The Sky is Now Her Limit

Elmer Andrews Bushnell1920

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
Washington, D.C., United States

Upon the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, illustrator Elmer Andrews Bushnell represented the opportunities now open to enfranchised women. A young working class woman with a milkmaid’s yoke suddenly has access to a future that she never had before. While balancing her pails, she looks up from the base of a ladder that ascends toward the sky. The bottom rungs, labeled “Slavery” and “House Drudgery,” are the subject’s first hurdles. The next rungs are labeled with careers typical for women in the early twentieth century. Three-quarters of the way up the ladder, the label reads “Equal Suffrage.” Those that follow feature governmental positions. At the top, the last step delineates what, for many American women, symbolizes the pinnacle of political equality: “Presidency.”


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