Susan B. Anthony (standing) and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, between 1880 and 1902, Public Domain.

Pic of the Month

“’Vote!!’ said the lady with the alligator purse!!”

The purse belonged to Susan B. Anthony who, with her friend and colleague Elizabeth Cady Stanton, founded and led the Women’s Suffrage movement which ultimately led to the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, that gave women the right to vote. The traveling champion of the women’s rights movement, Susan B. Anthony, was recognized by two trademarks: her red shawl and her alligator purse. In this purse Anthony carried her speeches, tracts and a copy of the transcript of her 1873 trial that found her guilty of having voted illegally in the 1872 federal election.

As we ponder her relevance today, we should note that in 1866 Anthony and Stanton founded the American Equal Rights Association, which campaigned for equal rights for both women and African Americans.

This purse carried important history, whereas a Hermes bag merely costs a lot.

Susan B. Anthony’s purse was exhibited for four weeks in the Votes for Women exhibit at the New York State Museum, Albany. Courtesy of National Susan B. Anthony Museum & House. A modernized version of the purse is for sale at the Museum, www.susanbanthonyhouseshop.org 

Miss Lulu had a baby, she called him tiny Tim.
She put him in the bathtub, so see if he could swim.
He drank up all the water! He ate up all the soap!
He tried to swallow the bathtub, but it wouldn’t go down his throat!!
Call for the doctor! Call for the nurse!
Call for the lady with the alligator purse!
“Mumps!” said the doctor. “Measles!” said the nurse.
“Vote!!” said the lady with the alligator purse!!


The First Twelfth Day of Christmas

The Adoration of the Magi, c. 1520, probably by Gerard Horenbout.

The final homage to King Herod

In a largely illiterate society, stories were told by images. People who could not read writing read images better than we can read words. So how did they read this Adoration of the Magi?

The Magi represented the population of the known world: Melchior, old with white skin; Caspar, young with darker skin; Balthasar, age indeterminate with black skin. Their gifts conveyed the meaning of Christ: Gold – the gift to the King; Incense – the gift to God; Myrrh (used to anoint the dead) – the gift to the Redeemer who died for mankind. The Adoration was the public recognition by the whole world of Christ as King, Son of God and suffering Redeemer. It was thus the end of Christmas, the period of His birth.

In the lower panel the Magi pay homage to King Herod on their way to the stable. Herod is in a palatial arcade, Christ in a ruined building re-used as a stable. The meaning is obvious. Less obvious perhaps is Herod’s crown lying on the floor of the stable – Herod is no longer the King: Christ is.

In the top left, the long procession refers to the journey that every citizen had to make to the census ordered by Caesar Augustus – the journey that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. The Roman census, homage to Herod, the secular King of Judea, and the Adoration of the new Christ: images of the tense differences between political power and sacred power – clearly prefiguring our separation of Church and State.

The “illiterate” viewer of this image probably gained more from this story than we do today when reading it in words. That’s worth thinking about.


Who is this?

A droll Caricature MAP of SCOTLAND, London, 1795

A droll Caricature MAP of ENGLAND and WALES, London, 1795

Who is this? Actually, the jolly drinker is England and Wales taken from a fanciful atlas, Geography Bewitched! by the printmaker and caricaturist Robert Dighton.

Caricatures were very popular in eighteenth-century England. Perhaps they filled in for today’s political cartoons in newspapers? Anyway, satirists such as Hogarth and Rowlandson made good livings, and so did Robert Dighton. The mix of politics, wit, humor, and the depiction of people’s follies and foibles was obviously a popular recipe. In his satirical atlas Dighton filled the outlines of countries with caricatured figures and national symbols. Here, England seems much more benignly depicted than Scotland, but that was to be expected: Dighton was English, his shop was in London, and the two countries have always had an edgy relationship. As the very English Dr. Samuel Johnson said, “The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!”

Melody Amsel-Arieli


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