When Marilyn Artus realized that the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment — which gave women the right to vote — was coming up in 2020, she knew she wanted “to do something big to celebrate.”
The Oklahoma artist decided to collaborate with others around the country in a project she called Her Flag. She asked a female artist from each of the 36 states that ratified the amendment to design a stripe, and is traveling to meet the women and add their work in their states’ capitals.
The only stipulations Artus gave was that the stripe should be red or pink, and that it should include a positive message.
Jann Haworth, a Salt Lake City artist known for designing The Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, created the addition for Utah, the 17th state to ratify the 19th Amendment.
She featured a line from Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day,” which reads, “What is it that you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” “It’s such a beautiful phrase,” Haworth said.
On Wednesday afternoon at the downtown Salt Lake City Main Library, Artus leaned over her sewing machine as three girls from Rock Camp SLC performed Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”
“I just finished the last stitch, you guys!” Artus said to cheers.
A group then carried the flag up a flight of stairs for the crowd to see. Utah’s stripe, the newest addition, hung at the bottom.
The letters of the quote on Haworth’s stripe are filled with images of the “Work in Progress” mural she has collaborated on with her daughter, Liberty Blake. Since 2016, they’ve held workshops in Salt Lake City and other places to add to the project.
“We’re topping 250 people having worked on the mural who are, largely speaking, ... nonartists. So they’re people who either have never done art before or done very little,” Haworth said.
The mural incorporates more than 300 women who have been “catalysts for change,” including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Mata Hari and Germaine Greer. Haworth purposefully didn’t include Utah women so that the piece would "be international.”
But Haworth said she’s planning a “completely Utah” project for downtown Salt Lake City that she hopes to complete by next summer.
“Work in Progress” started as seven panels, but it now stretches 15 panels and is 60 feet long, Haworth said. Part of it is currently on display at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, England.
Rather than focusing on a single person or moment, Haworth said, she wanted to create something “inclusive” by using the mural on Utah’s stripe for Her Flag.
“I felt that was a good marriage to Marilyn’s project,” she said. It’s because of the suffrage movement that “these women (in the mural) were able to achieve the things that they did," she said.
Artus’ flag will be 18 feet tall and 26 feet wide when it’s completed next year in Tennessee, the final state to ratify the 19th Amendment and make it law. In addition to the stripes, Artus is adding a piece that says “Votes for Women” with 36 stars around it.
When it’s done, the flag will be available for display in each of the states, Artus said. “Hopefully, it travels all over the country for a very long time,” she said.
Artus is paying each of the women she’s asked to collaborate, including the girls from Rock Camp SLC, a youth summer music organization, who performed while she sewed Wednesday.
The roughly 30 people who gathered at the library danced and clapped as Jillian Newton, 9, and sisters Isabella Reinert, 11, and Gracie Reinert, 8, played “Zombie” by The Cranberries, “Love is an Open Door” from the movie “Frozen,” and their camp song.
“We bring each other up, not tear each other down,” they sang.
Neylan McBaine, cofounder and CEO of Better Days 2020, a local organization that promotes Utah women’s history, invited everyone to eat cake to celebrate Seraph Young’s 173rd birthday. Young was the first woman to vote in Utah and the modern U.S., in 1870.
Becky Jacobs is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of women in Utah for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today.