An enthusiastic and appreciative audience came to Southport Town Hall Sunday, Oct. 6 to hear University of Southern Maine professor of history and executive director of Osher Map Library, Libby Bischof’s, talk, “A tribute to 20th Century Maine Women Writers and Artists of Note.”
She noted the appropriateness of talking about celebrated women within the walls of Southport’s Town Hall, built as the Union Hall by the women of Southport Methodist Episcopal Church in 1866 to provide much needed space for their sewing circle.
Bischof came to Southport at the invitation of Nancy Prisk, founder of Land for Southport’s Future; but, although she did talk about Southport’s celebrated women, she spent more time on artists from elsewhere in Maine, including photographer Chansonetta Stanley Emmons, 1858-1937, from Kingfield. Emmons recorded scenes of domestic life and rural landscape around New England and especially around her beloved Maine.
Next was Gladys Hasty Caroll, 1904-1999, most famous as the author of “As the Earth Turns.” She said Caroll was remarkably self-aware for her time. When talking about her life and her relationship with her husband, Caroll “knows the talent that she has,” said Bischof, “and that her work is also important.”
Caroll was followed by Marguerite Thompson Zorach, 1887-1968, the Georgetown artist whose textiles and paintings are now amongst the collections in the Smithsonian and Metropolitan museums of art, and whose extraordinarily detailed work can be seen in Peterborough, New Hampshire, where her commissioned mural still holds pride of place in the post office lobby. Bischof touched on Zorach’s daughter, Dahlov Ipcar, whose work is loved by multiple generations of children and who was still working well into her 90s. Ipcar died at 99 in 2016.
Discussing Ruth Moore, 1903-1989, author of “The Weir and Spoon Handle,” Bischof cited the Moore quote that was the subhead for the talk: “That was the place you were homesick for, even when you were there.” Bischof said the quote concisely illustrates the sense of place all these women shared and which brought Bischof back to Southport. She also touched on the work of Ruth Rhoads Lepper Gardner, 1905–2011, whose sense of place and love of Maine manifested themselves in her exquisite and detailed maps of the area; and environmental champion Rachel Carson, 1907-1964.
The event finished with questions from the floor. Some attendees mentioned their favorite artists Bischof had not had time to include. The afternoon was illuminating and entertaining and a reminder of the extraordinary contribution women and Maine have made to our cultural history.