“The rich man’s wealth is his strong city: the destruction of the poor is their poverty.” Proverbs 10:15
Emily Mary Osborn added this Biblical quote to her famous painting, “Nameless and Friendless.” The painting demands an immediate emotional response, even without knowing the back history.
A young woman artist, clothed in black mourning, stands quietly, head bowed, and eyes lowered. Her fear and nervousness are palpable. As her side, stands her brother with a countenance marked with resolute determination to receive a fair price for his sister’s artistic endeavour.
Artists are storytellers, allowing us to interact with the unfolding narrative. They are also visionaries who demand our attention with a strident call to action.
Emily Mary Osborn was committed to creating a better life for women without financial resources or the ability to find rewarding employment. She was a dynamic voice in the campaign for women’s suffrage. It is highly likely that “Nameless and Friendless” was meant to be a political statement, one that would dismay those who enjoy the comfort of the status quo.
“Nameless and Friendless” was exhibited at the Royal academy in 1857, which coincidentally was the same year that the Society of Female Artists came into being with a mission to help women exhibit and sell their work.
Born in 1829, during the Victorian era, Emily Mary Osborn lived beyond the turn of a new century. She died on April 14, 1925, at the age of 97, the year my father was born. Time moves quickly, but the story endures.
Today, as we commemorate International Women’s Day 2019, may we celebrate the progress made, and build upon those who have come before us. The work continues.