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Sandow Birk. “Excavating the Foundation of the Unfinished Temple of Human Rights,” 2015. Direct gravure etching on two copper plates printed on two sheets of gampi paper, joined and backed with sekishu kozo paper. Co-published by Mullowney Printing and Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco, CA and Portland, OR. Edition of 25 plus 8 proofs. Sheet: 61 ½ x 44 inches.
About the work:
“Excavating the Foundation of the Unfinished Temple of Human Rights” (2015), is the third gravure in Sandow Birk’s “Imaginary Monuments” series. Birk has conceptualized the architecture for this monument as an archaeological site where proposals for women’s rights throughout US history are being uncovered. The Declaration of Rights and Sentiments, written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton (and others), and the Lucretia Mott Amendment were presented at the Woman’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, July 19–20, 1848. Their statements were the first attempts at passing women’s equality legislation. The Declaration of Sentiments and eleven other resolutions were adopted readily, but the proposal for women’s suffrage was passed only after impassioned speeches by Stanton and former slave Frederick Douglass, who said suffrage “was the right by which all others could be secured.”
After the 19th Amendment affirming women’s right to vote was ratified in 1920, suffragist leader Alice Paul introduced the Equal Rights Amendment in 1923 as the next step in bringing “equal justice under law” to all citizens. In 1972, the ERA was finally passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification. The political tide turned more conservative, however, and in 1980 the Republican Party removed ERA support from its platform. Although pro-ERA activities increased with lobbying, rallies and civil disobedience, the ERA failed to get the final three state ratifications that were needed. The Equal Rights Amendment was reintroduced in Congress on July 14, 1982 and has been before every session of Congress since that time. Later bills imposed no deadline on the ERA ratification process. Yet, success in putting the ERA into the Constitution via this process requires passage by a two-thirds majority in each house of Congress and ratification by 38 states. The country remains unwilling to guarantee women constitutional rights equal to those of men in the form of a ratified amendment.