a project by Andrea Geyer. 2012 - ongoing


Louise Abbéma  (1853–1927) was an artist known for her portraits of notable figures of the Belle Époque, including Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil, architect Charles Garnier, and actress Sarah Bernhardt. Bernhardt and Abbéma were lovers and exhibited artworks together at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Abbéma was a regular exhibitor at the Paris Salon and regular contributor to the journals Gazette des Beaux-Arts and L’Art. Many of Abbéma’s paintings depict women dressed androgynously and participating in intellectual activities typically reserved for men at the time.

Berenice Abbott (1898–1991) was a photographer who documented the ever-changing aspects city life, culture, and architecture. Born in Springfield, Ohio, she moved to Greenwich Village in 1918 and worked in journalism, theater, and sculpture, surrounded by influential artists and writers such as Djuna Barnes. She moved to Paris to study sculpture and in 1927 opened her own photography studio. There Abbott made her name as a portrait photographer of the social elite, many of whom were gay and lesbian. During a brief visit to New York, Abbott became interested in photographing the changes in the city, and she returned in 1929. Her Changing New York (1935–1938) was an expansive sociological study of urban life sponsored by the Works Progress Administration/Federal Art Project. A member of the straight photography movement, Abbott insisted that her photographs not be manipulated thematically or technologically. In 1935 she began sharing a loft with art critic Elizabeth McCausland who became one of her biggest supporters and with whom she lived for 30 years. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, presented a major retrospective of Abbott’s work in 1970.

Ida York Abelman (1908–2002) was a highly regarded Social Realist, known for the graphic work that she produced for the various Federal Art Projects in New York during the Depression. Her etchings and lithographs of the 1930s depict the difficult living conditions endured by many. Abelman also completed two murals for the Federal Art Projects: Lewiston Milestones in Lewiston, Illinois, and Booneville Beginnings in Booneville, Indiana, both extant. Her art training included the National Academy of Design, Grand Central Art School, College of the City of New York, and Hunter College, all in New York City. She was a member of the American Artists Congress and exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Berkshire Museum, Massachusetts, among other venues. Her work is the collections of numerous museums as well as the Library of Congress.

Gertrude Abercrombie (1909–1977) was an American painter. She spent much of her childhood traveling Europe with her parents who toured with an opera company. The outbreak of World War I forced the family to move back to Chicago, where she would spend the rest of her adolescence. She was deeply rooted in Chicago and the Midwest, using the landscape and landmarks of the area around the town as subjects for her art throughout her career. Abercrombie studied part-time after graduation at the American Academy of Art and the School of the Art Institute, and was appointed to the Public Works of Art Project (the first of the government supported arts programs) in 1933. At this time she began to exhibit at the Art Institute Annuals and galleries in both Chicago and New York, and to develop the characteristic personal style that defines her work. She hosted a Chicago Salon including jazz musicians, writers, and artist and she presided imperiously as the self-appointed “Queen of Chicago.” The oft-repeated moon, cats, barren tree, owls, Victorian furniture, white stoneware, and carnations, all take on the power of personal emblems in her work and testify to her presence even in the absence of a figure. Abercrombie used painting to manage her world and the psychic pain that she admittedly suffered. She transformed her internal conflicts into works of great power, mystery, and resonance.

Wilhelmina F. Adams (1900–1987) was a political and civil rights activist for African Americans and women in New York City. Her fundraising talents were honed while serving as vice president of the Utopia Neighborhood Club in the early 1920s, where she successfully raised the down payment on the Utopia Children’s House. In 1930 Adams organized the Aeolian Ladies of Charity because of her concern with Harlem’s “forgotten aged.” Soon after, she succeeded in bringing Guy Lombardo, a world-renowned orchestra leader, to Harlem’s Savoy Ballroom. Adams held several memberships in arts organizations and became chairman of the finance committee of the Gibson Committee Relief Fund, which preceded the advent of public welfare. In that capacity, she became the first woman of color permitted the use of a booth in the main arcade of Grand Central Station.

Jane Addams (1860–1935) was a philosopher, visionary social reformer, author, and proponent of world peace and women’s suffrage. A pioneering advocate for the rights of immigrants, women, and young people, she fought for better women’s education, better living and working conditions for laborers, and comprehensive labor reform. In 1889 Addams started Hull House in Chicago with Ellen Gates Starr, a college friend and her intimate partner for many years. Offering various cultural resources such as an art gallery, book bindery, and drama club, Hull House also ran a night school, girls’ club, and library. Addams’s idea of night classes for adults has served as a model for contemporary continuing education and public recreation programs, and her theories and practice of social reform have influenced contemporary social work. Addams campaigned for the Progressive Party, the Women’s Peace Party and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. In 1931 Addams was the first woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Meanwhile J. Edgar Hoover, the founding director of the FBI, labeled her the “most dangerous woman in America” and amassed an expansive file on her.

