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Volume 37 Issue 5 • May 24-30, 2007
now in our 37th season

Learn about the Island’s “Gutsy Gals”

A special collaborative exhibit opens this Friday, May 25, at the Coffin School at 4 Winter Street.  “Gutsy Gals: From Hearth to Heavens, Maria Mitchell and Her Sister Nantucketers” will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. through early October.

Designed by the Egan Maritime Foundation, the exhibition looks in-depth at island women of the past and present.  Highlighted is the life and accomplishments of Maria Mitchell, famed island daughter and astronomer.  With their obvious relevant expertise and shared curator Jascin Leonardo Finger, the Maria Mitchell Association enthusiastically joined the effort. 

The exhibition also discusses the various elements that encouraged and supported the independence and work of women on Nantucket using Maria Mitchell and other island women of her time and today as examples.  Whaling, the isolation of the island, and Quakerism all played roles in providing a unique environment in which Nantucket women had freedoms which their counterparts in the rest of America and the world did not during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  These strong, independent Nantucket women not only contributed to the community of Nantucket, but also to the national and global communities.

Several of the original manuscripts and artifacts included in the Gutsy Gals exhibit are on loan from the Nantucket Historical Association.  And, in the NHA’s Whitney Gallery of their Research Library at 7 Fair Street, is an exhibition of paintings by Elizabeth Rebecca Coffin, one of the “Gutsy Gals.”

Also involved is the Nantucket Atheneum.  Maria Mitchell was one of their first librarians, and in her honor, the Atheneum has mounted a small exhibit devoted to her.

“We’re really thrilled,” said Egan Maritime Foundation Executive Director Jean Grimmer of the collaboration, “it gives Maria and the other ‘gutsy gals’ a focus this summer that might not have happened had it just been our exhibit.” 

A small admission charge will provide visitors with a pass to enter the exhibition at the Coffin School, the Nantucket Life-Saving Museum on the Polpis Road, and the Maria Mitchell Association’s Mitchell House and Maria Mitchell Observatory both located on Vestal Street.  Visitors will also be able to visit the display at the Nantucket Atheneum on India Street and the exhibit in Whitney Gallery at the Nantucket Historical Association’s Research Library on Fair Street. 

This exhibition was a perfect topic for the 2007 exhibition season at the Egan Maritime Foundation as Mill Hill Press, an affiliate of the Egan Maritime Foundation, celebrates the release of the new biography on Maria Mitchell titled Among the Stars: The Life of Maria Mitchell.  Written by former Nantucket resident Margaret Moore Booker and co-sponsored in its publishing by both the Egan Maritime Foundation and the Maria Mitchell Association, this book chronicles the life of Maria Mitchell, famed island astronomer and first female professor of astronomy in the United States at Vassar College for Women in 1865.  The book details Maria Mitchell’s life here on the island from her work as the Nantucket Atheneum’s first librarian to her discovery of a telescopic comet in 1847.  Additionally, Booker’s biography of Mitchell discusses Maria Mitchell’s work at Vassar and her work on behalf of the rights of women through her work for the American Association for the Advancement of Women among other organizations and activities. 

The celebration of this new biography on Maria Mitchell and the celebration of other island women provided the four organizations – the Egan Maritime Foundation, the Maria Mitchell Association, the Nantucket Atheneum and the Nantucket Historical Association – with a wonderful and unique way to collaborate and celebrate.  Look for lectures and presentations to also coincide with the celebration of the biography on Maria Mitchell and the exhibition Gutsy Gals: From Hearth to Heavens, Maria Mitchell and Her Sister Nantucketers during the summer and fall of 2007.

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