Persistence: Continuing the Struggle for Suffrage and Equality, 1830-2020
Artist: Klaire Lockheart
Chosen Suffrage Leader: Theresa Peyton
In many museums and government buildings, women are glaringly absent. The only time I ever see women is when they are included in the art or decorations as allegories for justice, liberty, or democracy. Traditionally, no actual women are represented. The women who shaped our history are missing. To correct this error, I deliberately chose to re-appropriate these historic poses of allegories and put influential women in their place.
This oil on canvas painting represents Theresa Peyton as Liberty Leading the People; however, I represented Peyton with dignity in her contemporary clothing. Peyton was a teacher, lawyer, the Corresponding Secretary for St. Paul’s Political Equality Club, and she was part of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association. Because of her tenacity and support of women, I depicted her holding a banner from the St. Paul Equality Club and the Suffragist Flag. This is portrait is a double act of defiance since not only are real women absent from dramatic history paintings, women artists were prohibited from creating them.
Klaire Lockheart Biography
Klaire A. Lockheart is a feisty artist who uses traditional oil painting techniques to critique historical injustices in the traditional Western art world. She has lived in South Dakota since she earned her MFA from the University of South Dakota, and she is currently the Artist in Residence at the Vermillion Area Arts Council. Lockheart enjoys using the human form as a vehicle to communicate the agency of her subjects with viewers, especially since women artists were historically prohibited from studying live models and making historic paintings. In addition to addressing femininity and feminism within her artwork, Lockheart enjoys incorporating humor to make serious subjects approachable. She also enjoys celebrating the accomplishments of women, and she is the South Dakota artist for the national Her Flag collaborative artwork. Her recent solo exhibitions include Feminine Attempts at the Sioux City Art Center in Sioux City, IA; A is for Apron at the Ritz Gallery in Brookings, SD; and Ladylike Representations at Gallery 120 in Inver Grove Heights, MN.
Theresa Peyton Biography
Theresa Peyton was active in the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association and served as its Corresponding Secretary. In 1912 she and some other MWSA members grew dissatisfied with the state of the organization and broke away, starting their own Equal Franchise League. This caused a rift between the women on the boards of the two organizations.
Peyton was elected president of the Equal Franchise League, which organized suffrage clubs throughout the state. Like Julia B. Nelson, Theresa Peyton was also very active in the WCTU and was in charge of its Department of the Franchise for a time.
Although she grew up in St. Paul in a working-class family, Peyton pursued higher education and a career. She became a teacher in the St. Paul schools by the early 1900s, but also graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1909. At that time, finding work in a law firm as an attorney was difficult for women. Whether she tried and failed, or just chose to continue teaching, we don’t know, but we know that she taught at Humboldt High School for many years.
Both of these careers would have made her skilled at building arguments and accustomed to public speaking. She attended several national suffrage conventions and corresponded with prominent women and men in the suffrage movement, arranging for speakers to come to St. Paul. Peyton volunteered her legal knowledge to help women and children through her work with the Protestant Women’s League. Besides her career and her volunteer activities, Theresa Peyton was also a talented ceramic artist.
Theresa Peyton lived to see the 19th Amendment ratified, but died in 1929 at age 49.