Virtual Event: Maggie Doherty


The Equivalents:
A Story of Art, Female Friendship, and Liberation in the 1960s

in conversation with KATE BOLICK


May 19, 2020
7:00 PM ET


Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.


Free - $5 contribution suggested at registration

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series and the History & Literature program at Harvard University welcome literary historian and critic MAGGIE DOHERTY for a discussion of her book, The Equivalents: A Story of Art, Female Friendship, and Liberation in the 1960s. She will be joined in conversation by KATE BOLICK, author of the bestselling Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own.

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About The Equivalents

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.

Praise for The Equivalents

The Equivalents is such an exciting, engaging, and important book that I loathed doing anything but reading it. With great psychological acumen, and ever-mindful of the nuances of class, race, and gender, Maggie Doherty brings these women vividly to life, allowing us to hear them speak, to feel their conflicts and their triumphs . . . Being creative while female has never been easy, and our best hope for resolution is this variety of historical excavation, one that shows us how people have tried to resolve it before, so we may learn and keep pushing forward, newly enlightened.” —Kate Bolick, author of Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own

“Maggie Doherty’s revelatory history of female artists and their influential friendships stands as triumphant testament to the powerhouse first known as Radcliffe’s Institute for Independent Study . . . When Harvard swallowed Radcliffe in 1999, Radcliffe College ceased to exist, and the resulting quid pro quo endowment admitted men to what had been “a room of one’s own” for Sexton, Kumin, Olsen, Swan, Pineda, and many women after them.  Maggie Doherty’s The Equivalents reminds us that generative “women’s work” can literally light up the darkness that discourages women’s voices—just when we need them the most.” —Jayne Anne Phillips, Bunting Institute Fellow, 1980-81, author of Black Tickets and Lark and Termite

“In her thrilling book, Maggie Doherty brings to vivid life the long-hidden history of a glorious American experiment that gathered creative women for a year of community in the shelter of a great university. The emotional power of The Equivalents lies in its revelation of the incremental impact of community on each of these formerly isolated women, prophetic of what would happen two years later with the publication of The Feminine Mystique and the arrival of Second Wave feminism.” —Honor Moore, author of Our Revolution

Kate Bolick
Kate Bolick

Kate Bolick

Kate Bolick’s first book, the bestselling Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, was named a New York Times Notable Book of 2015 and appeared in multiple translations around the world. Bolick’s essays and cultural criticism appear regularly in Elle, the New York Times, the New Yorker, Vogue, among other publications. Previously, she was online literary editor of The Atlantic.

Photo Credit: Willy Somma

Maggie Doherty
Maggie Doherty

Maggie Doherty

Maggie Doherty is the author of The Equivalents: A Story of Art, Female Friendship, and Liberation in the 1960s, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography. Her writing appears regularly in The New Yorker, the New York Times Book Review, and the New Republic, among other publications. She teaches creative writing and journalism at Harvard and Tufts.

Photo credit: Max Larkin

Join our online event (or pre-register) via the link in the event description.
Event Series: Virtual Event Series

Harvard Book Store’s award-winning event series continues online! Named "Best of Boston: 2020 Best Virtual Author Series" and "2021 Best Virtual Author Series" by Boston magazine.

Co-Sponsored by History & Literature at Harvard University

History and Literature is an interdisciplinary humanities honors program at Harvard. For more information, visit:

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