Susan Harkins

Women's Suffrage Mural

Maine Public Art Mural 2021 – 72 Lisbon Street, Lewiston, Maine

Persevere & Progress  – Women’s Suffrage Centennial Fountain Mural Commission

Permanent Public Art – L/A Arts – National Endowment for the Arts

Maine’s history is rich with inspiring stories of women achieving greatness against unimaginable feats. That is the message this artwork should convey. To struggle onward against all odds for what you know in your heart to be right and true.

19 stars adorn the top of the mural – representative of the 19th Amendment and a nod to the suffrage flag which displayed 36 stars – one for each state needed to ratify the amendment. 28 umbrellas assemble in the courtyard – representing both the mass of suffragists who would take to the streets in cars and on foot to march in the name of equality and every amendment brought to the state addressing women’s suffrage before the ratification of the 19th amendment. 

To activate the space I want to create a bold eye-catching design true to the suffrage aesthetic, rich with symbolism, brought into the modern era. 


Royal purple evokes power and authority – while also being the official color of the suffrage movement – it is a color that represents passion, something these women had no shortage of. Diagonal shapes lead the eye. A lighter tone blocks out the backdrop allowing the prominent figures to stand out in rich gold tones which breathe life into stoic silhouettes. A rising sun gives hope for a brighter future.

Florence Whitehouse stands on the left looking down upon the work of the suffrage movement. A tall sloping pine – represents growth despite struggle and is a nod to the Maine W.C.T.U whose promotional imagery often featured a sloping pine. One of the first female owned stores in Ellsworth, Ann F. Jarvis’ Store begins the journey of suffrage efforts. The Old South Church stands tall against the rising sun. 

Across the courtyard we find Lucy Nicolar Poolaw – a prominent figure amongst the women’s suffrage, native rights and immigration movements – proudly looking towards the sky, to the future beyond the 19th amendment. In 1955 after the Penobscot people gained the right to vote, Lucy was the first Native American to cast a ballot in Maine. 

When the project site was first proposed I was unaware that the wall was actually the backdrop of a waterfall type fountain. Extra measures were taken in order to retain the legibility of the lettering at all sizes as well as the painting and sealing process. An initial test patch was painted with lettering in all sizes for the Maine Bicentennial Parade. The fountain was turned on and tested for a period of several days – it passed all our legibility checks and the project moved forward.


The mural is designed with maximum symbolism and incorporates multiple elements of the actual space. From the courtyard at the bottom of the steps the vintage style car appears to be sitting on the edge of the curb, flush with the timeline – upon climbing the stairs details of the timeline are revealed. Additionally the railings which flank the mural and overlap the portraits suggest window frames, through which we see a glimpse to the past and future.

I hope this project insight was useful and interesting. If you would like more information regarding this project or to collaborate on a future project please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly. 


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Susan Harkins