The Equivalents: A Story of Art, Female Friendship, and Liberation in the 1960s

Maggie Doherty (Author)
Available

Description

The timely, never-before-told story of five brilliant, passionate women who, in the early 1960s, converged at the newly founded Radcliffe Institute for Independent Study and became friends as well as artistic collaborators, and who went on to shape the course of feminism in ways that are still felt today.

In 1960, Harvard's sister college, Radcliffe, announced the founding of an Institute for Independent Study, a "messy experiment" in women's education that offered paid fellowships to those with a PhD or "the equivalent" in artistic achievement. Five of the women who received fellowships--poets Anne Sexton and Maxine Kumin, painter Barbara Swan, sculptor Mariana Pineda, and writer Tillie Olsen--quickly formed deep bonds with one another that would inspire and sustain their most ambitious work. They called themselves "the Equivalents." Drawing from notebooks, letters, recordings, journals, poetry, and prose, Maggie Doherty weaves a moving narrative of friendship and ambition, art and activism, love and heartbreak, and shows how the institute spoke to the condition of women on the cusp of liberation.

Product Details

Price
$29.95  $26.96
Publisher
Knopf Publishing Group
Publish Date
May 19, 2020
Pages
400
Dimensions
6.5 X 1.5 X 9.3 inches | 1.75 pounds
Language
English
Type
Hardcover
ISBN/EAN
9781524733056
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

MAGGIE DOHERTY teaches writing at Harvard, where she earned a PhD in English. Her writing has appeared in many publications, including The New Republic, The New York Times, n+1, and The Nation. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Reviews

"The Equivalents is such an exciting, engaging, and important book that I loathed doing anything but reading it. With great psychological acumen, and ever-mindful of the nuances of class, race, and gender, Maggie Doherty brings these women vividly to life, allowing us to hear them speak, to feel their conflicts and their triumphs. By the end, I was electric with insights into my own relationships and work, and, perhaps surprisingly, I felt very optimistic about the future. Being creative while female has never been easy, and our best hope for resolution is this variety of historical excavation, one that shows us how people have tried to resolve it before, so we may learn and keep pushing forward, newly enlightened." --Kate Bolick, author of Spinster: Making a Life of One's Own

"Maggie Doherty's revelatory history of female artists and their influential friendships stands as triumphant testament to the powerhouse first known as Radcliffe's Institute for Independent Study. Later known as the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College, this multi-disciplinary fellowship program continued to rescue, support, inspire and strengthen women scholars and artists for nearly forty years. When Harvard swallowed Radcliffe in 1999, Radcliffe College ceased to exist, and the resulting quid pro quo endowment admitted men to what had been "a room of one's own" for Sexton, Kumin, Olsen, Swan, Pineda, and many women after them. Maggie Doherty's The Equivalents reminds us that generative "women's work" can literally light up the darkness that discourages women's voices - just when we need them the most." --Jayne Anne Phillips, Bunting Institute Fellow, 1980-81, author of Black Tickets and Lark and Termite

"In her thrilling book, Maggie Doherty brings to vivid life the long-hidden history of a glorious American experiment that gathered creative women for a year of community in the shelter of a great university. The emotional power of The Equivalents lies in its revelation of the incremental impact of community on each of these formerly isolated women, prophetic of what would happen two years later with the publication of The Feminine Mystique and the arrival of Second Wave feminism." --Honor Moore, author of Our Revolution

"Harvard University lecturer Doherty debuts with an elegant, novelistic history of the Radcliffe Institute for Independent Study and its influence on the lives and careers of five female artists and the women's movement at large. Founded by the president of Radcliffe College in 1960, the institute accepted women with PhDs or "the equivalent," providing them with a stipend, library access, a private office, and "a community of the like-minded." Doherty centers her account on a group of friends and collaborators who attended the institute from 1961 to 1963: poets Anne Sexton and Maxine Kumin, writer and communist organizer Tillie Olsen, painter Barbara Swan, and sculptor Marianna Pineda. Though the complex yet creatively fruitful relationship between Sexton and Kumin takes center stage, Olsen emerges as "the most politically conscious" member of the group, a forceful critic of the institute's premise that motherhood and intellectual work were mutually sustaining, who anticipated emerging fault lines within the women's movement at the intersections of race, class, and gender. Doherty's prose dazzles, and she skillfully integrates her copious research into the narrative while toggling between biographical, creative, and political matters. This empathetic, wide-angled portrait will resonate with fans of the individual artists as well as feminists and readers of women's history." --Publisher's Weekly (starred review)

"Superb. . . . A welcome spotlight on an overdue 'experiment.'" --Kirkus Reviews
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