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SEL Tour through Women in the Arts Over Time

Updated: Nov 11, 2022

Bring Women in the Arts to Your Students through stories, their words and their art, including Kikori Quotes Printable

Since March is both Women's History Month and Youth Art Month, Kikori is focusing on blending the two with Social Emotional Learning activities that promote well-being for your students!

Arts Education is more critical than ever in American Schools, and the arts have been proven to have incredible effects on student outcomes, including their well-being, academics and developmental skills! Learn more about this through Kikori's blog on the Link Between Art and Student Well-Being.

Scroll down for an interactive timeline about Women in the Arts over the last 100+ years, as well as great resources to help you learn how to integrate art in your classroom!

Women in the Arts Through Time…

This month, we at Kikori are higlighting female trailblazers from around their world. We believe that the words we put into the world are meaningful, and we want to teach our children to be thoughtful about what they communicate! Enjoy this tour of Women in the Arts throughout Time.

If you would like to use quotes in your classroom, click on the Kikori Women's Quotes activity! The free Women's History Quotes Printable is available in the activity and here!

International Women Quotes Printable(1)
Download PDF • 5.31MB

Georgia O'Keefe (1887-1986)

"To create one's world in any of the arts takes courage."

Georgia O'Keeffe was a 20th-century American painter and pioneer of American modernism best known for her canvases depicting flowers, skyscrapers, animal skulls and southwestern landscapes. Georgia was considered to be the "mother of American modernism" and was also known as her equally radical depictions of flowers. Georgia lived and studied all over the United States - Wisconsin, Chicago, New York, Virginia, New Mexico and Texas!

Fun Fact 1: Georgia taught art at public schools!

Fun Fact 2: was one of the first American artists to practice pure abstraction, through a series of charcoal drawings.

Fun Fact 3: Georgia was inspired by Native American and Hispanic cultures!

Emily Dickinson (1830–1886)

"Forever is composed of nows."

Emily Dickinson is considered one of the most important and influential American poets in history. Emily Dickinson left school in her teen years and lived the rest of her life with little social connections on her family's homestead in Amherst, Massachusetts. There, she secretly created bundles of poetry and wrote hundreds of letters. Due to her sister's discovery of her poems and subsequent publishing, Emily is now considered one of the towering figures of American literature.

Fun Fact #1: Only 10 poems were published in her lifetime!

Fun Fact #2: Emily was reclusive but not antisocial - today, we call this an introvert!

Fun Fact #3: Most of Emily's poems can be sung to the tune of Amazing Grace!

Anna May Wong (1905-1961)

"This is such a short life that nothing can matter very much either one way or another. I have learned not to struggle but to flow along with the tide. If I am to be rich and famous, that will be fine. If not, what do riches and fame count in the long run?"

Anna May Wong, was the first female Chinese-American actress in the 1920s and 30s. She was born in Los Angeles and starred in her first movie at the age of 17 entitled, The Toll of the Sea (1992). Considered the first Chinese-American movie star, Wong often commented on feeling constrained by Hollywood and the roles she was able to play. Anti-miscegenation laws were prevalent in the US, which prevented interracial kissing on-screen. This led Wong to be forbidden from landing any starring roles in films and instead leading subservient or villainous roles. Because of this, “Dragon Lady” is a term often used to describe her. Anna's quote gives us more insight on how she felt about this discrimination in Hollywood at the time.

Fun Fact #1: Anna's birth name, Wong Liu Tsong, means "Frosted Yellow Willows."

Fun Fact #2: After Mary's death, the Asian-American Arts Awards and the Asian Fashion Designers group named annual awards after her.

Fun Fact #3: The first movie Anna starred in, The Toll of the Sea, was the first technicolor film!

Frida Kahlo (1907- 1954)

"I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint."

