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  SHIELD-SHAPED BANNER FROM THE NORTH JERSEY SHORE WOMAN'S SUFFRAGE LEAGUE, HANDED DOWN THROUGH THE FAMILY OF ITS PRESIDENT, VIOLA AGUERO, WITH A LARGE ARCHIVE OF MATERIAL THAT INCLUDES AN IMAGE OF HER ACTUALLY HOLDING THE BANNER

Available: Sold
Frame Size (H x L): 46.25" x 38.25"
Flag Size (H x L): 34.75" x 27.25"
Description....:
During the Women's Suffrage movement, many organizations sprung up all over the country that helped bring the issue to a head. The nucleus of activity surrounded New York State and New York City, where leading activists such as Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Harriot Eaton Stanton Blatch waged war on the right of women to vote. In nearby New Jersey were Alice Paul and others, among whom was a memorable figure by the name of Viola Aguero.

Aguero became president of an organization called the North Jersey Shore Woman's Suffrage League (NJSWSL) on November 2nd, 1914. The organization was originally founded as the "Woman's Suffrage Association of the North Jersey Coast" on September 12th, 1910, in the tiny town of Bradley Beach, located between Asbury Park and Belmar. The name was at some point changed slightly and the headquarters moved to Heck Street in Asbury Park, near Wesley Lake. The activities of the group seem to have been primarily focused on the aforementioned communities, as well as Redbank, Long Branch, Spring Lake and Westfield, though the outreach was probably further.

Aguero lived in Bradley Beach, where she would serve for a time as the community's first woman police officer (appointed July 15th, 1920, before national Suffrage was passed) and as the first female justice of the peace in Monmouth County. She was a dynamic individual. She was a real estate agent, sung opera semi-professionally, and would serve as an aide for the National Union for Social Justice in New Jersey's 3rd District, among other roles of significance.

Women's Suffrage banners are extraordinarily rare in the antiques marketplace and are highly prized by collectors. Aguero seems to have either personally made or acquired this particular banner for the NJSWSL, shortly before August 8th, 1913, when she presented a "beautiful banner" to the league as recorded by the Asbury Park Evening Journal in an article that appeared on August 9th of that year. The banner is accompanied by a host of articles and documents clipped and saved by Aguero [now stored in a substantial, archival folder with aluminum covers]. Many of the articles were not citated or even dated, but I was thankfully able to uncover dates for the key items of interest, as well as other interesting information, including an image of Aguero in her police officer's uniform.

By far the best document, however, is a newspaper article from 1928 which contains a fantastic photo that shows Aguero actually holding this exact banner in the doorway of what is presumed to be the organization's headquarters, while another woman upstairs, a Ms. Lulu Barnes, waves the Stars & Stripes out a window. The image, presumably taken in 1915, is captioned "Barbara Frietchie of 1915," paying homage to the ninety-six-year-old woman Unionist in Baltimore that leaned out her window to antagonize Stonewall Jackson and his men by waving an American flag.

The banner is made of yellow cotton, painted in sea foam blue-green and silver. The former was the color of the suffrage movement in America, while the latter seems especially fitting for a community adjacent to the ocean. The shield-shaped format and the scrollwork beneath the words "New Jersey" have a 19th century feel, as does the style of lettering, which is bold and purposefully varied throughout in a 19th century manner. The cartouche, however, where the words "Suffrage League" appear in silver, is reminiscent of the 19-teens and the carnival style signage of the New Jersey boardwalks.

1915 was a year of much anticipation in New Jersey. On November 2nd of that year male voters defeated a referendum that would have amended the U.S. Constitution to give all women of the state the right to vote. New Jersey was among four eastern states where the issue came to a vote, including New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, all of which were unsuccessful. Public support had been favorable in New York specifically, where the Suffrage movement was 100,000 members strong. Polls had predicted the likeliness of a win, and while it did not occur that year, a successful follow-up campaign in 1917 made New York the first eastern state to adopt suffrage. New Jersey would not follow until suffrage was federally mandated in 1920.

Interestingly enough, the first women to vote in the United States lived in New Jersey. Immediately after 1776, the state constitution's suffrage requirements included all "free inhabitants" meeting property requirements, thus ignoring all gender barriers. The legislation allowed some blacks to vote, as well as non-citizens, and was worded in the following manner:

"[A]ll inhabitants of this Colony, of full age, who are worth fifty pounds proclamation money, clear estate in the same, and have resided within the county in which they claim a vote for twelve months immediately preceding the election, shall be entitled to vote for Representatives in Council and Assembly; and also for all other public officers, that shall be elected by the people of the county at large."

Women with property used this loophole to vote in New Jersey until the state legislature put an end to women's voting rights in 1807.

In summary, the rarity of large scale suffrage banners makes this example highly desirable, but the presence of a period image of the individual who likely made or acquired it, actually holding it, takes it to another level all together. This is especially poignant due to the fact that the image was taken at the height of the suffrage movement and that the individual was an interesting personality in addition to the specific organization's president. Aguero became a police officer just ten years after the hiring of Alice Stebbins Wells in San Francisco, who became the first women police officer in the United States. The form, color and lettering also make for a particularly beautiful object.

As an interesting side note, Mrs. Helen D. Longstreet, widow of the famous Confederate general James Longstreet, was an involved member of the NJSWSL. Having moved to the area impoverished and wishing to improve her health, she got into a political and monetarily-fueled squabble with Ageuro over the publishing of a newspaper entitled the "Jersey Suffragist," of which Longstreet was going to be a contracted employee.

Mounting: The banner has been hand-stitched to 100% cotton, black in color, that was washed to reduce excess dye. An acid-free agent was added to the wash to further set the dye and the fabric was heat-treated for the same purpose. The mount was then placed in a modern frame with a very dark finish, almost black, with a scooped profile and a rope-style inner lip, to which a gilded liner was added that is light gold, leaning toward silver. Spacers keep the textile away from the glazing, which is U.V. protective glass.

Condition: There is moderate fading of the yellow fabric and the painted pigments. There is moderate fabric loss along the top edge. A length of fabric of similar coloration was placed behind this area during the mounting process. There is modest water staining throughout, accompanied by small, dark, scattered dots of staining, most significant along the top. The underlayed fabric was professionally painted to mimic the condition. many of my clients prefer early flags and banners to show their age and history of use.
Collector Level: Flags for the truest Patriots. My best offerings
Flag Type:
Star Count:
Earliest Date of Origin: 1913
Latest Date of Origin: 1913
State/Affiliation: New Jersey
War Association:
Price: SOLD
E-mail: Inquire
 

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