The talent was always there. But in seeking careers in the arts, not until the 20th century have American women been able to take charge of their own creativity.
In the performing arts, some of Hollywood’s biggest stars defied the Hollywood studios to assert control over their work, reinventing television and the movies. Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn walked away from restrictive contracts; Lucille Ball started her own production company. In the fine arts, painter Georgia O’Keeffe showed the way, defying gallery experts and expectations to find her own path and her own style.
Still, in every field of artistic endeavor, a success gap remains, with women lagging their male counterparts in financial recognition of their artistic achievements. Sometimes there are steps forward and back — as in film, where the roles for strong, independent women that were common in the 30s and 40s have disappeared from view. In classical music, talented women conductors such as Marin Alsop, Joann Falletta and Mariss Jansons have finally emerged, but they have yet to establish a beachhead as music director of a world-class orchestra.
Women stand ready to close the gap. The question is only when the world will be ready to catch up with them.
Alice Guy Blache: Nellie Bly: Louise Bourgeois: Margaret Bourke-White: Gwendolyn Brooks: Rita Dove: Lorraine Hansberry: Sherry Lansing: Ellen Manderfield: Leontyne Price: Beverly Sills: Anna Edson Taylor: Camilla Williams: