Democracy Has Prevailed.

April 16, 2022

PA State Senator Doug Mastriano Shows Off The Work Of An Important LGBTQ+ Artist!

I'm not sure PA State Senator Doug Mastriano has thought this through thoroughly.

A few days ago Doug posted this image on Facebook:

With this text:

The art of our State Senate
This mural is on the back of the senate, painted by Violet Oakley and is based upon Matthew chapter 26:50 And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.
51 And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear.
52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?

There are a number of things that Doug, someone who calls himself historian BTW, gets wrong.

Let me show you.

While he says that the mural is based on Matthew 26:50-53 (see above) the actual story of the mural is something more than a little different.

Doug doesn't seem to know this.

As thumbnailed by PA Heritage:

The narrative begins at the entrance to the Senate Chamber with scenes of 17th- and 18th-century Quakers in Pennsylvania. The Little Sanctuary in the Wilderness depicts the faith of Quaker colonists who believed they would not be harmed if they left their cabin door unlocked and refused to bear arms against the Indians.

It's the Quaker "Legend of the Latchstring", Doug, not Matthew Chapter 26.

This catalog from the Gettysburg College explains a little more:

Oakley’s image illustrates a colonial era Quaker family, seen to the right, who decide to remove the latchstring from their front door for fear of attack by hostile Native Americans, seen to the left. After realizing their guilt by not trusting in God to protect them, the Quakers decide to replace the latch-string, allowing the Natives to enter their home. Upon entering, the Natives become aware that the family has trust in the Great Spirit, seen above, and therefore immediately leave the home.

The catalog adds this about Oakley:

Her commitment to the Quaker ideals of religious tolerance, nonviolence, and social equality can be seen throughout her work.

Uh-oh. Does Doug know about the "religious tolerance" part? The nonviolence?? The social equality part??? Sounds like Violet Oakley was more than a little "woke" if you ask me.

Anyway, the main panel is captioned with Ezekiel 11:16. Presumably, this is where Oakley got the name of the mural, Little Sanctuary in the Wilderness. Also, of the three smaller panels below the main panel only one, the one in the lower left hand corner, actually references Matthew. The other, on the lower right hand corner quotes Ezekiel 44:4.

However, the text in the middle of those bottom three, the one that centers the foundation of the whole mural, the one that goes "And this know assuredly that none ever trusted in the Lord and were confounded" is not really from The Bible at all - not unless a Protestant Biblical scholar like Doug Mastriano counts an apocryphal (for Protestants) book as being "from The Bible."

While the text is a paraphrase from Ecclesiasticus/The Book of Sirach 2:10, the quotation is actually taken word for word from William Penn himself. It's from his Epistles to the Churches of Jesus Throughout the World." Take a look:

(This is from page 13 of the facsimile at the above archive if you want to check my work.)

I thought Doug Mastriano was an expert in The Bible. He's always quoting it to his adoring crowds, isn't he? Surely he knows the text he's posted isn't actually from King James, right?

All the other text are but his one is William Penn quoting a non-canonical book of The Bible.

Surely faithful Bible-quoting Doug Mastriano knows this, right??

So just how wrong was he about all that scriptural? And is he at all aware that a mere atheist (meaning me, of course) knows enough to correct his mistakes?

Anyway, let's move on to Violet Oakley, shall we?

Does he know she's now recognized as an important member of America's LGBTQ+ history as well as an important American artist?

We'll start with another thumbnail from the above linked PA Heritage:

In 1913 Oakley became the second woman to teach at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Edith Emerson (1888–1981), a student in Oakley’s mural painting class, recalled that she was a “most stimulating, in fact, an electrifying teacher. . . . It was exciting, especially to women students as it abolished any sense of inferiority.” Emerson became Oakley’s first apprentice and assisted her with the murals in the Senate Chamber and Supreme Court room. After the death of Oakley’s mother in 1917, she invited Emerson to live with her and the two women spent the rest of their lives together.


Let's go learn some more. Oakley is buried at the Green-Wood Cemetery in New York City and this is a picture of her gravesite:

Uh, Doug. Did you catch that? I can imagine State Senator Family Values getting a little hot under the collar, right about now. can't you?

Last October, The Green-Wood hosted an online discussion of Oakley's life and importance with Professor Bailey Van Hook, a biographer of Oakley:

Violet Oakley (1874-1961) was more than a designer, illustrator, and muralist—she was a pioneering American artist. As a leading figure of the American Renaissance, she advocated for equal rights for all races and sexes, and worked for world peace. In 1902, Oakley became the first woman to be awarded a major commission for murals inside the Pennsylvania State capitol. Alongside  two of her classmates, she formed the “Red Rose Girls,” a group of women artists who lived together while they each became successful in the art world. Today, she is regarded as an early member of the LGBTQ+ community, having lived with her partner Edith Emerson for over 45 years.

This is who painted those amazing murals in the Senate chambers in Harrisburg, championing values of religious tolerance and social equality in Pennsylvania while PA State Senator Doug Mastriano panders to his voter base by reducing it to an Easter time regurgitation of Matthew 26:50-53.

Does "historian" Doug Mastriano how much he got wrong?

I suppose not.