Persistence Exhibition: Sadie Ward

Persistence: Continuing the Struggle for Suffrage and Equality, 1830-2020

Artist: Sadie Ward

Chosen Suffrage Leader: Anna Dickie Olesen


Artist Statement

I believe that the message is in the medium of art, and I strive to use recycled/repurposed materials. I want you to think not just about aesthetic level, but additionally about where it came from. I repurposed fabric from donated/used bras to create a fabric collage portrait. Often when I think of the suffrage movement, I am inspired when I think of everything they accomplished while wearing restrictive corsets.

The suffrage movement represents a breaking of bondage, I believe the shift from corsets to bras also represents that breakage from bondage. While it seems taboo to highlight bras, undergarments are generally something very personal, yet is also very universal. Voting is the same; very personal, yet universal at the same time. We all know a bra is there for support, and I believe that through the medium of bras, viewers could develop a personal connection to the portrait.

Social change takes the work of many people. As a Minnesotan, I’m proud that the the first woman nominated to run for Senate is from Minnesota.

I hope my unusual bra art helps you remember the name Anna Dickie Olesen and gives you a reason to bring her up in conversation. We stand on the shoulders of women who came before us.

Sadie Ward Biography

Sadie Ward is a local artist, you may have seen some of her scenic and prop design work at Park Square, Theatre in the Round, Theatre Unbound, Theatre Pro Rata, The Phipps, Stages Theatre Company, Lyric Arts and Minnesota Opera. In our disposable modern world, she tries to incorporated recycled and upcycled elements into her theatre designs and art work. She recently won the Habitat for Humanity Upcycle challenge. She was also a judge on the 2019 Les Farrington Best 100 Juried Art Show. Sadie has also worked as a paint instructor at Wine and Canvas.

Anna Dickie Olesen, Bain News Service, publisher. Undated.

Anna Dickie Olesen Biography

In 1922, two years after the 19th amendment was ratified, Anna Dickie Olesen ran for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat from Minnesota. Olesen was a well known suffragist in Minnesota who lived first in Cloquet and then in Northfield. She was the first woman in the United States to run for Senate as the endorsed candidate of a major party. Her opponents were Republican incumbent Frank Kellogg and Henrik Shipstead of the Farmer-Labor Party.  Olesen campaigned all over the state and said, “I ask no consideration because I am a woman. I also ask that no one close his mind against me because I am a woman.”  Shipstead won the election with 47% of the vote, but Olesen remained politically active.

Olesen was known as a powerful speaker and was the first woman to serve on the Democratic National Committee (1917-1924). In January 1920 she spoke at the annual Jackson Day dinner in Washington, D.C. When Franklin Roosevelt became president, he appointed her as the only woman on the New Deal’s Emergency Council. Later in life, Olesen suffered from disappointment and disillusionment. She had hoped to pave the way for women in politics, but after the success of the 1922 election, the entry to women into Minnesota politics was just a trickle for several decades. Minnesota did not send a woman to the U. S. Senate until Amy Klobuchar in 2007. Tina Smith was elected as Minnesota’s second senator in 2018 after being appointed in 2017 to finish out the term of Al Franken. She had been serving as Lieutenant Governor. 

Minnesota elected its first woman representative to Congress in 1954 when voters in the ninth Congressional district (now the seventh) elected Cornelia Genevive Gjesdal “Coya” Knutson (1912-1996). She served from 1955 to 1959. Before serving in Congress she served in the Minnesota Legislature for two years.

Minnesota didn’t elect another woman to Congress until Betty McCollum was elected from the fourth district in 2000. McCollum started her career as a social science teacher. She began her political journey when she was elected to the North St. Paul City Council in 1986. In 1992 she was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives. Some of the issues that she focuses on include education and protecting the environment.

In 2018 Minnesota sent two more women to Congress, Angie Craig from the second district and Ilhan Omar from the fifth district. Craig had not held elective office before, but Omar was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2016, becoming the first Somali-American legislator in the United States. When she was elected to Congress in 2018, she became one of the first two Muslim women in the House of Representatives and the first woman of color elected from Minnesota.

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