The Massachusetts Medievalist calls out the Clark Art Institute: #TimesUp for Stieglitz

This past weekend, the Massachusetts Medievalist journeyed to the northwest corner of the state for the Clark Art Institute’s exhibit, “Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow.” The small, chronologically arranged exhibit includes numerous interesting and engaging works, most especially six of the seven paintings in O’Keeffe’s “Lighthouse” series that she painted in Provincetown MA 1931-1932.

Oil painting of lighthouse
Ida O’Keeffe, Variation on a Lighthouse Theme VII, 1931/1932

I was also struck by the still lifes, especially the 1927 “Peach-blown vase,” with its intriguing mixture of techniques and composition. The paintings on display left me somewhat unsatisfied, wanting to see more of the work of this artist who seemed to experiment with a variety of styles and palettes without settling into one.

Oil painting of vase with pink flowers
Ida O’Keeffe, Peach-Blown Vase, 1927

The feminist historian in me, however, disagrees with the narrative presented by the exhibition. Signage and labels show Ida’s attempts to move away from “Georgia’s shadow,” note the varieties of paid employment she performed, and ultimately define her as a minor artist who never found her own style (conclusions drawn, somewhat more harshly, by Roxana Robinson in the New Yorker).

Most egregiously, the exhibit refers to the relationship of Ida and Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia’s husband and Ida’s brother-in-law, as “flirtatious” and full of “sexual innuendo.” Stieglitz’s photo of Crow’s Feather and Apple is included as a visual example of this “flirtation”:

Black and white photograph of a crow's feather inserted into an apple

With Stieglitz himself as the feather and Ida as the “Ida Red” apple. The photograph was made in 1924 when Ida was “visiting” Georgia and Alfred in the summer between teaching jobs.

So here’s my version of the narrative:
Like many unmarried, middle-class professional women of her era, Ida O’Keeffe participated in a sexist, impoverishing version of the gig economy, cobbling together teaching jobs, nursing positions, and editorial work to try to pay her basic expenses. In the summer of 1924, when she was between jobs and had no other place to live, a “visit” to her sister and brother-in-law entailed her endurance of Stieglitz’s deeply inappropriate and aggressive, predatory behavior. The split between the sisters – often discussed in terms of Georgia’s desire to be the only serous artist in the family — was exacerbated by Georgia’s willful ignorance about her husband’s harassment of her sister. Without hardly any financial and professional support, Ida was unable to focus on development of her artistic technique and style; she spent much of her adult life moving around the country to various teaching and nursing positions, fitting her painting and exhibiting around the non-artistic work that paid the bills.

Ida O’Keeffe is then indicative of probably thousands of women whose talent was stifled by masculinist culture in general and that of the art world in particular — #TimesUp for Stieglitz the entitled creepy predator, and time to celebrate Ida O’Keeffe, whose few remaining works, provocative and somewhat haunting, painfully remind us of her unrealized ambitions.

The Massachusetts Medievalist aspires to decolonize the curriculum

The Massachusetts Medievalist has had a tumultuous couple of weeks. Not only did the primary organization in my field, the society formerly known as the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists, completely implode in what I hope is a productive and ultimately healthy way, but I ended up in the OR having major emergency surgery right as fall term classes were starting. (Personal side note: no cancer; multi-week, but manageable recovery; my dept.head amazing lining up substitute faculty for all classes).

My planned blog about decolonizing the curriculum seems ever more crucial now, in the wake of last week’s discussions about racism in pre-Conquest English studies (the members of no-longer-ISAS did indeed vote to change the name of the organization, but it’s not entirely clear what will happen next). As American universities as a whole grapple with the structural racism behind our bronzed gates and within our ivory towers, I want to think a bit about how Lesley’s new English major may help to make some changes to make the field of English overall more welcoming to students of color, at least at my own regional university.

Two years ago, Lesley’s Cultural Literacy and Curriculum institute got me thinking about the ways that our English major – a very standard set of requirements for surveys, seminars, and “electives in the major” — was set up to reinforce coverage and periodization, inadvertently making many students feel excluded and unwelcome. The sequence of coursework basically made students work chronologically through literary history, with a substantial majority of texts by white men, despite well-intentioned attempts throughout to diversify represented authors in classes like English Lit I or American Lit survey. Depending on the order she selected the core courses, a student could theoretically be a second semester junior before taking a class with even 50% of authors who were not white and male. It didn’t take rocket science to figure out why English is one of the least diverse undergraduate majors at Lesley, despite our quite good numbers of students of color overall (ranging around 40%).