Frida Kahlo is considered one of Mexico's greatest artists. Mexican artist who painted many well known works, like The Two Fridas and The Wounded Table, which are still highly revered today. Friday had polio as a child, which led to a limp. Then at the age of 18, Frida was in a terrible accident with a streetcar. In total, Frida had to have 35 operations and lived in chronic pain.

Frida is known as a feminist icon, often painting about very feminine things (ie. abortion, miscarriage, breastfeeding, birth) in a time when those topics were taboo. Much of Kahlo’s work features herself in the paintings, as well as many other important people in her life, like her husband Diego Rivera. The quote chosen below is short, but gives good understanding as to why she might have included herself in so many of her paintings.

Fun Fact #1: Friday didn't always want to be an artist!

Fun Fact #2: Frida was an icon for many - body-positivity by expressing her facial hair and uni-brow; the LBTQI community by sharing her openness with bisexuality; and the Mexican community for her fierce pride in her culture.

Fun Fact #3: Frida arrived at her first solo exhibition in an ambulance!

Lucille Ball (1911-1989)

"I'd rather regret the things I have done than regret the things I haven't done."

Lucille Ball was the first woman to own a production company! She was an American actress and comedian, most famous for her role in 1950s TV

sitcom, I Love Lucy. Ball's childhood was shaped by tragedy and poverty. When the show hit the television screen in 1951, it was a sitcom like no other. Lucille Ball was a perfectionist, constantly rehearsing her on-screen antics and famous facial expressions, which some would argue was the key to the show’s massive success. She was able to blend feminine beauty with a witty and comical personality with her role as Lucy, a type of confidence that she touches on in the quote below.

Fun Fact #1: Many do not know that in 1962, she became the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu Productions.

Fun Fact #2: Lucille paved the way for female producers in Hollywood.

Fun Fact #3: Ball appeared in 72 movies!

Billie Holiday (1915-1959)

"No two people on earth are alike, and it's got to be that way in music or it isn't music."

Billie Holiday is considered one of the best jazz vocalists of all time, Holiday had a thriving career as a jazz singer for many years before she lost her battle with substance abuse. When Holiday was only 9 years old, she started skipping school and was sent to a facility for troubled African American girls. Billie began singing in clubs at the age of 16, where customers cried because her voice was so beautiful.

Fun Fact #1: Billie was an early reality star!

Fun Fact #2: Also known as Lady Day, her autobiography was made into the 1972 film Lady Sings the Blues.

Fun Fact #3: In 2000, Holiday was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Layla Mourad (1918-1995)

"All is fun in the time, when night is day, and day is night, for the rhythm, that is mine."

Layla was an Egyptian singer and actress, and one of the most prominent superstars in Egypt and the entire Arab world in her era. Layla was born to an Egyptian Jewish family in Cairo. In 1953, she attempted to donate money to the Israeli military, leading Arab radio stations to boycott her.

Fun Fact #1: Layla made her first stage appearance at the age of 9!

Fun Fact #2: Layla married three times and divorced three times!

Fun Fact #3: Layla retired at age 38!

Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

"You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have."

Maya Angelou was a civil rights activist, poet and award-winning author. Maya was known for her acclaimed 1969 memoir, 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,' which made literary history as the first nonfiction bestseller by an African American woman. Angelou had a difficult childhood and experienced racial discrimination and child abuse. Angelou was so traumatized by the experience that she stopped talking and spent years as a virtual mute for five years.

In the mid-1950s, Angelou's career as a performer took off. She also became a member of the Harlem Writers Guild and a civil rights activist.

Fun Fact #1: Maya was the first Black female cable car conductor in San Francisco!

Fun Fact #2: Maya spent much of the 1960s abroad, living in Egypt and in Ghana, working as an editor and a freelance writer.

Fun Fact #3: Angelou won a Grammy Award (best spoken word album) for the audio version of the poem, "On the Pulse of the Morning."

Anne Frank (1929- February or March, 1945)

"In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit."

