A governor. The world’s first computer programmers. Lawyers, doctors, writers, artists and activists. Philadelphia’s history is full of incredible, history-making women whose stories, unfortunately, are often all but missing from the history books.
It shouldn’t take a dedicated month—Women’s History Month—to recognize the contributions of these heroines. But in honor of the occasion, we scoured history to find several badass Philly women to celebrate for our Women’s History Month All-Stars.
RELATED: A cadre of visionary women are behind Guild House Hotel—a newly opened boutique hotel that celebrates the history residing in our buildings by giving props to the early feminists who initially occupied the property.
The Philadelphia Ten
The Philadelphia Ten
The Philadelphia Ten was a group of female artists who exhibited annually in town, starting with a groundbreaking show of 247 paintings at the Art Club of Philadelphia.
The founding members—Eleanor Abrams, Katherine Marie Barker, Theresa Bernstein, Cora S. Brooks, Isabel Branson Cartwright, Constance Cochrane, Mary-Russell Ferrell, Arrah Lee Gaul, Edith Lucile Howard, Helen Kiner McCarthy and Katherine Hood McCormick—were all painters.
Over the years, several women left and others joined the group and many worked in other media, including as sculptors. A total of 30 women were members. The group exhibited solely in Philadelphia at first, but later had traveling exhibitions at museums throughout the East Coast and the Midwest.
Their decision to show their own work, rather than relying on the occasional showings art clubs offered to women, marked one of the first times female artists took control of their careers. Members of the group faced discrimination and one painter, Theresa Bernstein, began signing works using only her last name in an attempt to avoid gender bias from reviewers.
- Most attended the School of Design for Women, now known as Moore College of Art and Design.
- Yearly exhibits held across the U.S.
- Members became famous and sold their works for considerable sums.
- Members were part of and helped to found art movements, like the Pennsylvania Impressionist movement.
- The Philadelphia Ten exhibited longer and more widely than any other American all-women art group
FINAL WORDS: “The Philadelphia Ten challenged conventional expectations for women, but faced critical reviewers who never let them forget that their work would be judged as women’s work,” Nina de Angeli Walls in her review of The Philadelphia Ten: A Women’s Artist Group, 1917-1945.
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons