Through the Garden Gate With Sunflowers

It’s near impossible to think of a flower with greater presence than the sunflower.

I tended a giant sunflower one summer and was once struck by the oddest notion on gazing up at it that I could bare my soul to the giant black and yellow face peering down at me. I felt as if I could count on a kind and honest response as words almost spilled from my lips.

The Victorians must have sensed this as well for in their language of flowers, sunflowers symbolized hope and constancy.

You can trust a sunflower.

That, along with the fact they’re absurdly fast and easy to grow, is enough to recommend them. But when we realize the sunflower was the adopted bloom of the suffragists, it becomes a wonder we don’t see it in the garden of every woman in our country. Shouldn’t it hold a place of honor in remembrance of the tireless efforts of those women who played parts large and small in the 72-year struggle? Shouldn’t our daughters be told their stories as young girls, perhaps as they plant their first sunflower?

And now, unlike in the Victorian era when options were slim, we’ve the advantage of a plethora of exciting hybrids and cultivars to choose from.

If a non-yellow sunflower strikes your fancy, consider the deep red Chianti or the rose-colored Strawberry Blonde. If you fear the giant Mammoth Russian or Sunforest would overwhelm your garden, you might try Double Dandy instead. At only two feet tall, it’s a charmer with its double merlot blooms. A five feet tall, Italian White is a good compromise. With creamy white petals melting into a buttery yellow and chocolate center, the plant is multi-branched and packed with blooms.

The sunflower was chosen to represent the suffrage movement because it was the state flower of Kansas. In 1867 an intense, but unsuccessful nine-month campaign had been waged there with high hopes both black and woman suffrage would be won. Kansas was the first popular test ever made of woman suffrage and, although defeated, it proved a turning point. It completed the split between abolitionists and feminists, leading Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton to reorganize woman suffrage as an autonomous feminist movement.

The experiences in Kansas would never be forgotten and both women would recall this political coming of age in the History of Woman Suffrage:

“… standing alone we learned our power… We would point for young women of the coming generation the moral of our experiences: that woman must lead the way to her own enfranchisement, and work out her own salvation with a hopeful courage and determination that knows no fear nor trembling.”

As the sunflower is famous for always turning its face to the light, perhaps we can all agree. The sunflower was indeed the perfect bloom to symbolize woman suffrage.

Source by Laurie S Nienhaus

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