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Published March 09, 2020
A University of Wyoming research scientist is among participants in the “Her Flag” artist project that celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
“Her Flag,” led by award-winning artist Marilyn Artus, is a nationwide project visiting the original 36 states that helped ratify the amendment. Participants in the project are producing an 18-foot by 26-foot large-scale collaborative art flag. The 36 women artists selected to collaborate on the commemorative flag each live in one of the 36 states; each designed one stripe for the 36-striped flag, created in their own artistic voice.
National organizers are collaborating with Wyoming’s representative, Bethann Garramon Merkle, a Department of Zoology and Physiology and Biodiversity Institute associate research scientist at UW. She was selected to design Wyoming’s stripe, which will be added to the flag this month.
The project is a 14-month journey, with a Wyoming stop scheduled Saturday, March 21, at 1 p.m. at the Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne, located at 2301 Central Ave. The free public “Her Flag” Wyoming stripe-sewing performance has received contributions from Wyoming Humanities and the UW Office of Engagement and Outreach.
Two other UW employees will be part of the day’s events. Renee Laegreid, an American studies and history professor, will give a women’s history presentation; and Birgit Fowler Burke, an American Heritage Center accountant and local musician, will provide music.
Artus says she is on a mission to ensure that every woman she meets during the 14-month project is registered to vote.
“But, celebrating this anniversary is not just about women. This was a fight,” Artus says. “It took Democrats and Republicans, and men and women, and black, white and Native Americans working together to get this amendment passed. ‘Her Flag’ is not a political piece of work; rather, it is a powerful, positive symbol used to educate and celebrate this truly momentous American anniversary.”
The project began in Madison, Wis., last June and will finish in Nashville, Tenn., Aug. 18.
Garramon Merkle says the “Her Flag” project is a powerful way to meld social justice, environmental issues and civic dialogue. The stripe she is contributing is an illustrated quilt -- sewn from her great-grandmother’s quilt squares. Garramon Merkle’s stripe pays homage to 36 women who taught her to “honor, lift up, believe and empower other women.”
The women appear in a timeline, starting with her mother and sisters, and progressing to more recent influences, culminating in her contemporary perspectives on suffrage, feminism and equality. Her stripe also incorporates aspects of Wyoming’s flora and fauna, a nod to the Equality State, where women have had the right to vote since 1869.
“I was drawn to the ‘Her Flag’ project because I come from a very traditional family, which also is full of strong women,” she says. “Over the years, women from all sorts of backgrounds and points of view have had a powerful impact on how I understand and experience the world. ‘Her Flag’ was a distinct opportunity to honor these women for what they have given me and the world.”