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The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore has recently announced that it has acquired a previously unknown picture of Edmonia Lewis, a sculptor who was Harriet Hosmer’s contemporary in Rome. The museum’s Deputy Director of Audience Engagement Jacqueline Copeland came across the image in a box of photographs in an antique shop and recognized the artist. Copeland will discuss finding the image at a brown bag lunch on Feb. 7.

The photograph is not the most astounding Lewis discovery–her sculpture Cleopatra was found in the storage room of a mall! And Marilyn Richardson only discovered her date and place of death two years ago.

On a less happy not, in Ken Burn’s Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson there is a reference to African-American artists that is illustrated by a picture that I think is clearly meant to be Lewis.  But is a picture of Vinnie Ream, a white woman who was another sculptor who passed through Rome. And Lewis’s birthplace is still unknown.  (At least I think, unless there has been another Lewis discovery).

Thanks to Sandra Payne for alerting me to the discovery of the photo.

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Jody Culkin, a New York City artist and also my aunt, has a show at the BOCA Museum of Art.  As the museum website explains, “Jody Culkin: Refashioned subverts traditional functions of women’s apparel by creating quirky, ironic faux-utilitarian clothing and accessories which question whether fashion entraps or liberates women – or both.”  Book21Cal has a ton of great pictures of the exhibit on Flickr.  I wish I could see it in person!

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I spent last weekend at the Society for the Study of Women Writers (SSAWW) conference, which is held every three years.  This was probably one of the best–maybe the best?–conference I have attended.  It is a literature conference, but with a focus on historical context.  Almost every panel I went to was interesting and intellectually stimulating.  And the other attendees, including very well known academics, were friendly and helpful.  Just wonderful.

Closer to home, I am a member of the  Women Writing Women Lives Seminar (WWWL), which is made up of an inspiring group of feminist biographers who meet one a month during the academic year.  Twice a year, the group also sponsors a works-in-progress lecture at the CUNY Graduate Center. This October 29, Diane Jacobs will speak about her The Lives of Abigail Adams and Her Sisters: Threefold Cord.  I’ve always wanted to know more about Adams, who often seems to get reduced to her “Remember the Ladies” comment.  (Not that the quote isn’t great.) 4-6 PM, 365 5th Avenue, Room 9204.

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Today marks the beginning of the Year of the Dragon. This year, I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandmother, Florence Kiley Culkin, who was a dragon and loved Chinese New Year. She went to a Chinese New Year party every year and would distribute the party favors to her descendants born in the year being celebrated. (I was very upset when I broke the little porcelain rooster she sent me). The first piece of writing I ever published was about her.  It first appeared in the anthology Ladies, Start Your Engines: Women Writers and Cars and the Road (between pieces by Emily Post and Patti Smith!).   Middlebury Magazine later ran it in a slightly altered form.  (It used to be online, but apparently Middlebury took down some older issues–hopefully it will be back eventually). The essay is about, among other things, her red convertible, my El Camino, and the fact that, given our similar personalities, it was better to be born in 1969 than 1916.

My grandmother was perhaps a frustrated dragon, who might have liked to do something else other than live in upstate New York as a mother and housewife. But as you can see in the pictures below she was always stylish and was a lot of fun.  The pictures don’t show how smart she was, but she was that too.  She graduated from the Normal School in Oswego when she was 18, then taught during the school year and earned her B.A. during summers at Syracuse.  Here is some advice she gave me: “Smart girls don’t have to get married.  Always make your own money.  Spend your birthday money on something fun, not anything practical.” Wise words, all.

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A few weeks ago, Red Fox Books, in Glens Falls, NY, announced the sad news that it would be closing, the victim of a particularly bad local economy and ebooks.  Now St. Marks Bookstore, in NYC’s East Village, is threatened.  I remember going to this store when it was still actually on St. Marks Place when I was visiting NYC in college; it was always a highlight of my trips and seemed like a portal to the world of the city and the life I wanted to live here.  Some books from those trips still sit on my bookshelves.  I’ve never completely cozied up to the store’s (relatively) new space on 3rd Avenue, which is very slick and modern and a little sterile, compared to the funky warmth of the old space.  But the content of the shelves still can not be beat.  There is currently a petition drive to ask Cooper Union, the shop’s landlord, to lower its rent so the store can survive.   Peter Cooper founded Cooper Union–which still has free tuition–specifically to make education accessible; I hope the school will consider helping save a beloved local bookstore a part of that mission. I’ve signed the petition, and now I’m going to buy a book.

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Carol Faulkner, chair of the History Department at Syracuse University, will give a talk titled “Lucretia Mott, Quakers, and the Early Women’s Rights Movement” at the Framington Quaker Meeting House, in Framington, NY, on Aug. 27 at 2 PM.  The Meetinghouse, built in 1816, was the site of the Genesee Yearly Meeting of Friends and, according to its website, was a “national crucible for major reform movements in the nineteenth century.” It has been the center of major preservation and restoration effort since suffering major damage in a windstorm in 2006.  Faulkner has just written a wonderful new biography of Mott–Lucretia Mott’s Heresy: Abolition and Women’s Rights in Nineteenth-Century America–and this is sure to be a wonderful talk in a fascinating setting.  I wish I could be there–if you are in the area, check it out!

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I’m excited that another Hosmer is making headlines these days.  Eric Hosmer debuted with the Kansas City Royals on May 6.  According to a recent article on the Sports Illustrated website, “Hosmer started the season in the minors hitting like that ranking was an insult. Upon his call-up from Omaha, Hosmer was leading all levels of the minors with a .439 average and .525 on-base percentage, to go along with three home runs in 98 at bats and 26 games. By not waiting a few weeks until June before promoting him, the Royals have risked making him arbitration-eligible a year sooner than he would be otherwise, which could cost the team several million dollars down the road. But incumbent first baseman Kila Ka’aihue was hitting below .200, creating an opportunity for Hosmer.” He hit his first major league home run in Yankees Stadium on May 11.   I’m a Yankees fan, but I may need to get a Hosmer jersey.

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