Our final installment in our Women’s History Month mini-series on Favorite Feminist Heroes comes to us from SIUE Art & Design Professor Katie Poole-Jones.
Prof. Katie Poole-Jones at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in front of Adelaide Labille-Guiard’s “Self-Portrait with Two Pupils” ca. 1785 (the painting, not the selfie)
It is not a stretch to say that I am art historian, not to mention a feminist art historian, in large part thanks to Linda Nochlin. Although I never had the privilege of meeting her in person, her groundbreaking 1971 essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?,” left an indelible mark on a then impressionable college sophomore and forever changed the way that I would engage with (and later teach) art history. Stressing the institutional over the individual, Nochlin called attention to the implicit bias of the question posed in the title of her essay, imploring us to curb our knee-jerk reaction to offer up the names of the “greats” – Georgia O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, Artemisia Gentileschi – in response, as doing so would validate its misguided premise. Her challenging of the patriarchal value system of Western art and her insistence on exposing the educational and cultural barriers that kept women from greatness was an eye-opening and thrilling way to engage with the discipline that would become my life’s work.
I always look forward to assigning Nochlin’s essay to my Women in Art students as it routinely produces some of the most engaged and passionate discussion that I see in my classroom. When I taught it once again this past January, a few months after her death, it was with a bittersweet tinge, but also with an increased desire to carry on the legacy of this amazing and inspiring feminist.
To learn more about Nochlin, check out these links:
On October 20, WNBA star Candace Parker’s LA Sparks beat the Minnesota Lynx to take the title. In a short and bittersweet interview with ESPN on the boards immediately after the game, Parker, with tears in her eyes, said “This is for Pat.” Pat Summitt was Parker’s college coach at Tennessee and a giant in women’s sports. She passed away in June of 2016. As our own SIUE Women’s Basketball team starts its season (you can find the schedule here and support our Cougars by attending games), Professor Sharon McGee of SIUE’s English Department brings us this reflection on Pat Summitt’s life and significance.
–Alison Reiheld, Director of Women’s Studies at SIUE
I didn’t know Pat Head Summitt (I still refer to her with three names) personally, but I knew her in the way that anyone who has attended the University of Tennessee knows her, as anyone who has ever lived in Tennessee knows her, as anyone who cares about women’s issues knows her. What she did in a lifetime was incredible—not just the eight national championships or the winningest record of college Division 1 coaches (male or female), the Olympic medals–but what she did to make women’s sports, and not just basketball but especially basketball–as competitive, important, and significant as men’s. Under her leadership, UT women’s basketball had a 100% graduation rate for student athletes. 161 student-athletes who completed their eligibility graduated—an astonishing feat in Division I sports.
Summitt died Tuesday, June 28, 2016, at the age of 64. She was diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type in 2011. Regardless of whether or not one values college athletics, women owe a debt of gratitude to Summitt.