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Women's group raises money for tribute to Missouri suffragist Virginia Minor

Monday, March 10, 2014 | 5:59 p.m. CDT; updated 9:19 p.m. CDT, Monday, March 10, 2014

JEFFERSON CITY—The Missouri Women's Network Education Fund launched its 1,000 Strong Campaign to raise $10,000 for the bust of St. Louis suffragist Virginia Minor to join the collection of bronze memorialized Missourians.

Shirley Breeze, the state chairwoman of the Missouri Women's Network, said the organization hopes to raise the funds by late August or early September. In a news release, the group asked women from around the state to come forward and donate to the memorial for this female trailblazer.

According to the release, House Speaker Tim Jones won't sponsor a golf tournament to fund the sculptures this year, so all four busts will be funded privately. This is the first year that the Missouri Women Network has been actively involved in getting a woman in the Hall of Famous Missourians.

The group hopes to reach its goal through $10 donations from 1,000 people. Breeze said the group has sent a flier to its group email lists to garner donations. She said that if the group can't raise the funds necessary to get the bust sculpted and installed, it will turn to some larger women's organizations for fundraising assistance. 

"We consider her the impetus for the equity issues that came after that point in time, and she had never been recognized," Breeze said. "She really had a big part to play in getting the country to recognize the issue."

Minor advocated for women's suffrage the whole of her life, jumping into the movement in the 1860s. She tried to register to vote in 1872, but was turned away. So she sued. Her case made its way to the Supreme Court in Minor v. Happersett in 1874. But even using the 14th amendment as her champion, Minor lost. She continued to push for women's right to vote the rest of her life. 

Cynthia Hitschler, owner of Celebration Studios of Missouri, was commissioned to sculpt the bust.

This is Hitschler's first commission with the Capitol.

"We have one of the most gorgeous Capitol buildings in the country, and I would love to do this again," Hitschler said. "I am so thrilled to be a part of it."

She opened her studio in 1998 and guesses that she's done more than 30 pieces.

Hitschler has worked on a number of public projects in the St. Louis region, most of them, she said, brought to her by word of mouth. When she realized commissions for the busts in the Hall of Famous Missourians were extended to artists, she applied. 

For Hitschler, getting to know her subject is the first building block for a good likeness.

"That's the historical synopsis, the time period lived in, the challenges he or she encountered," she instructed. "Then, you move to the physical appearance. The visual material is pretty thin for Virginia Minor, but I'm working with a few images that are pretty good. You have to know your subject."

Hitschler sees a suffragist born ahead of her time. She sees a woman lobbying hard for her fellow women, a brassy woman seeking justice and balance in the country.

"From the photos of her, she looks like a very determined, strong-willed, strong-jawed woman, but without compromising her femininity," Hitschler ruminates. "I'm going to strive to retain that in the bust: that she's still womanly and feminine. That's what she was."

The entire process, depending on the complexity of the sculpture, could take between three to six months after the beginning of the casting process, when it leaves her hands. 

Hitschler has already started the clay for Minor. 

"I'm hoping to have the clay done and ready for the sponsoring organization to approve it sometime next month," she said. From then, the piece will be molded and sent to the foundry. By the end of June, the likeness should be ready to be mounted.

Minor was one of two of Jones' picks last year for the Hall of Famous Missourians. Two more were inducted through a public vote.  

She would be in the company of seven famous Missouri women and 37 men, counting her co-inductees last year. The busts are located in the third floor Rotunda of the Missouri State Capitol.  

Breeze said that if this fundraising is successful, the group hopes to continue to be involved in this process.

"There are so many women who deserve this recognition," she said. "Seven women out of the state of Missouri? Give me a break."

The group asks that donations be sent to MWNEF, Joyce Schuetz, Treasurer, 538 Oak Ridge Trails Court, Ballwin, MO 63011.


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