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Forgotten Pioneers: Unraveling the Legacy of Subversive 1910s Women Who Shaped Cool New York

"Radicals and Rogues: Unveiling the Overlooked Women Who Shaped Modern New York"

In a revelatory new book, the hidden architects of New York's transformation into a dynamic, modern city during the early 20th century step out of the shadows. Authored by Lottie Whalen, "Radicals and Rogues: The women who made New York modern" sheds light on a bold cohort of radical women artists who, despite their pivotal role, were marginalized by history.

New York, now a cultural powerhouse, underwent a metamorphosis fueled by these taboo-busting women who pushed creative and social boundaries as artists, writers, salon hosts, and patrons. According to Whalen, they fervently embraced new ways of living, loving, and creating, capturing the restless energy that swept across the US and Europe in the early 20th century. This era saw various groups, from trade unionists to anarchists, advocating for more rights and seeking alternative lifestyles. As Whalen notes, women, in particular, rebelled against the traditional roles assigned to them, aspiring to be active participants in all aspects of life.

This surge of energy coincided with a newfound appreciation for art's potential following the groundbreaking 1913 Armory Show, introducing modern art to the American public. Despite New York's technological and industrial modernity, its cultural landscape lagged behind Europe, lacking the infrastructure to nurture young artists. The show's organizers, including Mabel Dodge and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, recognized the need for change. Whalen highlights that women played a significant, yet often overlooked, role in fundraising and organizing the show. From wealthy socialites to less affluent contributors, these women were instrumental in shaping the cultural narrative.

As the book unveils these unsung heroines, it challenges the historical oversight and emphasizes their crucial contributions to making New York the modern cultural epicenter it is today. "Radicals and Rogues" invites readers to rediscover the vibrant legacy of these women who defied norms, leaving an indelible mark on the city's artistic and social landscape.

"Greenwich Village's Smock Colony: Unraveling the Bohemian Tapestry of New York's Radical Women"

In the vibrant tapestry of early 20th-century New York, a spirited cohort of women found their haven in Greenwich Village, affectionately dubbed the "Smock Colony" for the flowing garments favored by its female denizens. This enclave became a melting pot of creativity, with radical cafés like Polly's, presided over by the anarchist Paula "Polly" Holladay, and groundbreaking little magazines such as Rogue, uniting some of the era's most intriguing creative minds.

At the heart of Greenwich's bohemian scene was Clara Tice, the undisputed queen of scandal. Tice, the first woman in the Village to embrace the bobbed hairstyle, flaunted scandalously short dresses and horse-riding ensembles paired with thigh-high boots, creating a provocative and avant-garde aesthetic. Her illustrations of stylish women engaged in various activities, from dancing to driving, graced the pages of prestigious publications like Vogue and Vanity Fair. According to Lottie Whalen, Tice possessed an "instinctual understanding of the rhythm of modern life" that manifested physically in her artwork.

Clara Tice's notoriety reached new heights in 1914 when an exhibition of her nudes at Polly's was shut down by the puritanical anti-vice campaigner Anthony Comstock. Polly's, adorned in vibrant Fauvist colors, served as an artwork in itself, attracting an eclectic clientele of artists and activists engaged in discussions ranging from birth control to the latest developments in art, philosophy, and politics. Whalen suggests that Tice deliberately framed her work in this radical context, prompting Comstock to view it as part of a broader movement for women's rights, particularly the birth control movement.

The closure of Tice's exhibition proved a hollow victory for Comstock, as it catapulted her into media sensation status, with her sketches selling out and offers pouring in for shows at other New York galleries. By the early 1920s, society women were emulating Tice's distinctive style, albeit in a more sanitized manner. The tale of Clara Tice and her contemporaries paints a vivid picture of Greenwich Village as a crucible of creativity, dissent, and societal transformation in the early 20th century.

"Rogue's Gallery of Artistic Rebels: The Unconventional Women Shaping Modern New York"

In the artistic ferment of early 20th-century New York, the magazine "Rogue" emerged as a satirical and irreverent force, its title a playful nod to the esteemed "Vogue." Co-edited by Louise Norton, the publication became a platform for contemporary debates on the role of art and the artist in the modern world. Among its contributors was the bold and scandalous artist Clara Tice, who, in a cheeky pun on Vogue, added her unique perspective to the magazine.

Louise Norton, a trailblazer in her own right, contributed a distinctive fashion column under the guise of Dame Rogue, using the space to theorize the connections between women's bodily autonomy, political enfranchisement, and their choice of dress. Lottie Whalen emphasizes Norton's forward-thinking approach, noting her ability to elevate fashion from mere frivolity to a subject of intellectual weight, well ahead of her time.

Mina Loy, an artist, designer, and poet, added another layer of complexity to Rogue with her experimental free verse poetry that blended Futurism with feminist sexual politics. Her Love Songs, published in the convention-defying Others magazine, sparked controversy for its visceral portrayal of sexual relationships, challenging conservative sensibilities.

Enter the unforgettable Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, a living, breathing artwork who shocked and mesmerized New York with her avant-garde fashion statements. Described as a "neurasthenic, kleptomaniac, man-chasing proto-punk" by biographer Irene Gammel, the Baroness turned the streets of New York into her personal runway, donning jaw-dropping outfits composed of salvaged rubbish and household items. Whalen notes her pioneering use of found objects as artworks, positioning her ahead of Dada pioneer Marcel Duchamp.

The Baroness's audacious sexuality unsettled men, challenging societal norms of the time. Whalen highlights the disconcerting reactions of figures like Duchamp and poet William Carlos Williams, emphasizing the Baroness's boldness in a cultural landscape that often preferred conformity. As "Rogue's Gallery" unfolds, it unveils a collective of unconventional women who defied expectations, pushing the boundaries of art, fashion, and societal norms in the shaping of modern New York.

