Coretta Scott King

“Struggle is a never ending process. freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation.” —Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King (1927-2006) was an important Civil Rights activist and the wife/widow of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.  After his death, she continued to eloquently advocate for non-violence and equal rights for all people, regardless of race or gender. She has been called the First Lady of Civil Rights.

You can hear some of her own powerful words on this podcast.

Artist’s note:  After the emboldened white supremacist march and attack over the weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, I want to make a statement against racism. But Coretta’s words speak stronger than mine could. We can’t just rest on our laurels and think everything should be fine because others have fought the fight before us….It’s our generation’s responsibility to fight against hatred and bigotry too. Obviously, these things don’t just go away. 

Julia Morgan

“Never turn down a job because you think it’s too small; you don’t know where it can lead.” —Julia Morgan

Julia Morgan (1872-1957) America’s first truly independent female architect, left a legacy of over 700 buildings, many of which are now designated landmarks, in cities throughout California, as well as in Hawaii, Utah, and Illinois, her most famous being Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California.

But her works were not limited to lavish buildings. As well as designing for the wealthy, she worked with many different clients in her her varied career. She designed several centers for the YWCA as well as private clubs and churches. One of the hallmarks of her varied career is that she worked with many different clients, not just the wealthy. She was willing to work with moderate budgets , creating less expensive family homes with open areas and large windows to give the impression of more space, using indigenous materials (progressive for her day) and changing the scale of her designs to work with uneven topography. She tried to give a careful solution to all of her clients, whether they were wealthy or not. In her way, she became an equal in her field (to the men who were dominating it so far) by treating all her clients equally. And with that attitude, she was able to leave an unforgettable mark.

“My buildings will be my legacy… they will speak for me long after I’m gone.” —Julia Morgan

Billie Holiday

“If I’m going to sing like someone else, the. I don’t need to sing at all.” —Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday (1915-1959) was an American jazz singer who was known for her unique vocal delivery and improvisational skills. The pain of her troubled past came through in her song and captivated audiences, and though she had no formal education to speak of,  her soulful voice and her ability to boldly turn any material that she confronted into her own music made her a superstar of her time, overcoming the intense racial divides of the era. Today, she is remembered for her masterpieces, creativity and vivacity, and many of her songs are as well known today as they were decades ago.  Tragically, she was never able to sing the pain away, and she lost her life to drug and alcohol addiction at age 44. Billie Holiday’s poignant voice is still considered to be one of the greatest jazz voices of all time.

Lee Krasner

“I have never been able to understand the artist whose image never changes.”—Lee Krasner

Lee Krasner (1908-1984) was one of the first generation Abstract Expressionist painters. Through six decades devoted to art, she continually explored innovative approaches to painting and collage. Lee  mostly became known because of her marriage to the gifted, troubled painter Jackson Pollock,  but she was an established abstract artist well before she met him. Her engagement in the New York art scene and her long education of art and its history were important to the nourishment of Pollock’s career. They painted side by side in their country home, but after her husband was killed in an automobile accident, Lee devoted the rest of her life to promoting his art and legacy as well as exploring her own abstract painting. Shortly after her own death, she was given a retrospective show at the Museum of Modern Art, an honor bestowed on a small handful of women artists, even to this day. Today her work is considered some of the most significant in the Abstract Expressionist movement.*

*Abstract Expressionism is important because it was the first specifically American movement to achieve international influence and put New York City at the center of the western art world, a role formerly filled by Paris. (wikipeda)

You can check out some of Lee Krasner’s work here.

 

 

Mathilde Kschessinska

“If you miss one class, you know it; if you miss two classes, your teacher knows it, and if you miss three classes, the audience knows it.”

—Mathilde Kschessinska

Mathilde Kschessinska (1872-1971) was a flamboyant and controversial ballerina of the Imperial Russian Ballet. The first Russian to be given the title Prima Ballerina Assoluta, after mastering 32 consecutive fouettés en tournant (“whipped turns” done in place and on one leg), a feat considered in that era the supreme achievement in dance technique.