The new major attempts to address these and other issues to provide a robust curriculum that will include and welcome all students from the first core course to senior seminar. Two guiding principles:

1. “Coverage” is impossible: while we use the phrase “expanded literary canon” in some descriptive materials, that canon is now so large that any attempt to “cover” it is doomed to failure. It’s more important – and more feasible – to study a variety of voices, cultures, genres, and time periods than to try to make sure that students have read a laundry list of “core texts” (mostly from the traditional western canon of white, male authors) previously defined as essential. Such “coverage” has often “included” authors of color as seeming add-ons at the end of a semester of chronologically presented texts (the Massachusetts Medievalist herself is a guilty party here).

2. Skills are more important than content: even more importantly, we are trying to teach students how to be strong critical readers and writers, to help them build a toolbox that they can use when engaging with ANY texts in any situation, formal or informal. Students will be ready to think and talk and write about literary structure, about character development, about symbol and theme and literary figures. They can hone those skills without Beowulf and Chaucer – but if they decide that they want to read Beowulf and Chaucer, in a class or on their own, they will have the skills to do so. We hope.

We are devising some assessment processes that will help us to gauge the success of the new requirements in the major. For me, one of the crucial metrics will be growth in the number of English majors overall, but especially in the numbers of students of color choosing to major in English. Stay tuned.

The Massachusetts Medievalist thinks about patriarchy, feminism, and definite articles

The Massachusetts Medievalist spent some of the last few days with the Google NGRAM tool and I feel like it could become a dangerously time-consuming relationship. Why finish fall term syllabi and lesson plans when I could generate hundreds of graphs about word usage trends in published books?

I had been wondering for a while about a potential change in usage I’ve seen in both spoken and written communication in the past twenty-odd years. In common discourse, is “patriarchy” or “the patriarchy” now more common? I feel like we have been adding the definite article more frequently, and I thought google NGRAM could tell me if that feeling is accurate.

Unfortunately, the core answer is that it can’t–  or at least, not in the ways I was using the tool. From 1970-2008, the most common word to appear before “patriarchy” was “of.” “The” was second or third, depending on capitalization and other parameters. Adding up the frequency of other words that appeared before “patriarchy” (these included and, to, under, by, and in) indicated that the usage of the definite article occurs only about one-sixth of the time (exact numbers vary by year).

The sample uses data only until 2008, with more to come as the google scanning project continues, but the time lag means that information from the last eleven years, when I think I’ve been hearing and reading “the patriarchy” much more than “patriarchy,” is not yet available. We don’t have real-time access to that sort of linguistic information, at least not yet.

That said, I did find some data that made sense with what we know about overall trends in American culture, especially feminism, up to 2008. Usage of “patriarchy” in American English, with and without the definite article, crested in the mid-1990s and was basically non-existent before the 1950s. First Wave feminists didn’t use the term, and as the Second Wave gained momentum, “patriarchy” became a part of discourse in an ever-growing way.

Usage of “patriarchy” and “the patriarchy” spiked in the mid- to late-1990s, with fewer iterations from 1998-2008 than in 1992-1998. Those mid-1990s years correspond to the increased attention in mainstream discourse to feminist issues in the wake of the Anita Hill testimony, the “year of the woman” in congressional elections, and the first national engagement with sexual harassment that eventually became the #MeToo movement.

I suspect the decrease in overall usage of “patriarchy” in published work in the first decade of the new millennium stems from the mistaken idea that the feminist project was complete, as well as from the also mistaken idea that the word “patriarchy” was somehow offensive or aggressive or impolitic — its usage could cause a woman to be described as “shrill.”  I hope that when data from 2008-2019 becomes available, it includes a rise in the number of usages of “patriarchy,” as the last three years especially have taught us that misogyny, sexism, and racism are by no means finished projects that we no longer need to discuss.

I also suspect that data will show a preponderance of the definite article before “patriarchy.” My students — mostly young women, a group widely acknowledged to be at the cutting edge of language change — use “the patriarchy,” the definite article indicating a monolithic and definitive system that we need to dismantle. Perhaps in a hundred years all references to “the patriarchy” will use past tense verbs. Google NGRAM might be able to tell us.

The Massachusetts Medievalist rhapsodizes about eagles and Joy Harjo, our new poet laureate

The Massachusetts Medievalist has been engaged in some restorative relaxation this past month or so, reading a lot of non-medieval-studies books and visiting a local eagle nest most days to check on the growing, demanding, almost-flying chicks (yes, we have two this year!).

