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Guz to participate Friday in Her Flag project

BIG DAY FRIDAY — Savannah Schroll Guz sports the special T-shirt she designed and will wear Friday as part of her unique participation in the Her Flag project celebrating the original 36 states that ratified the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. -- Contributed

WEIRTON — The Her Flag project that a Weirton woman is a part of isn’t happening quite as planned for Savannah Schroll Guz, but it’s no less significant.

The Weirton artist was selected to represent the state of West Virginia in the Her Flag project that is celebrating the original 36 states that ratified the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the amendment’s ratification.

For Guz, her work involved making the 34th stripe in the 18-by-26-foot flag and contains portraits of four figures instrumental in the amendment’s ratification.

Originally, Guz was to meet June 11 with Oklahoma-based artist Marilyn Artus, project originator, at the Culture Center in Charleston, W.Va., where Artus would sew the 312-inch stripe onto the larger flag. West Virginia ratified the amendment on March 10, 1920.

Coronavirus pandemic precautionary restrictions changed that. While the flag-sewing ceremony will still happen for Guz, it’s on a different date and under different circumstances.

“Because the Culture Center on the Capitol Complex in Charleston is still closed to the public, we’ll be livestreaming the sewing ceremony from a conference room at the Sheraton Four Points in Charleston at 10 a.m., Friday,” Guz explained, encouraging anyone interested to watch.

“Marilyn and I will discuss the significance of the people and symbols appearing in the West Virginia stripe as she is using her Singer sewing machine to attach the 26-foot stripe to the larger flag,” she said.

“Additionally, in the event that you can’t tune in, my husband, Michael Guz, will take photographs of the ceremony so that we are able to post them on the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center Facebook page when we get back to Weirton. However, we hope that you will watch and respond to let us know you’re watching. I would be so grateful for a cheering section.”

Guz has a special outfit for Friday. “I will be wearing a T-shirt I designed that features two of Weirton’s Rosie the Riveters, Weirton Steel Division welders Florence Anderson on the left and Goldie Vindish, who appeared in the Aug. 13, 1943, issue of the Weirton Steel Employees Bulletin,” Guz explained.

“I specifically chose this image because it represents historically powerful women from our city, women who rolled up their sleeves and got things accomplished in order to facilitate our victory in World War II,” she said. “I’ve chosen to highlight women from Weirton on the T-shirt because I feel that, even though I’m representing the entire state of West Virginia in this national project, I also proudly represent our city — my home — as well as the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center, which preserves and celebrates the history and culture of our region. Weirton has so much to be proud of, and I want to celebrate who we are as a city while we celebrate the centenary of the 19th Amendment.”

Guz is pumped about Friday and the overall project.

“I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to represent the state of West Virginia in this creative and educational project, which has brought together and promoted the talents and messages of so many female artists from across the nation. I hope the visual narratives Marilyn Artus is piecing together will remind women in the United States of how far we’ve come and what’s possible through our constructive, collective efforts. The Her Flag project has value as a historical reminder of our progress, as an aesthetic and education experience and as a call to action,” Guz added.

West Virginia is the second live sewing ceremony — after Oklahoma’s — since the start of the pandemic, according to Guz. “Marilyn has been live-streaming the sewing ceremonies from her home studio in Oklahoma City since her last road trip, which was to Oregon on Feb. 28. Because of travel restrictions, she has had to live-stream Indiana, Wyoming, Nevada, New Jersey, Idaho, Arizona and New Mexico.”

This nationwide collaborative art and travel project is the brainchild of Artust, and Guz is in the company of 35 other artists involved, each of whom represents their home states. Together they have created a flag with 36 distinctive stripes.

On her Facebook page, Artus notes she wanted to create something that was “a powerful, positive educational project to celebrate this very important American anniversary.”

She also addresses the impact of COVID-19, noting, “…. Marilyn got off the road and sewed on stripes from her dining room. She got to 25 of the 36 states before she began live streaming the stripe-sewing performances. Marilyn is getting back on the road to go to the last three states — West Virginia, Washington and Tennessee. She will be with the artist who made the stripe and live stream the sewing in a private performance for the capital cities.”

On June 10, 2019, Artus began her 14-month journey to 36 states, traveling in the order of ratification. The first stop was Wisconsin. It ends in Nashville. The completed flag is anticipated to hang in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., and Artus and her team are creating a documentary film about the flag itself.

Guz learned about the Her Flag project’s call for artists through a friend, who urged her to enter.

She is the president and executive director of the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center who operates Savannah Schroll Guz Studios. She studied history of art and architecture at the University of Pittsburgh and studied art in Germany.

The artist statement that explains her stripe’s iconography and will accompany her contribution as the flag tours notes:

“West Virginia’s stripe depicts four figures instrumental to the state’s ratification of the 19th Amendment. The first portrait is of Preston County-raised Dr. Harriet B. Jones, the state’s first licensed female physician and the first woman elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates. The second portrait is Marion County-born Lenna Lowe Yost, president of the Equal Suffrage Association and the West Virginia Women’s Christian Temperance Union as well as eventual director of the Women’s Division of the national Republican Party. The third portrait represents Wheeling-born Sen. Jesse A. Bloch, who raced home from a California trip to break the 14-14 deadlock in the West Virginia Senate, thus compelling ratification. The last portrait depicts Taylor County-raised Ada Enid Haldeman Ford, founder of both the Taylor County Women’s Suffrage League and the first Democratic Women’s Committee as well as the first woman to be elected to the Democratic State Executive Committee.

“The years indicated on the stripe are watershed points in state suffrage history. The first, 1895, is the year in which the inaugural women’s suffrage convention was held in Grafton, W.Va., and the point at which many suffragette groups were founded. In 1913, the West Virginia House of Delegates attempted to pass a statewide women’s suffrage amendment, but it failed to receive the two-thirds majority required. The year 1916 saw an unsuccessful public referendum on women’s suffrage, which was rejected by the yet all-male electorate. A star appears on the year 1920, when Sen. Bloch cast the deciding vote in favor of 19th Amendment ratification.

“Finally, a rhododendron, West Virginia’s state flower, is self-referential but also because the plant flowers in clusters symbolizes the great blossoming of women’s rights. It is depicted in ascendance.”

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