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Women's Work: 500 Years!

Years ago, I was part of a private tour in Lisa Unger Baskin's home of her extraordinary women's history collection of manuscripts, pieces of ephemera, photographs, artifacts, and printed books. Several years ago, she donated her collection of more than 11,000 items to the Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History & Culture at Duke University. In 2019, I was delighted with the news that 200 of the items that Baskin had compiled over forty-five years would at The Grolier Club in New York City in an exhibition titled, "Five Hundred Years of Women's Work." Life got busy and as the end date for the exhibit approached I taped a reminder note to the refrigerator. With two days to go, Linda and I got there!

My eye, not surprisingly, first spied the large Justice Banner, a parade banner for the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), the militant British "Votes for Women" organization founded by Emmeline Pankhurst.

Three sisters—Dorothy, Maud, and Monica Harvey— who belonged to the WSPU's Ilford Chapter, made the banner for the parade, "The Great Procession of Women," held on June 18, 1910 in London, England. (A key American suffrage leader, Alice Paul who, at the time, was a student in London was inspired by seeing this parade.) Arranged chronologically from the 1300s, the exhibit included the first book on obstetrics written by a woman (Observations disuerses by Louise Bourgeois Boursier) and a first edition of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral by Phillis Wheatley, the first African American to publish a book. Wheatley's signature was on the verso of the title page of the book published in 1773. After several hours, Linda and I left, moved, awed, and inspired by our immersion in women's work and contributions.

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