Eileen Forrester Agar (1899–1991) was a British painter and photographer associated with the Surrealist movement. Born in Buenos Aires to a Scottish father and American mother, Agar moved with her family to London in 1911. She attended the Slade School of Fine Art in London and continued her art studies in Paris. Agar joined the London Group in 1933, and her work was selected for the International Surrealist Exhibition at the New Burlington Galleries, London, in 1936. She was the only British woman to participate in the exhibition. Agar’s work appeared in Surrealist exhibitions in Paris, Amsterdam, New York, and Tokyo. In 1936 she started to experiment with automatic techniques and new materials, practicing photography, collage, and object-making. After World War II, Agar entered a particularly productive phase in her career with sixteen solo exhibitions between 1946 and 1985.

Delia Julia Akeley (1875–1970) was an African explorer, big game hunter, and writer. She went on five African expeditions in her lifetime, two on her own initiative. In 1923 she led an expedition for the Brooklyn Museum traveling through unexplored regions of the Belgian Congo, where she made contact with the notoriously shy Pygmy tribes . Her sole companions were Africans she selected and trained as assistants. Akeley theorized that a female expeditor who immersed herself in the community could establish close relationships with the local women and gather authentic and valuable information concerning tribal customs and habits. Artifacts and nature specimens collected during Akeley’s expeditions are housed in major museums across the United States, and her ethnological work, especially that related to women, is some of the most significant of its kind. Akeley inspired other women to explore relentlessly, and her innovative approach toward the exploration of Africa significantly influenced the general perception of the continent.

Amparo Alvajar (1916–1998) was a journalist and politician. Born in Spain, she worked mostly in exile, moving to Argentina after Franco’s military coup due to her Galeguist, republican, and feminist family ties. In addition to her world-renown as a playwright, Alvajar received the Premio Nacional de Literatura in Buenos Aires. Alvajar devoted herself to translation from French (including Diderot, Flaubert, and Bollard), Italian, English, and Portuguese, which earned her recognition as the “mellor tradutora de Hispanoamérica” (“best translator in Latin America”). Alvajar was also the first Galician to work as a translator for the United Nations in New York, for Unesco in Paris, and for the International Labor Organization in Geneva. This professional career placed her in a privileged position from which to reflect on non-literary translation. Having worked as a translator for the United Nations in Paris, Alvajar moved to Geneva, where she directed a number of plays by Lope de Vega, Moratín, Buero Vallejo, and García Lorca.

Anni Albers (1899–1994) was a textile artist and printmaker born in Germany. She studied weaving and textiles at the Bauhaus under the instructor Gunta Stölzl, where she developed many unique textiles combining properties of light reflection, sound absorption, durability, and minimized wrinkling and warping tendencies. After the Bauhaus permanently closed in 1933, Albers was invited to teach at the experimental Black Mountain College in North Carolina. She would teach there until 1949, while also showing her weavings throughout the United States. Albers’s design exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, which began in the fall and then toured the U.S. from 1951 until 1953, established her as one of the most important designers of the day. During these years she made many trips to Mexico and throughout the Americas and became an avid collector of pre-Columbian artwork. Albers spent the 1950s working on mass-producible fabric patterns, creating the majority of her “pictorial” weavings, and publishing a half-dozen articles and On Designing, a collection of her writings. During a visit to the Tamarind Lithography Workshop in 1963, she was invited to experiment with print media and immediately connected with the technique, giving most of her time to lithography and screen-printing. She continued to make work and give lectures until her death.

Lucy Aldrich (1865–1955), sister of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, was a philanthropist and art collector born in Providence, Rhode Island. She traveled extensively throughout Europe and Asia, collecting porcelain and textiles from Asia. She donated much of her collection to the Rhode Island School of Design Museum and was a member of its Museum Committee.