Alma Thomas

 

“Through color, I have sought to concentrate on beauty and happiness, rather than on man’s inhumanity to man.”—Alma Thomas

Alma Thomas (1891-1978) was an American Abstract Expressionist artist, and art educator, who devoted her life to the youth of her local Washington DC community. She was the first graduate of Howard University’s School of Fine Arts, after which she spent her life teaching middle school. Though she had painted throughout her life, taking graduate classes at nights, and using art as a communication tool in the classroom, it wasn’t until she retired at age 68 that she began another chapter of her life as an acclaimed professional artist. After a severe attack of arthritis that nearly left her paralyzed, she  restored her health and creativity by painting in a new style: “I decided to try to paint something different from anything I’ d ever done—different from anything I’ d ever seen. I thought to myself, ‘That must be accomplished.”’ With the tree and garden outside her room window as inspiration, Alma created a mosaic-like style, which would become her signature: small, rectangular shapes of bright, intense colors merged together in curves, and circles.  For the rest of her life, till she died at 86, she continued to paint, showing her work in many acclaimed galleries and shows. In 1972, at the age of 80, was was the first black woman to ever be given a solo exhibition at  New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art. 

“People come to me and say, ‘Tell me how to paint.’ I say, ‘I can’ t. It comes from inside you. You have to expose yourself. Nobody taught me how to paint. I had to do it myself.”’

 

 

Althea Gibson

“No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you.”  —Althea Gibson

Althea Gibson (1927 – 2003) was an American tennis player and professional golfer. She became the first black athlete to break through the color line of international tennis.  In 1956, she became the first person of color to win a Gram Slam title. The following year, she won both Wimbledon and the US Nationals, and won both again the following year.  In all, she won 11 Grand Slam tournaments, including six doubles titles, In the early 1960s she also became the first black player to compete on the women’s professional golf tour.

At a time when racism and prejudice were widespread in sports and in society, Gibson was often compared to Jackie Robinson. It was enormously difficult to play in professional sports if you were black, let alone a woman, but she she made history by competing not only in tennis but in the golf circuit as well.”I am honored to have followed in such great footsteps,” wrote Venus Williams. “Her accomplishments set the stage for my success, and through players like myself and Serena and many others to come, her legacy will live on.”

Lucy Maud Montgomery

“All pioneers are considered to be afflicted with moonstruck madness.” —Lucy Maud Montgomery

Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874—1942) was a Canadian novelist, arguably Canada’s most widely read author.  Her first novel, Anne of Green Gables (published in 1908), became an instant bestseller and has remained in print for more than a century, making the plucky character of Anne Shirley a mythic icon for imaginative, intelligent young girls all over the world. The Anne of Green Gables series has been translated into at least 36 languages as well as braille, not to mention television and film adaptations. LM Montgomery was financially successful as a writer in her own right, but managed all this while being carrying out the duties expected of a minster’s wife and raising three boys. Montgomery went on to publish 20 novels as well as 530 short stories, 500 poems, and 30 essays. She is revered not only for her charming Anne character, but for putting the smaller parts of Canada on the literary map, boosting interest and tourism for those areas of the country. In 1935, Maud was awarded the esteemed honor of officer of the Order of the British Empire.

Sophie Scholl

“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.”
― Sophie Scholl

Sophie Scholl (1921 – 1943) was a German student and anti-Nazi political activist, active within the White Rose non-violent resistance group in Nazi Germany. She was convicted of high treason after having been found distributing anti-war leaflets at the University of Munich with her brother Hans. As a result, they were both executed by guillotine. Following her death, a copy of the sixth leaflet was smuggled out of Germany through and used by the Allied Forces. In mid-1943, they dropped over Germany millions of propaganda copies of the tract, now retitled The Manifesto of the Students of Munich.

“I know that life is a doorway to eternity, and yet my heart so often gets lost in petty anxieties. It forgets the great way home that lies before it.”

– Sophie Scholl

Jane Austen

“But for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short.” —Jane Austen

Jane Austen  (1775 –  1817) was an English novelist, who’s work depicted middle class British life at the beginning of the 19th century. Her strong-willed and independent female characters have to navigate a world in which they are expected to marry in order to have a place in respectable society. Though her novels were not very popular when Jane was alive, they have become timeless classics, rarely out of print for the last 200 years. And though she only published six books, she is considered one of the most influential novelists of all time.