A controversial painting at the Trumbull Library in Trumbull, Connecticut was defaced on Wednesday. The incident occurred while the library board met to hear public debate over the issue in a nearby room.
The painting, by Robin Morris, is titled “Women United, Women of Purpose.” It depicts, among other women, Mother Theresa alongside Margaret Sanger, whose work for contraceptive rights led to the founding of Planned Parenthood.
Father Brian Gannon and other religious leaders in Trumbull objected to the inclusion of both Sanger and Mother Theresa on the same canvas. Trumbull First Selectman Timothy Herbst came under pressure to remove the painting when critics complained to him that Mother Theresa would have disliked being in the same piece of art as Sanger.
At Herbst's order, the painting was removed last month. Many reasons were cited for the removal of the painting, including copyright infringement and insurance issues. It was put back on display on March 6 after the painting's owner signed an indemnification clause with the town.
On March 11, the painting was allegedly vandalized by a woman who defaced Margaret Sanger’s image. The woman left the library unidentified, but was seen defacing the painting by two teenagers.
In a statement issued Thursday, Herbst said, “All Trumbull residents should be outraged that someone would come into a public building and commit an act of vandalism. Free speech does not allow for the destruction of private property.”
Commissioned at the request of owners Jane and Dick Resnick, the painting had previously been displayed at both Fairfield University and Colgate University with no known complaints.
“In no way was the purpose of the art piece a referendum on abortion in any way, shape, or form,” said Dick Resnick. Instead, he said, the painting is meant “to pay tribute to and acknowledge many women of greatness who had an unselfish commitment to work for change that might change lives.”
Resnick said the painting highlights “issues that are relevant and important to all people, not just women-- but women have been at the forefront of bringing these issues to the public eye.” He said he hopes for the library's swift resolution of the issue.
“Trumbull is a community that respects differences of opinion and diversity of thought, and this individual act does not reflect who we are as a community,” First Selectman Herbst said in his statement.
Herbst requested that the person who acted against the painting turn herself in to the Trumbull police.
Julia Pistell is an intern at WNPR.