Sibilla Aleramo (1876–1960) was an Italian writer best known for her autobiographical work on life as a feminist in nineteenth-century Italy. Her first novel, Una Donna, chronicled her decision to leave an abusive relationship and move to Rome in 1901. She became politically active and volunteered in the Agro Romano, the poverty-stricken countryside surrounding Rome. In 1908 she met Cordula “Lina” Poletti at a women’s congress, and they began a one year relationship that was recounted in the novel Il Passagio (1919). Known for her tumultuous love affairs and trajectory as an independent woman and artist, Aleramo continued to write throughout her life. After World War II, she became active in Communist politics as well as other feminist organizations.

Florence Ellinwood Allen (1894–1966) was a judge, writer, and musician born in Salt Lake City, Utah. As a young woman, Allen studied music at Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio, and later in Berlin. After an injury impeded her desire to become a concert pianist, she returned to Cleveland and took a position as a critic for the Plain Dealer. During this time, Allen became greatly interested in politics and law, and completed her M.A. in political science at Western Reserve. She later studied at New York University, where she worked as a researcher for the New York League for the Protection of Immigrants to pay her tuition. After many years of working on platforms of pacifist dissent and women’s suffrage, Allen’s legal career flourished, leading her first to the Ohio Supreme Court in 1922 and finally to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in 1934. She was the second woman to become a federal judge, after Genevieve R. Cline in 1928. In 1958 Allen became the first woman to serve as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals shortly before her retirement. During her retirement, Allen wrote an autobiography, To Do Justly (1965).

Frances (1854–1941) and Mary Allen (1858–1941), born in Deerfield, Massachusetts, began their careers as photographers in 1890 after increasing deafness led both to quit teaching. Working within social and aesthetic reforms of the Arts and Crafts Movement, they used Deerfield’s 18th-century houses as an environment for their intricate photographic Colonial re-creations. Though they had no specialized training, the sisters put a tremendous amount of character and artistic feeling into their work. They soon began to accept commissions and published their photographs in books like Horace E. Miller’s Sketches of Conway (1890) and Picturesque Franklin (1891). The Allens also created more abstract images with evocative compositions and use of light in the pictorial style. In 1901 Frances and Mary Allen were praised as being among “the foremost women photographers in America” by Ladies Home Journal. Their work was included in a number of important exhibitions, including the Washington Salon and Art Photographic Exhibition (1896), the 3rd International Congress of Photography in Paris (1900), and the Canadian Pictorialist Exhibition (1907). The sisters, neither of whom married, died within four days of one another in February 1941.

Nina Allender (1872–1957) was a painter and political cartoonist born in Kansas. After studying painting at the Corcoran School of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, she moved to Washington, D.C., and took a full-time position as a clerk at the Government Land Office. She became involved in the suffrage movement around 1910 and became the president of the D.C. branch of the National American Women’s Suffrage Association. In 1913 she was approached by Alice Paul to contribute to the suffrage cause, beginning Allender’s relationship with the National Woman’s Party. The following year Paul asked Allender to draw cartoons for the Suffragist, and Allender agreed. Her cartoons would appear regularly in that publication until 1927, and her image of the suffragist—the “Allender Girl”—was that of a young, energetic, and capable woman with an intense commitment to the cause. Allender used her illustrations to present a spectrum of “The Modern Woman”: feminist, wife, mother, student, and activist. This more complex and positive representation was critical in garnering public support for women’s rights. She continued to draw cartoons for the women’s movement during the early years of the campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment. She is considered one of the most influential political artists of that era.

Elizabeth Ames (1885–1977) was the first executive director of Yaddo, an artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, New York, to welcome creative artists to the residency. Beginning her directorship in 1922, she guided Yaddo for almost fifty years.

Margaret Caroline Anderson (1886–1973) was the founder, editor, and publisher of the Little Review, an influential literary magazine. Its contributors included Emma Goldman, Amy Lowell, and Gertrude Stein. In 1916 Anderson met Jane Heap, who became her lover and co-editor. When the Little Review printed excerpts of James Joyce’s then unpublished Ulysses (1922), the U.S. Postal Service burnt four issues and charged the two women with obscenity. In 1929 Anderson moved to Le Cannet, France, to be with singer Georgette Leblanc. During the 1930s both were part of a local study group with Louise Davidson, Elizabeth Gordon, Jane Heap, Kathryn Hulme, Alice Rohrer, and Solita Solano. Anderson fled France in 1942 because of World War II. On her Atlantic crossing she met Dorothy Caruso with whom she lived until Caruso’s death in 1955. Anderson believed in the higher spiritual potential of humanity: “How can anyone be interested in war—that glorious pursuit of annihilation with its ceremonious bellowings and trumpetings over the mangling of human bones and muscles and organs and eyes, its inconceivable agonies which could have been prevented by a few well-chosen, reasonable words?”

