The fight against sexual harassment has claimed another perpetrator. In this case, it’s a 97-year-old woman who dared to pose in the nude for a Milwaukee artist, and her behavior led to drinks being thrown at her and eventually being banished from the Milwaukee Press Club.

Jim Stingl, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist, wrote a celebratory column about the removal of a painting of a Milwaukee woman named Emma Becker from the Milwaukee Press Club’s Newsroom Pub in downtown Milwaukee. The painting of the reclining nude has apparently caused the ladies of the press club, members since 1971, some agitation. As previously mentioned, Stingl reports some female members of the organization have even thrown drinks at her in an un-ladylike fashion, causing the organization to spend some money to have the painting restored.

(The female members of the Milwaukee Press  Club have so far spared state Rep. Josh Zepnick, City of Milwaukee Treasurer Spencer Coggs and state Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, all Democratic politicians, from similar drink-throwing incidents.)

Finally, the ladies of the press club could stand the painting no longer. The leader of the Comstockery was Kathy Mykleby, a Milwaukee television news anchor, who weighed in with her verdict last November, according to Stingl: that offending harlot must go. (Stingl, unfortunately, does not report Mykleby’s exact words.)

And so the painting of Emma is banished from the bar, just like the days when no women were admitted without an escort.

“I’ll get some heat from people who think it should be there, but I’ll take it,” Mykleby told Stingl. “Emma, I never really knew her, but she’s gone. It’s time.”

Yes, it’s quite clear that Mykleby never knew Emma or the history of the artist.

Stingl reports the painting was completed in 1920 by Milwaukee artist Frank Enders. No dabbler in black velvet or cheap paintings of ducks for the Channel 10 Auction, Enders was an artist of some renown at the time Emma laid on the white sheets for her portrait.

Enders was “known for his paintings and etchings of Jones Island, in the late 19th century,” according to the Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA) website. MOWA also says Enders was educated at the Royal Academy of Fine Art in Munich, Germany, in the late 1870s before returning to Milwaukee.

In the late 1880s he went to New York and took sketching tours to Colorado and New Mexico. He returned to Milwaukee in 1895, showing a strong relationship to the realistic and objective approach of the important German painter, Wilhelm Leibl. Enders’ work was of a decidedly democratic nature. His slightly looser brush stroke provided less detailed forms within a subdued palette of browns and greens. His mid-career etchings and paintings often depicted the rustic and charming Wisconsin waterways and harbor scenes.

As an artist in Milwaukee, Enders helped “found the Society of Milwaukee Artists, later known as Wisconsin Painters and Sculptors” in 1901. That organization is now known as Wisconsin Visual Artists.

Somehow, Stingl left those details out of his report, lest they prejudice the readers against Mykleby’s judgment. The picture of the painting that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel posted on the website is also far away in perspective, probably to spare the gentle readers of an image of a nude woman that could be found in any art gallery. Nonetheless, the readers are unable to form their own judgments of whether the painting is for prurient intentions only, or if the work by an academically trained professional artist might have some other merit.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Joette Richards

Photo of the Frank Enders’ painting “Emma” by Joette Richardson of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The photo is from far enough away that readers cannot judge the painting for themselves.

It wasn’t that long ago when the cultural cognoscenti giggled at former Attorney General John Ashcroft for posing next to a covered-up statue of the Spirit of Justice lest her bare breast be exposed. Of the removal of the curtain in 2005, The Washington Post reported about the covering of the statue in 2002, “the episode was quickly seized upon by pundits and satirists as a symbol of Ashcroft’s allegedly puritanical and censorious bearing.”

How everyone laughed at poor Ashcroft who, apparently, was just ahead of his time.

In the New York Times, novelist Daphne Merkin had some second thoughts about the latest political crusade:

Perhaps even more troubling is that we seem to be returning to a victimology paradigm for young women, in particular, in which they are perceived to be — and perceive themselves to be — as frail as Victorian housewives.

Consider the fact that the campaign last month against the Met to remove a Balthus painting that shows a young girl in a suggestive light was organized by two young Manhattan feminists. Fortunately, they were unsuccessful. This is the kind of censorship practiced by religious zealots.

Merkin, unfortunately, missed Mykleby’s crusade, but the censorship of the zealots (to Stingl’s applause) has claimed a piece of Wisconsin history. Poor Emma, slut-shamed and ostracized. At least they’re going to auction her off so she might yet find a new home that appreciates her.

Stingl says the press club is now debating what to do with the empty space. Perhaps a picture of books and paintings being burned?