"Salons of Liberation: New York's Radical Women Redefining Artistic Boundaries"

In the progressive landscape of early 20th-century New York, a network of women-supported spaces played a crucial role in nurturing unconventional artistic expression. Margaret Anderson and Jane Heap, the editors of the Little Review, stood out for their understanding and support of avant-garde artists, notably embracing the groundbreaking serialization of James Joyce's Ulysses. Lottie Whalen emphasizes the editors' comprehension of the importance of artists like Clara Tice, recognizing their role in breaking taboos and pioneering new forms, much like Joyce.

Beyond Greenwich Village, the salon hosted by Louise and Walter Arensberg on the Upper West Side became a vibrant hub for artistic luminaries, including Duchamp, offering an alternative space for creativity. It was in this setting that the infamous Fountain, a porcelain urinal signed with the pseudonym R.Mutt, was conceived. Fountain's rejection from the Society of Independent Artists' inaugural exhibition stirred controversy, challenging the supposed inclusivity of the art world. While Duchamp eventually claimed authorship, Whalen underscores the significant contributions of Norton and Beatrice Wood, the "Mama of Dada," in its creation and enduring legacy. Their commentary in The Blind Man magazine, co-founded with Duchamp and Henri Pierre-Roché, solidified Fountain's relevance for future generations.

In shedding light on Duchamp's mention of a woman submitting Fountain using a male alias, likely referring to Norton, Whalen challenges the recent theory suggesting the Baroness's influence. Whalen asserts that such theories risk erasing the active and vital contributions of these women in shaping Fountain's conception and legacy.

The Stettheimer sisters' salon, an exclusive and radical space, added another layer to this network. As wealthy, open-minded society women, the Stettheimers provided a safe haven for queer artists to explore their sexuality and identity. Whalen notes that while similar spaces existed in Greenwich Village, they were often under threat from organizations like the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. The Stettheimer salon, with guests like Cecil Beaton, allowed individuals to express their true selves freely.

As "Salons of Liberation" unfolds, it reveals a rich tapestry of interconnected spaces where radical women shaped and redefined artistic boundaries, leaving an undeniable impact on the cultural landscape of New York in the early 20th century.

"The Stettheimer Sisters: Defying Convention and Shaping New York's Artistic Landscape"

Florine and Carrie Stettheimer, both artists and open-minded society women, left an indelible mark on New York's artistic scene in the early 20th century. Florine, known for her decorative and slightly camp aesthetic, skillfully captured the ephemeral moments of modern city life in her art. Lottie Whalen notes her ability to embrace the decorative while refusing to conform to modernity's youth-centric ideals, exemplified by her bold self-portrait painted at the age of 44.

Simultaneously, Carrie Stettheimer was crafting her own imaginative realm through a doll's house, blurring the lines between art and craft. Notably, the doll's house featured a ballroom adorned with miniature versions of paintings and sculptures by the Stettheimers' artist friends, including a tiny rendition of Marcel Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2. Whalen suggests that Carrie's doll's house may have influenced Duchamp's later miniature project, Boîte-en-valise, initiated in 1935—a connection often overlooked in art history.

Despite their significant contributions, these women faced relative anonymity due to various factors. The dispersion of creative communities in Greenwich Village, driven by rising rents, and the conservative post-World War I era contributed to their historical oversight. When the art history of the time was documented, their roles were conveniently eclipsed in favor of male counterparts. Nevertheless, their impact persists, shaping the physical landscape of contemporary New York's art world. Armory Show supporters Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and Lillie Bliss played pivotal roles, with Whitney founding the renowned Whitney Museum, and Bliss, alongside Abby Aldrich Rockefeller and Mary Quinn Sullivan, contributing to the establishment of MoMA.

Lottie Whalen emphasizes the enduring legacy of these daring artists from the 1910s and 20s, noting a resurgence in the 1960s with second-wave feminist performance artists like Yoko Ono and Carolee Schneemann. Whalen sees Schneemann, in particular, as embracing the legacy of the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven in her provocative and boundary-breaking work. As the narrative unfolds, the Stettheimer sisters emerge as trailblazers, challenging conventions and contributing to the rich tapestry of New York's artistic history.

"Unveiling a Legacy: The Ongoing Impact of New York's Radical Women"

Lottie Whalen reflects on the enduring significance of the work and contributions of these radical women in shaping the cultural landscape of New York. As she emphasizes, there is still much to unravel and comprehend about the importance of their endeavors. Their legacy, far from being confined to the past, continues to unfold in the present day.

"Radicals and Rogues: The Women Who Made New York Modern" offers a glimpse into a chapter of history often overlooked, highlighting the resilience, creativity, and impact of these women who defied societal norms. Whalen's assertion that there is still work to be done underscores the ongoing journey of understanding and recognizing the pivotal roles these women played in shaping the vibrant cultural tapestry of New York.

For those intrigued by this narrative, "Radicals and Rogues" stands as a testament to the untold stories and the need for continued exploration into the rich history of women who were instrumental in making New York the modern and dynamic city it is today.

In conclusion, "Radicals and Rogues: The Women Who Made New York Modern" unveils a rich tapestry of untold stories, shedding light on the radical women who played pivotal roles in shaping the cultural landscape of New York in the early 20th century. Lottie Whalen's insights emphasize the ongoing significance of their work, noting that we are still unraveling the depth of their impact. The legacy of these women, far from being confined to the past, continues to unfold in the present day, encouraging further exploration and understanding. The narrative serves as a reminder of the resilience, creativity, and enduring influence of these trailblazing women who defied societal norms, contributing to the vibrant and dynamic essence of New York's cultural history.