Marian Anderson (1897–1993) was an African-American contralto and one of the most celebrated singers of the twentieth century. Her voice was described by music critic Alan Blyth as “a rich, vibrant contralto of intrinsic beauty.” Most of her singing career was spent performing in concert and recital in major music venues and with famous orchestras throughout the United States and Europe between 1925 and 1965. Although offered roles with important European opera companies, Anderson declined, as she had no training in acting and preferred to perform in concert and recital. She did, however, perform opera arias frequently. Anderson’s many recordings reflected her broad repertoire, from concert literature to lieder to traditional American songs and spirituals. Between 1940 and 1965 the German-American pianist Franz Rupp was her permanent accompanist.

Regina Anderson (1901–1993) was a multiracial playwright and librarian. Born in New York, she studied at Columbia University and became a librarian at the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library. With roommate Ethel Ray Nance, Anderson hosted gatherings in her apartment in Harlem, which eventually became known as the Harlem West Side Literary Salon. Anderson helped to organize the Civic Club dinner of 1924 for black New York intellectuals and writers. Attended by 110 guests, including Countee Cullen, W. E. B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, the dinner was one of the coalescing events of the Harlem Renaissance. While working as assistant librarian at Harlem Public Library, she hosted events with readings by black authors and distributed digests to spread interest in their work. Anderson was also one of the only African-American women to be recognized at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York.

Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906) was an influential suffragist born in Massachusetts to a family with Quaker, activist traditions. She was involved in the temperance movement, which did not allow women to speak at rallies. Through this experience and her acquaintance with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, she joined the women’s rights movement in 1852. Together with Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Lucy Stone, Anthony founded the American Equal Rights Association in 1866, campaigning for the equal rights of both women and African-Americans. Anthony campaigned for the abolition of slavery and the right for women to own their own property and retain their earnings. She also advocated for women’s labor organizations. In 1872 Anthony was arrested for voting in her hometown of Rochester, New York, and convicted in a widely publicized trial. Although she refused to pay the fine, the authorities declined to take further action. In 1878 Anthony and Stanton arranged for Congress to be presented with an amendment giving women the right to vote. Popularly known as the Anthony Amendment, it became the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. She remained politically active until her death in 1906.

Louise Arensberg (1879–1943) collected works by prominent modern artists and held influential salons in her New York City apartment. She relocated to Hollywood, California, in 1921 for health and financial reasons. Her home remained a social hub for artists after her move to California, where she showed her collection and even hosted the wedding of artist Dorothea Tanning. Arensberg’s impressive art collection, which included significant works from the Dada movement, as well as ephemera and other forms of documentation, was donated in its entirety to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1950.

Ruth Armer (1896–1977) was born in San Francisco where she spent the majority of her career as a painter, lithographer, and teacher. She studied at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco and at the Art Students League and School of Fine and Applied Art in New York with Robert Henri, George Bellows, and Joan Sloan. Throughout her career Armer worked as a commercial illustrator as well as a landscape and portrait artist. In the late 1930s and ’40s, she experimented with abstraction, a tendency reinforced by contact with the Abstract Expressionists at the California School of Fine Arts, where she taught for many years.

Lil Hardin Armstrong (1898–1971) was a highly sought after jazz pianist and composer in early 1920s Chicago. Some of her notable compositions include “Struttin’ With Some Barbeque,” “Oriental Swing,” and “Just For a Thrill” (made popular by Ray Charles in 1959). Born in Memphis, Tennessee, she was raised by her mother and her grandmother, Priscilla Martin, who was a former slave. Early on, Armstrong showed an interest in music and began taking lessons at a local music school. She attended Fisk University, and when she returned with a copy of W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues,” her mother declared it “devil’s music” and sent Lil to Chicago, where she secured at job at Jones Music Store. There she began writing sheet music and soon gained the attention of the growing music community. Though most bands were unwilling to include a female pianist, she became a fixture in the Chicago nightclub scene. She later moved to New Orleans to join King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, where she met her husband, Louis Armstrong. While Louis toured Europe, Lil formed two all-female bands in Chicago, and went on to lead an all-male band in Buffalo, New York. Lil Hardin Armstrong and Her Swing Orchestra recorded an album for Decca Records, and she continued writing songs for them for several years after. She died while playing “St. Louis Blues” at a Louis Armstrong memorial concert in 1971, and was inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2014.