So I was especially pleased to hear the important news that Joy Harjo will take over this fall as the newly-appointed Poet Laureate. Harjo is notable as the first Native American to hold the post; she is also intimidatingly, wonderfully multi-talented as a poet, memoirist, musician, and children’s book author.  I started with her 2012 memoir, Crazy Brave, and then spent the bulk of my Fourth of July with How We Became Human, her 2004 collection of new and selected poems.  Throughout both, I was struck by the ways she blends genre smoothly and elegantly, forcing her readers to question our very categories of poetry, prose, fiction, or memoir.  Crazy Brave includes dream visions and poetry and mythologically-infused narratives as well as more straightforward prose – in this blending of genres, I was reminded of numerous medieval texts that similarly defy attempts to place them on an “appropriate” shelf in the library. The Library of Congress catalog numbering system is no match for human creativity (irony, considering that it’s the Librarian of Congress who names the Poet Laureate).

Cover of Crazy Brave

I hadn’t consciously planned to read our first Native American poet laureate on the Fourth of July, but when I sat down in the shade on the almost-too-hot summer Massachusetts afternoon, I realized it was the perfect way to deal with all the anger and frustration I’ve been feeling about the state of our nation. Like Crazy Brave, How We Became Human is a genre-bender, with prose poems, short lyrics, prayers, and episodic narratives.  Harjo’s voice consistently places her and her readers in her Creek worldview – spirits are real; time collapses in ancestral connections; stars and trees and animals are personified beings, living characters in her lyrics.  Numerous allusions to other poets and traditions pepper her songs; one of my favorites was her whispered homage to Adrienne Rich in “The Book of Myths”:

I did not imagine the fiery goddess in the middle of the island.
She is a sweet trick of flame,
had everyone dancing, laughing, and telling the stories
that unglue the talking spirit from the pages. (HWBH, 83)

The poem that spoke to me the most, in this my summer of two eagle chicks, was obviously “Eagle Poem,” part poem, part prayer, in which she celebrates an eagle that “Circled in blue sky / In Wind, swept our hearts clean / With Sacred Wings” (85).

I eagerly await Joy Harjo’s tenure as Poet Laureate.

Cover, How We Became Human

The Massachusetts Medievalist reviews Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc

Between watching the crocuses bloom and the robins feast, the Massachusetts Medievalist this past weekend spent some time with my colleague David Elliott’s brilliant and disturbing new book, Voices: the final hours of Joan of Arc.

Ostensibly a YA verse-novel, Voices is genre-defying.  It is indeed all poetry, but it’s not a novel (although it provides a narrative), it’s not a biography (although it relates the crucial events in the life of the historical woman we call Joan of Arc), and it’s not even really “YA” (whatever that amorphous term means).  Elliott has made a space to experiment with a variety of voices as he explores the life of Joan of Arc, probably the most recognizable medieval woman in our contemporary pop culture.

For those who need a refresher: Joan was a teenage peasant girl who followed the instructions she heard in her head from Saints Catherine, Michael, and Margaret to wear men’s clothes and lead the French king to victories in battle during the conflict known as the Hundred Years War. She was captured by the English in 1430, tried as a heretic, and then burned at the stake in 1431.

Cover image of Elliott's Voices

Elliott has given voice to a number of the inanimate objects that figure in Joan’s narrative: we hear the thoughts of the armor she wore, the church altar she prayed before, the sword she used, even the crossbow that wounded her in battle when she was captured.  As she stands bound to the stake of execution, Joan herself speaks her own narrative –  while the fire grows around her, she tells and reflects on her own story. The fire itself speaks as well, the most frequent narrator after Joan.

Elliott’s accomplishment here – and that of the editor and type-designer who supported him – is remarkable on a number of levels. Other than Joan, the characters and voices speak using late medieval poetic forms like the triolet or the rondeau (helpfully listed in the author’s note at the end of the text), forms that Joan and her communities would have known. Some of these poems are also presented as shape-poems: the sword’s episode is presented on the page in the shape of a sword, for example. Joan herself speaks in what Elliott calls “a kind of toned-down spoken word,” with varied line lengths, internal rhymes, and startling, individualized imagery and diction. Direct quotations (in Modern English, not French!) from the Joan trial transcripts are scattered throughout the text.  I can only imagine the consternation at the Houghton Mifflin marketing department: you want us to sell WHAT?

