Making Connections: History and Art

December 11, 2018

By Erin Brasell

A detail of Albert Patecky’s Remnant Sale appeared on the cover of the Oregon Historical Quarterly’s Spring 2009 issue and provided a visual representation of the kind of homemaking work women have done throughout much of Oregon’s history. This whimsical painting was inspired by Patecky's wife attending a weekly sale at Portland's Meier and Frank department store.

The work we do at the Oregon Historical Society is all interconnected, even if those connections materialize years in the future. From scholarship generated by the Oregon Historical Quarterly (OHQ) to OHS collections featured in our exhibitions, we are always looking for ways to spark conversations and find links between the present and the past.

Our latest exhibit, State of Abstraction: Works by Albert Patecky, Oregon Artist, features a number of pieces from OHS’ collection by Oregon artist Albert Patecky (1906–1994). The exhibit beautifully displays the range of styles he employed throughout his career, including his 1948 painting titled Remnant Sale, which was featured on the cover of the Spring 2009 issue of OHQ.

The Quarterly periodically features artists’ work on its covers, and the editors selected this piece of art to be in conversation with historian Janice Dilg’s excellent article, “‘For Working Women in Oregon’: Caroline Gleason/Sister Miriam Theresa and Oregon’s Minimum Wage Law.” Many visitors might be surprised to know that Oregon was first in the nation to establish a compulsory minimum wage that was later copied across the country. In her article, Dilg discusses the work of social reformer Caroline Gleason and how that work led to the 1913 minimum wage and maximum hour law in the state.

The law was at the center of Progressive-Era reforms and spurred discussions about whether women (and their work) were equal to or inherently different than men — a notion that has still yet to be fully ratified in the United States. As the OHQ issue’s back cover describes, “Remnant Sale depicts the kind of homemaking work women have done throughout much of Oregon’s history. Around the beginning of the twentieth century, greater numbers of women also began working for wages, leading social reformers to lobby for wage and employment restrictions they hoped would protect women (and sometimes children) in workplaces.” 

State of Abstraction is on exhibit from December 4, 2018, through March 24, 2019. We’ve made available Dilg’s OHQ article online for free and encourage you to read more before (or after) visiting Remnant Sale in person. And for OHS members and OHQ subscribers, stay tuned for the Spring 2019 issue that will feature an article on labor feminism during the 1940s to 1970s.

Erin Brasell’s Other Posts

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