Gertrud Arndt (1903–2000), a photographer associated with the Bauhaus movement, was a pioneer of self-portraiture. She studied at the Bauhaus with the aid of a scholarship and in 1929 was appointed as the head of their extension workshop in Dessau in 1929. While there, Arndt produced a series of forty-three self-portraits along with images of her friend Otti Berger. She received critical acclaim when her photographs were exhibited at Museum Folkwang in 1979.

Gertrud Arper (1894–1968) was a Dutch furniture designer. She received her degree from the Kunstgewerbeschule in Weimar in 1915 and went on to work in the buildings department of W.H. Muller & Co. in The Hague. She later collaborated with Jo van Altena Regteren at the Barn Owl in Haarlem. She and her husband maintained a collection of modernist art, which included works by Piet Mondrian and Fernand Léger.

Elise Asher (1912–1904) was a painter and poet who blended images and words in her work. Born in Chicago, she studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and graduated from the Simmons School of Social Work in Boston before moving to New York in 1947. After her first solo exhibition in 1953 and the publication of her first poetry collection in 1955, Asher continued to exhibit and publish for more than fifty years. Her work is owned by more than a dozen public collections, including the National Academy of Sciences and the Corcoran Gallery. The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown held a retrospective of her work in 2000.

Dorothy Ashton (1889–1956) was an English socialite and author who wrote over ten books, primarily of poetry. She was the editor for the Hogarth Living Poets series of Hogarth Press and edited The Annual in 1929. She took the surname Wellesley after her husband but she left the marriage in 1922 after becoming the lover of Vita Sackville-West. Following that relationship, she was involved with Hilda Matheson, a BBC producer, for eight years until Matheson’s death. Ellen Auerbach (1906–2004) was a German avant-garde photographer. During the Weimar Republic, Auerbach belonged to the generation of New Women who sought to break with traditional female roles and become independent through their work. She moved to Berlin in 1929 and met Grete Stern while they were both studying photography. The pair opened the photography studio ringl+pit and signed all their work together, an uncommon practice at the time. When Hitler came to power in 1933, Auerbach left Germany for Palestine where she began to photograph everyday life in Tel Aviv. In 1937 she immigrated to the United States, living outside Philadelphia and working as a children’s photographer to make a living. She would go on to pursue photography and film projects centered on child psychology and behavior, eventually working as an educational therapist with children with learning disabilities. Her work with Stern received new interest in the 1980s, spurred by a retrospective exhibition at the Akademie der Kunste in Berlin in 1998 and other exhibitions.

Bernia L. S. Austin was the president of the Harlem Utopia Neighborhood Club in the 1930s and ’40s, and was instrumental in creating the first all-day day care center in Harlem for children aged five to twelve. The day care was a joint effort by the Utopia Club, the National Association of College Women, and the Play Schools Association.

Mary Austin (1868–1934) was one of the early nature writers of the American Southwest. She graduated from Blackburn College in 1888 and moved with her family to the San Joaquin Valley in California later that year. She studied the Native Americans living in the Mojave Desert for seventeen years, using the information she gathered in her writings. Austin was a prolific novelist, poet, critic, and playwright, as well as an early feminist and defender of Native American and Spanish-American rights. She was best known for her tribute to the deserts of California, The Land of Little Rain (1903). She helped established the Community Theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1918. Mount Mary Austin in the Sierra Nevada is named in her honor.

Florence Wheelock Ayscough (1878–1942) was an author, translator, Sinologist, and champion of women’s rights in China. Born in Shanghai to a Canadian merchant and an American mother, Ayscough dedicated her life to the study and interpretation of Chinese literature and culture, and “left a legacy and scholarship unrivaled by any other foreign woman in China before or since.” During her time at school in Boston, Ayscough collaborated with poet Amy Lowell on a translation of Chinese poetry published in 1921 as The Fir-Flower Tablets. Ayscough returned to China and studied Chinese literature, becoming a librarian of the Royal Asiatic Society in Shanghai. She translated a series of radical interpretations of the Tang-dynasty poet Tu-Fu and wrote books for American audiences intended to bridge the cultural divide. One such book, Chinese Women, Yesterday and Today (1937), focused on the differences between women from old China and the modern Chinese women of the 1930s. She used the new technology of photography in her documentation of Chinese women, and many of her works on this subject still inspire feminist discussion today. Ayscough also amassed an extensive collection of Chinese textiles and ceramics, many of which are prominently featured in American museums’ Asian art collections.

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