And yet it works. By the end, we know Joan, her thoughts, her dreams, her beliefs, and we dread the fire and the ending even as we know it is inevitable. While I’d recommend Voices to anyone, I especially want my colleagues in medieval studies to read it, to see the ways that contemporary authors continue to reshape the texts of the Middle Ages in exciting and provocative ways.

To whet that appetite, some lines spoken by Joan’s war horse (part of a rondel):

Many a knight had been cowed and outdone
by my spirit, left broken, unseated, unmade.
But she understood. Unbridled blood runs
molten and wild, unrestrained, unsurveyed.

And she was like me and so we were one.

 

And coda: my colleague Anthony Apesos has made a series of paintings loosely based on the Tarot deck, thematically appropriate in a week where I helped the sophomores struggle through T.S. Eliot’s “Waste Land.”  See his unsettling and beautiful “deck” here as well as his kickstarter page, where he explains the “suits” in his deck and some of his thinking behind the images. Enjoy!

The Massachusetts Medievalist on Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad

After a two-month hiatus in which the Massachusetts Medievalist recovered from the summer’s engagement with Homer, I’m back to the blog with some thoughts about Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning The Underground Railroad. Whitehead will speak at Lesley this coming Tuesday (7pm on 30 October in Washburn Auditorium). Note that I was very careful to cut any spoilers from what follows: read on with confidence whether or not you have read the novel.

Lesley University sponsored a symposium on The Underground Railroad last week, and I was thrilled to share the stage with Dr. Tatiana Cruz, who spoke on modern misconceptions and myths about the historical underground railroad, and with Dr. Clara Ronderos, who spoke about the novel’s connections to magical realism and the possibility of Whitehead having invented a new genre altogether, one we haven’t named yet.

I tried to point out connections between the novel and various literary traditions; even as Whitehead is doing something new, he’s also very aware of the ways he draws on texts and themes of the past. Many readers will see, and Whitehead has mentioned in interviews, his debts to the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Harriet Jacobs), Beloved (Toni Morrison), Gulliver’s Travels (Jonathan Swift), 100 Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez), and The Diary of Anne Frank.

Cover image of the novel

More thematically, Whitehead uses the common trope of the Journey, which happens both physically and psychologically. Cora is literally journeying away from the Randall plantation towards freedom, but she also journeys toward a knowledge of herself and her own identity, towards an intellectual and emotional freedom as well as a physical freedom.

The feminist in me applauded Cora as a female protagonist on her journey to freedom — too often, the woman’s journey is a journey to heterosexual Love, as if the masculinist author can’t imagine a woman’s goal to be anything other than a man. Whitehead, the reader, and Cora herself know that she cannot even think about romantic love until she begins to have a sense of herself as a force in the world around her.

Whitehead also draws upon the motif of the missing mother, so common in fairy tales (and Disney movies). As the only slave to have escaped from the Randall plantation, Cora’s missing mother Mabel symbolizes a myriad of ideas to many different people throughout the novel.  To most of the remaining slaves, Mabel is a beacon of hope – all of the others who attempted escape were caught.  For Ridgeway, the diabolic slave catcher, Mabel represents anger and vengeance – she eluded him and he collected no reward. Cora herself feels resentment and hopelessness and loss towards Mabel; she wonders how her mother could have left her in slavery, could have abandoned her only child in hell. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that the revelation about Mabel towards the end of the novel is incredibly emotional and exhausting and beautiful.

Finally, I’m wondering about one of the minor characters in the novel. Maybe it’s just because I have Homer on the brain because of last summer’s Odyssey odyssey, but I’m still very troubled about the minor character of Homer who haunts the end of the novel. Homer is a free black teenager who works for Ridgeway, the slave catcher. Each night before he goes to sleep he chains himself to Ridgeway’s wagon; each day, he helps Ridgeway to brutalize the enslaved men and women they capture. This character is unsettling in many ways, one of which is that he’s named after the poet who wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey, the two great originary epics of western civilization. If the opportunity presents itself, I plan to ask Whitehead about his Homer, and I’ll tweet or blog about his response.

CFP: A Feminist Renaissance in Anglo-Saxon Studies

CFP: A Feminist Renaissance in Anglo-Saxon Studies
Special Sessions at the 2018 International Congress on Medieval Studies
10-13 May 2018
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, MI

A Feminist Renaissance in Anglo-Saxon Studies I: Interdisciplinary/Extramural

This session seeks papers focused on ways that a Feminist Renaissance in Anglo-Saxon studies can resonate inside and outside the university. Ideally, papers will combine traditional academic analysis of Anglo-Saxon artifact(s) (text, object, etc.) with reflection on ways that feminist analysis can or should function outside of traditional academia. We anticipate that some presenters will also grapple with the definition of the term “feminist” in 2017/2018, both in and out of the field.

