The Pierians Incorporated

           Founded in 1958 . National Office Established in 1982

March! Women's History Month

Celebrating Great Women In The Arts

 

Pierians Honor Women In The Arts

 

Our society has so many gifted and talented women in the arts. There are artists, dancers, writers and poets. There are sculptors, actors, singers and musicians. During the month of March, we celebrate Women's History Month. 


The Pierians honor and celebrate the .talented women who provide the beauty and grace that enrich our lives. We highlight the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. 


There are so many talented women from which to choose. Here are a few whose body of work is outstanding and astounding!

 

Katherine Dunham [1909 - 2006]
American Dancer, Choreographer and Anthropologist

Katherine Dunham early became interested in dance. While a student at the University of Chicago she formed a dance group that performed in concert at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1934 and with the Chicago Civic Opera company in 1935–36. On graduating with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology she undertook field studies in the Caribbean and in Brazil. By the time she received an M.A. from the University of Chicago, she had acquired a vast knowledge of the dances and rituals of the black peoples of tropical America. (She later took a Ph.D. in anthropology.) In 1938 she joined the Federal Theatre Project in Chicago and composed aa ballet, L’Ag’Ya, based on Caribbean dance. Two years later she formed an all-black company, which began touring extensively by 1943. Tropics (choreographed 1937) and Le Jazz Hot (1938) were among the earliest of many works based on her research.

"Go within every day and find your inner strength so that the world will not blow your candle out." 

Katherine Dunham

Dr. Selma Hortense Burke [1900 - 1995]
American Sculptor and Member of the Harlem Renaissance

Sculptor and educator who received national recognition for her relief portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which was the model for his image on the dime. Committed to teaching art to others, Burke established the Selma Burke Art School in New York City in 1946 and subsequently opened the Selma Burke Art Center in Pittsburgh, Pa.

 

Selma Burke sculpted portraits of famous African-American figures as well as lesser-known subjects. She also explored human emotion and family relationships in more expressionistic works. While she admired the abstract modernists, her work was more concerned with rendering the symbolic human form in ways both dignified and symbolic. She worked in a wide variety of media including wood, brass, alabaster, and limestone.

In 1940 Burke founded the Selma Burke School of Sculpture in New York City. She was committed to teaching art. She opened the Selma Burke Art School in New York in 1946, and later opened the Selma Burke Art Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Open from 1968 to 1981, the center "was an original art center that played an integral role in the Pittsburgh art community," offering courses ranging from studio workshops to puppetry classes.

Burke's best-known work is a portrait honoring President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Four Freedoms. It is widely accepted that the obverse design on the Roosevelt Dime was adapted from Burke's plaque. 


Pierian Honorary Member! Selma Burke

 

Zora Neal Hurston [1891 - 1960]
American Writer and Member of the Harlem Renaissance
Zora Neale Hurston is considered one of the pre-eminent writers of twentieth-century African-American literature. Hurston was closely associated with the Harlem Renaissance and has influenced such writers as Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Gayle Jones, Alice Walker, and Toni Cade Bambara.

Hurston's works touched on the African-American experience and her struggles as an African-American woman. Her novels went relatively unrecognized by the literary world for decades, but interest revived after author Alice Walker published "In Search of Zora Neale Hurston" in the March 1975 issue of Ms. Magazine  Hurston's manuscript Every Tongue Got to Confess (2001), a collection of folktales gathered in the 1920s, was published posthumously after being discovered in the Smithsonian archives. Her nonfiction book Barracoon was published posthumously in 2018.



"Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me feel angry. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It's beyond me." Zora Neal Hurston

 

Dr. Maya Angelou [1928 - 2014]
American poet, singer, memoirist and Civil Rights activist

An acclaimed American poet, storyteller, activist, and autobiographer, Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis, Missouri. Angelou had a broad career as a singer, dancer, actress, composer, and Hollywood’s first female black director, but became most famous as a writer, editor, essayist, playwright, and poet. As a civil rights activist, Angelou worked for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. She was also an educator and served as the Reynolds professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University. By 1975.


Angelou was recognized “as a spokesperson for all people who are committed to raising the moral standards of living in the United States.” She served on two presidential committees, for Gerald Ford in 1975 and for Jimmy Carter in 1977. In 2000, Angelou was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton. In 2010, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S., by President Barack Obama. Angelou was awarded over 50 honorary degrees before her death.


As a writer, Angelou is best known for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings . The first of her six autobiographies. It is widely taught in schools, though it has faced controversy over its portrayal of race, sexual abuse and violence. 


One source of Angelou’s fame in the early 1990s was President Bill Clinton’s invitation to write and read an inaugural poem. Americans all across the country watched as she read “On the Pulse of Morning,” which begins “A Rock, a River, a Tree” and calls for peace, racial and religious harmony, and social justice for people of different origins, incomes, genders, and sexual orientations.


"I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."  Maya Angelou

Marian Anderson [1897 - 1993]
American Opera Singer

Marian Anderson was an American singer. Anderson was one of the most celebrated singers of the twentieth century. Music critic Alan Blyth said: "Her voice was a rich, vibrant contralto of intrinsic beauty."  Most of her singing career was spent performing in concert and recital in major music venues and with famous orchestras throughout the United States and Europe between 1925 and 1965. Although offered roles with many important European opera companies, Anderson declined, as she had no training in acting. She preferred to perform in concert and recital only. She did, however, perform opera arias within her concerts and recitals. She made many recordings that reflected her broad performance repertoire of everything from concert literature to opera to traditional American songs and spirituals. Between 1940 and 1965 the German-American pianist Franz Rupp was her permanent accompanist. 


Anderson became an important figure in the struggle for black artists to overcome racial prejudice in the United States during the mid-twentieth century. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused permission for Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall. The incident placed Anderson into the spotlight of the international community on a level unusual for a classical musician. With the aid of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband Franklin D. Roosevelt, Anderson performed a critically acclaimed open-air concert on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. She sang before a crowd of more than 75,000 people and a radio audience in the millions. Anderson continued to break barriers for black artists in the United States, becoming the first black person, American or otherwise, to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on January 7, 1955. Her performance as Ulrica in Giuseppe Verdi's Un ballo in maschera at the Met was the only time she sang an opera role on stage. 


As the first African American to perform at the New York Metropolitan Opera, Anderson was a trailblazer in the Civil Rights era. “I have a great belief in the future of my people and my country.”

Marian Anderson