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Virtual Event: The Equivalents: A Story of Art, Female Friendship, and Liberation in the 1960s
Maggie Doherty in conversation with Katrina Forrester
In 1960, Harvard’s sister college, Radcliffe, announced the founding of an Institute for Independent Study, a “messy experiment” in women’s education that offered paid fellowships to those with a PhD or “the equivalent” in artistic achievement. Five of the women who received fellowships–poets Anne Sexton and Maxine Kumin, painter Barbara Swan, sculptor Mariana Pineda, and writer Tillie Olsen–quickly formed deep bonds with one another that would inspire and sustain their most ambitious work. They called themselves “the Equivalents.” Drawing from notebooks, letters, recordings, journals, poetry, and prose, Maggie Doherty weaves a moving narrative of friendship and ambition, art and activism, love and heartbreak, and shows how the institute spoke to the condition of women on the cusp of liberation.
Maggie Doherty is a literary scholar, historian, and critic based at Harvard, where she earned her PhD in English and where she currently teaches writing, literature, and history. Her writing has appeared in many publications, including The New Republic, The New York Times, n+1, and The Nation. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.
Katrina Forrester is Assistant Professor of Government and Social Studies at Harvard University. She is a political theorist and historian with research interests in twentieth-century social and political theory, particularly the history of liberalism, US and British post-war intellectual history, Marxism and feminism, and in theories of work and capitalism.
Forrester's first book, In the Shadow of Justice: Postwar Liberalism and the Remaking of Political Philosophy (Princeton University Press, 2019) is a history of how political philosophy was transformed by postwar liberalism, John Rawls's A Theory of Justice, and the rise of liberal egalitarianism. In the Shadow of Justice received the Organization of American Historians’ Merle Curti Award 2020, the Society for US Intellectual History’s Book Award 2020, the Groupe de Recherche en Philosophie Politique de Montréal (GRIPP)’s Political Theory Manuscript Workshop Award 2016, and was shortlisted for the Royal Historical Society’s Gladstone Prize 2020.