 

A Feminist Renaissance in Anglo-Saxon Studies II:
Projects in Process (a roundtable)

Rather than the more usual roundtable of 6-8 short presentations, this roundtable seeks 5-6 scholars to describe feminist works-in-progress in the context of 2-3 specific questions about the state of the field and its future. Each panelist will take no more than 7 minutes, leaving time for substantial conversation after the initial, brief remarks. We plan to share these questions (over social media, listservs, etc.) before the Congress in order to give potential audience members and the presenters time to reflect on these issues and lay the groundwork for fruitful, substantive discussion that includes audience members as well as panelists. These questions could include: How does your current feminist project fit into your teaching? How does your current feminist project address the ongoing “crisis in the humanities”? How do you engage your non-medievalist colleagues in your feminist project? How do you convince your department head/dean/provost that your feminist project is worthwhile and thus worthy of institutional support? With input from digital communities, the organizers will finalize these centering questions in January of 2018.

 

Submit abstracts as PDF attachments to:
Mary Dockray-Miller
Humanities Dept.
Lesley University
mdockray@lesley.edu

Review of abstracts will be ongoing until the Congress deadline of 15 September 2017.

The Massachusetts Medievalist on Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

This coming week I’ll be attending Lesley University’s Cultural Literacy Curriculum Institute and l’ve spent the past few days doing the assigned reading to prepare for the workshop.  One key text is Coates’s Between the World and Me, which was a campus-wide read a couple of years ago. I read it then but wanted a refresher for this year’s discussion. Last night I poured myself a glass of nice chardonnay and settled in with Coates. My reflections here come from my English professor/medievalist side – there are many ways to discuss this important text, but I want to make some generic connections between Coates’s letter to his son and varieties of medieval literature.

The word “text” in the previous sentence is crucial. Like Virginia Woolf and many other (post)Modernist writers, Coates is playing with genre.  The Library of Congress call # for Between the World and Me begins with E185, placing it in the overall category of “History of the Americas.”  But Between the World and Me is probably not a history book. It could be classified as a memoir, or an autobiography, or a political essay, or cultural critique – or all of those things at the same time. It defies easy classification and in doing so challenges the way that we usually examine texts or apportion different readings to different disciplines or departments. I suspect that Coates is not often taught in a literature class, but he is indeed a literary artist and is also very aware of his work as part of a literary tradition (he tells us that he spent most of his sophomore year in the library, after all).  Coates is on some levels emulating the medieval genres of conduct literature and the public epistle. In this very contemporary, politically charged text, he draws on some of the oldest western literary traditions.

Conduct literature – advice from an adult to a younger person – is as old as human civilization.  The genre exploded in the European Middle Ages with conduct manuals in every European vernacular as well as Latin (Johnston’s Medieval Conduct Literature is a great introduction). Some were written by actual parents for actual children; others by spiritual or fictional or metaphorical adults.  Women as well as men wrote these advice manuals – one the earliest known medieval women writers was Dhuoda, a ninth-century Frankish aristocrat who wrote a conduct manual for her son. In providing reflection and advice for his son, Coates is treading this well-worn path. Also like these medieval authors, Coates knows that his actual audience is much broader than simply his biological child.

The public letter also has roots that go further into the past than the medieval period — the notion of the letter as a private exchange between two people is a modern idea.  In the Middle Ages, letters were understood as public documents that circulated far beyond the original writer and recipient, socially, geographically, and chronologically. Unless they specifically directed otherwise, letter writers assumed that the letter would be read aloud in a quasi-public setting in front of a group or community. Since literacy was not generally available, people of all social classes relied on literate men and women to write and read their correspondence. When Gregory the Great sent a letter to Abbot Mellitus about the conversion mission to England, he did not know specifically that Bede would copy it over one hundred years later into the Ecclesiastical History, but he did know that he was proclaiming policy that would be widely and publicly shared throughout the church community. Throughout Between the World and Me, Coates occasionally uses “you” to remind us, his general readers, of the fiction that the text is actually addressed only to his son. If he had wanted simply to write a letter to his son, he would have done so in our modern sense of composing private correspondence that is not generally shared with others (after all, it is a federal crime to open mail addressed to someone else). The epistolary form of the text thus provides a sense of intimacy, of privacy, between the modern author and his audience. The medieval, public form of the letter combines with our modern sense of the privacy of correspondence to create an effective and affective generic blend.

