Women's Rights and Tables

Stories of exceptional women seen through familiar, everyday objects

By Google Arts & Culture

Words by Anna Gerber

The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago (1974-1979) by Judy ChicagoBrooklyn Museum

The table isn’t typically an object we associate with women’s liberation. But where else would political movements be organized, works of literature written, sewing undertaken, and scientific discoveries made? Scroll on to learn about women who have turned the tables...

Scroll on to learn about women who haven't just earned their seat at the table, but turned the tables completely...

Gloria Steinem's Home

Explore inside of feminist icon Gloria Steinem's home and discover her various tables throughout. 

Tarabai Shinde as a Prolific Writer (2016) by Ekta SinghaZubaan

Tarabai Shinde

Tarabai Shinde was an Indian woman’s rights activist who spent her life protesting against patriarchal and caste systems. Shinde wrote India’s first modern feminist text (1882), citing Hindu religious scriptures as the source of women's oppression, a view still debated today.

Tarabai Shinde's Stri Purush Tulana, translates as A Comparison Between Women and Men, is still considered to be the first modern Indian feminist text. A critique of women’s oppression as prescribed by Hindu texts, modern feminist activists continue to revere and reference it.

LIFE Photo Collection

Marie Curie

Polish-born Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize (1903) first in Physics and later in Chemistry, for her and her husband Pierre's discovery of radioactivity. Later, she supported portable X-ray machines, called Little Curies.

Christabel Pankhurst (1907/1912) by Searjeant, H (printer)Original Source: LSE Library

Christabel Pankhurst

Christabel Pankhurst, along with her mother Emmeline, founded the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1903. Known for defining the Union’s slogan, Deeds not Words, Pankhurst is credited with spearheading the British suffrage movement with its effective and disruptive activism.

Mary Engle Pennington by Public DomainNational Women's Hall of Fame

Mary Engle Pennington

Mary Engle Pennington was a bacterial chemist, leading refrigeration expert and the FDA's first female laboratory chief after the Pure Food and Drug Act passed in America in 1906, an act which assisted the safe travel and storage of food as families migrated to cities. 

Huda Sha'arawi (Early 20th century) by UnknownSmithsonian National Museum of African Art

Huda Sha'arawi

Pearl Young (1929) by NASANational Women’s History Museum

Pearl I. Young

Pearl I. Young was the first woman to be hired as a physicist by NACA (now NASA) in 1922. This was a time when women were typically hired only as secretaries or administrators. Young developed an elaborate system for preparing technical documents, still used today. 

Claudia JonesNotting Hill Carnival

Claudia Jones

Claudia Jones, seen here at her desk, founded the Notting Hill Carnival, London. What started as Carnival at St Pancras (1959) to showcase Afro-Caribbean talent is today a hugely attended annual event celebrating Caribbean culture, through food, music and dance.

Dolores Huerta Signing Up Members at the Founding Convention of NFWA (1962-09-30) by Joseph Francis GuntermanSmithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

Dolores Huerta

New Mexico born civil rights activist and labour leader Dolores Huerta co-founded the National Farm Workers Association with Cesar Chavez in 1962, fighting to improve farm worker’s rights and the United Farm Workers Union in 1965 for whom she served as President for 34 years. 

The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago (1974-1979) by Judy ChicagoBrooklyn Museum

Judy Chicago

The Dinner Party by American artist Judy Chicago is one of the most important icons of 1970's feminist art. The 1979 installation is made up of a banquet style table with 39 place settings. Each setting commemorates an important mythical or historical woman.

Congresswoman Patsy Mink (1964) by Ralph CraneLIFE Photo Collection

Patsy Mink

Patsy Mink was the first woman of colour elected to the House of Representatives and first Asian-American woman to run for US President.

She was a powerful advocate for equal rights and helped pass the Women’s Educational Equity Act for gender equality in schools in 1974.

Mother Flawless Sabrina, Transgender Performer, New York, NY (21st Century) by Tom AtwoodArtsWestchester

Mother Flawless Sabrina

Jack Doroshow, better known as Flawless Sabrina or Mother Flawless, was a New York-based transgender performer. Mother Flawless hosted a national drag pageant between 1959-69. An unsung hero and queer icon, Flawless Sabrina was arrested over 100 times for cross-dressing.

Here she is photographed by Tom Atwood at her table in New York.

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