Anne Frank was a Jewish teenager who went into hiding during the Holocaust, journaling her experiences in the renowned work 'The Diary of Anne Frank.' Anne was just 15 years old when she died but her diary is perhaps the best known document chronicling life under Nazi occupation and the persecution suffered by Jews.

While undoubtedly showcasing her literary talent, wit and intelligence, Anne’s diary is also very much the writings of a frustrated and “ordinary” teenager, struggling to live in a confined space with people she often didn’t like.

Fun Fact #1: Anne's diary was a 13th birthday present!

Fun Fact #2: Anne named her diary, "Kitty"

Fun Fact #3: Anne's full name was Annelies Marie Frank.

Carol Burnett (1933-Present)

"Comedy is a tragedy - plus time."

Carol Burnett is an American comedian and actress, most popular for her show The Carol Burnett Show, that aired between the years of 1967-1978. Each episode usually opened with a question-and-answer session between Burnett and her audience, creating a personal touch and a funny warm up to her sitcom. The show is known for its bold skits, and Burnett’s humorous facial expressions during them, which made it a huge success. The quote displays her sense of humor well!

Fun Fact #1: A total stranger helped Carol launch her acting career!

Fun Fact #2: Burnett’s star is on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is in front of the same theatre where she was fired from her job as an usherette in the 1950s. Burnett had asked that it be placed there.

Fun Fact #3: One of Carol's earliest gigs was playing a ventriloquist dummy’s love interest on a kids show.

Joy Harjo (1951-Present)

“I don't see the desert as barren at all; I see it as full and ripe. It doesn't need to be flattered with rain. It certainly needs rain, but it does with what it has, and creates amazing beauty.”

Joy Harjo is an American poet, playwright, musician and author,

who was also the first woman of Native American descent to be named US Poet Laureate, which she has held for 3 terms. Harjo is an extremely active member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She uses her degree in Creative Writing and many artforms to talk about US political and Native American affairs.

Harjo’s work builds in themes around the self, the arts and social justice as a whole. She uses the Native American oral tradition of storytelling to bring up important issues in her work, and to make a statement. Harjo's most recent work of poetry was published in 2019 entitled, An American Sunrise, the beginning of which you can preview here. Her dedication to her nation and the beauty of the Earth we all inhabit, shines through in the quote below.

Fun Fact #1: Joy is a ‘jack-of-all-trades’, teaching in universities, writing poetry, plays, children's books and releasing 7 albums of original music!

Fun Fact #2: Joy's activism for Native American rights and feminism stem from her belief in unity and the lack of separation among human, animal, plant, sky, and earth.

Fun Fact #3: Joy brings poetry and music together! She plays the sax while someone reads her poem, reaching the heart of the listener in a different way.

Laverne Cox (1972 - Current)

"By doing the work to love ourselves more, I believe we will love each other better."

Laverne Cox is a dancer and actress, and the the first openly transgender person in history to receive an Emmy nomination. Though Cox was born biologically male, she had always felt herself to be female, not really seeing a difference between boys and girls. She was often taunted and harassed mercilessly for being feminine, though she was able to hold onto her love for the arts.

Cox became one of the stars of 'Orange Is the New Black' as an imprisoned trans woman who fights for appropriate hormone treatments has a highly strained relationship with her son while also receiving love and acceptance from her wife.

Fun Fact #1: Cox is the Executive Producer of Netflix's documentary, Disclosure

Fun Fact #2: Cox helped bring the trans rights movement to the forefront thanks to her iconic 2014 Time magazine cover, titled "The Transgender Tipping Point."

Fun Fact #3: She is also the first openly transgender person to have a wax figure at Madame Tussaud's.

Download Kikori’s Arts SEL Playlist to promote the arts in your classroom!

Youth Arts Month Playlist
Download PDF • 2.17MB


Layla Mourad: Layla Mourad Biography; Watch one of Layla's songs

Maya Angelou: Maya Angelou Biography; 10 Inspiring Facts about Maya Angelou

How do you express yourself through the arts? Share in the Comments below!

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