I suspect that my colleagues in the Cultural Literacy Curriculum Institute will have discussion focuses far from literary genre when we get to Between the World and Me next Wednesday.  Coates’s work is brilliant in many ways, and I’m looking forward to learning more about how it can affect my pedagogy and the multicultural goals of my university.  As the Massachusetts Medievalist, however, I also want to celebrate the ways that Coates deftly uses medieval traditions of genre to establish a trustful and intimate relationship with his audience.

The Massachusetts Medievalist Goes to the Schlesinger

Last Friday, I visited the Radcliffe Institute’s Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America. What business, you might ask, did the Massachusetts Medievalist have at an institution dedicated to American history?

I’m at the tail end of a project I started five-plus years ago, currently titled Public Medievalists, Racism, and Suffrage (yes, I need a better title! suggestions welcome!). The Schlesinger visit was a crucial part of the “suffrage” focus, because I am investigating uses of medievalist imagery by the American suffrage movement and had hit something of a wall. The American suffrage activists were following the lead of their U.K. sisters, who used the language of crusade and Joan of Arc to describe their “quest” for voting rights.

The most famous example of the medievalist impulse in American suffrage history is Inez Milholland’s performance as the “herald” of the Women’s Suffrage Parade in Washington D.C. on 3 March 1913.

With her crown, sweeping white cape, flowing hair, white horse, and riding gloves shaped like armored gauntlets, Milholland provided a medievalist illustration of the glamour of the suffrage movement. The cover of the parade’s program, expensively printed in color, exaggerated Millholland’s medievalist costume in its extravagant trappings for the horse, the billowing purple cape, and the “Votes for Women” flag on the trumpet.

Cover of March 1913 Suffrage Parade Program

I was having trouble, however, finding less-famous medievally-inspired suffragettes, and so turned to the experts at the Schlesinger for assistance.  Ellen Shea, Head of Research Services at the Schlesinger, gave me an overview of some of their excellent finding aids and research guides. To be honest, I had looked around on their website quite a bit before making the appointment, had found the amount of information overwhelming, and had not found anything useful for my topic.  Ellen did a great job making their vast resources seem much more manageable and focused.

With Ellen’s help, I found many medievalist-suffragist primary sources, most of which will end up in the book.  Right now, I want to share two images (I’m figuring that it’s okay to post these images here, since I retrieved them from the open-access via.harvard.edu) that show that the medievalist impulse in American suffrage went further than Inez’s 1913 parade outfit.

Medievally-costumed women at May 1914 Boston suffrage parade

The first shows two participants in the Boston suffrage parade of 2 May 1914; they were specifically dressed as Joan of Arc and Isabella of Spain (Ellen found that information for me too, in a contemporary Boston Globe article). Like Inez, these women ride astride, not side-saddle, and they seem to be having a good time.  They were probably inspired by Inez, at least to some extent, although they have chosen to depict specific medieval women rather than invoking the Middle Ages more generally.

The medievalist imagery extended as well to the American collegiate suffrage movement, as the Stanford University chapter of the Collegiate Woman Equal Suffrage League used the image of a questing knight to advertise the club’s meeting in “Roble Hall Saturday 2pm Sharp.”  The Stanford Knight-Lady’s horse wears a fabulous fleur-de-lis caparison; her accessories include a sword and the banner proclaiming the club’s name and featuring a crowned queen in a sunburst. Unfortunately, the Stanford suffragettes didn’t include date or year on their poster, and the Schlesinger notes it only as 1903-1926, so we have no idea if the poster could have been inspired by Inez’s 1913 performance.

Poster advertising suffrage meeting at Stanford University

All of these images draw on contemporary, popular conceptions of the European medieval world to proclaim American female strength and perseverance in the activist’s fight for full citizenship. That’s why the Massachusetts Medievalist was at the Schlesinger Library, and my trip there proves a point I make continually to my students:  When in doubt, ask a librarian!

Meet the Massachusetts Medievalist

The Massachusetts Medievalist blogs in this space on medieval studies, the humanities, higher education, and Massachusetts cultural events, especially medieval-related ones.

The Massachusetts Medievalist is Mary Dockray-Miller, professor of English in the Humanities program at Lesley University, author of The Books and the Life of Judith of Flanders, and avid fan of Massachusetts arts and culture.  Follow me on Twitter @MDockrayMiller