 and the first woman in the nation to serve as both governor and U.S. senator when she was elected to Congress in 2008. She contrasted the current social-media-driven campaign to the effort that led to the release of the Susan B. Anthony dollar coins in 1979.

“That was really before we had the social media we have today, but I remember a lot of people weighing in on that,” she said. “But paper currency is still really the currency of choice … so I think this is an important way to recognize women’s contributions just as we recognize men’s contributions.”

According to the Department of the Treasury, Martha Washington is the only woman whose portrait has appeared on a U.S. currency note. It appeared on $1 silver certificates in 1886, 1891 and 1896. Given that the $20 is overdue for an update, the cost of redesigning it to include a female portrait would be nominal, Shaheen said. Although she declined to pick one woman, Shaheen said some of her top choices include Tubman, Roosevelt, former first lady Abigail Adams and Frances Perkins, the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet.

U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, a New Hampshire Democrat, said she is proud to support the legislation.

“Although half of America’s population are women, we have yet to see a face on paper currency that exemplifies the women leaders in our society,” Kuster said. “It’s far past time to honor the important women who helped shape our nation’s history.”

On the Web…

For more, go to Women on 20s.

Thomas Sully painted with a dramatic flair

If you think that you’re not familiar with the work of 19th century portrait artist Thomas Sully, just open your wallet: A reproduction of Sully’s 1845 portrait of President Andrew Jackson adorns the $20 bill.

That’s one of many fascinating discoveries you’ll make at the Milwaukee Art Museum’s newest feature exhibitThomas Sully: Painted Performance. The exhibit contains a respectable portion of the artist’s oeuvre, including many works that had been lost or forgotten — until now.

Co-curators William Keyse Rudolph and Carol Eaton Soltis spent eight years rescuing nearly 80 works by the old American master from obscurity to create the exhibit. It’s on display through Jan. 5, 2014, after which it’s headed to San Antonio, Texas. Rudolph is MAM’s director of exhibitions and Dudley J. Godfrey Jr. Curator of American Art and Decorative Art. Soltis is project associate curator of American art at Philadelphia Museum of Art, 

During a members-only preview, Rudolph explained that Sully’s work is noteworthy not just for his delicate brushstroke and knack for intricate detail, but also for the stories captured in his artistry. Sully’s work has a dramatic quality that reflects his family’s theatrical background. 

Born in Britain, Sully (1783-1872) immigrated with his actor parents to Charleston, S.C., where they entertained the plantation-era South. Sully performed as a youngster, both as an acrobat and an actor.

Returning to England, Sully studied with Benjamin West and drew inspiration from other contemporary artists, including Sir Thomas Lawrence. He later settled in Philadelphia, then a hub of U.S. culture that eclipsed New York City’s artistic scene.

Sully’s family connections in the theater world led to his early commissions, and his subjects eventually encompassed a broad cross-section of elites, including the Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette and the newly crowned  Queen Victoria. He’s perhaps best known for the dramatic masterpiece The Passage of the Delaware, which depicts then-Gen. George Washington seated on a white stallion on the snowy banks of the Delaware River following a disastrous military defeat in New York (this painting is not part of the MAM exhibit).

One of the more interesting Sully paintings greeting visitors in MAM’s Baker/Rowland space is a nearly life-size portrait titled George Frederick Cooke, in the role of Richard III (1812). Sully shows the actor portraying Shakespeare’s villainous king in full, exquisite costume. Its subject standing before shadows, a cascade of light illuminating Cooke’s ornate velvet robe and sinister eyes, the painting makes it easy to imagine the impact Cooke had in the role.

A raucous playboy and a notorious drunkard, Cooke died shortly after the portrait was completed. When it was prominently displayed at the actor’s memorial, Sully’s career launched in earnest.

Sully’s male subjects impart a sense of machismo, while his women are imbued with graceful Victorian notions of beauty. Flushed cheeks, doe eyes, ivory skin and relaxed décolletage are common touches in his portraits of females. Though Sully acknowledged modifying some of his subjects — elongating the legs of one magistrate’s daughter, softening the laugh lines of another — his journal entries and letters of correspondence indicate he was quite spot on. 

A true “working artist,” Sully painted scenes from popular fiction in order to “play to the galleries,” after his portrait commissions began to falter. Scenes from Charles Dickens’ novels and Shakespeare’s plays appeared, as well as images drawn from the artist’s imagination. Known as “subject” pictures or “fancy” pictures, these paintings include Gypsies, mermaids and children at play. 

Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire (1843) exemplifies this subject matter. The massive painting reveals the kind heart of the drably dressed Cinderella as she plays with a kitten while her stepsisters stand vainly before a mirror.

An interesting aside to the painting is that Sully’s daughter Rosalie Sully, who posed as Cinderella, had an open lesbian relationship with noted actor Charlotte Cushman. According to historical sources, Cushman was a frequent guest in Sully’s home and referred to him as “Dad.” She also claimed that she and Rosalie Sully were “married” on July 6, 1844.

Rosalie Sully died not long after Cushman moved to Europe, where she was involved in several tumultuous relationships with other women.

It is clear that Sully had an unusual fondness for children, but his later portraits of youths grew dark and somber. By that time, he’d lost six children of his own, and his heartbreak over the losses was visible on his canvases.

One disturbing “fancy” painting by Sully features a lost girl, half dressed and in a dark cave, with only a scraggly dog for a companion. Sully returned to this scene numerous times over a period of years, and his dissatisfaction with it is apparent in the layers of paint that nearly obscure any fine detail. 

MAM has arranged the Sully exhibit thematically rather than chronologically. The artist’s partiality to neutral tones — an array of browns, ivories, peaches and greys — lends a muted, hushed aura to the viewing experience.

On exhibit

Thomas Sully: Painted Performance is on display at the Milwaukee Art Museum through Jan. 5. 

PHOTO: Thomas Sully’s daughter Rosalie posed for Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire. Credit: Courtesy Dallas Museum of Art/Pauline Allen Gill Foundation

‘Ellen’ gives ousted gay Boy Scout $20,000

A Northern California Boy Scout who was denied the opportunity to become an Eagle Scout and kicked out of his troop after he came out as gay has secured a considerable consolation prize: a $20,000 check for college and a national television audience.

Ellen DeGeneres hosted 18-year-old Ryan Andresen of Moraga as a guest on her talk show on Oct. 11, which was National Coming Out Day.

After talking with Andresen about his experience, DeGeneres surprised him with the check provided by online photo publisher.

Andresen’s mother, Karen Andresen, launched an online petition last week to get the master of her son’s to sign-off on a project that would allow him to become an Eagle Scout.

The Boy Scouts of America has a policy prohibiting gay members or troop leaders.