“When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change”*…
Women have been making maps for centuries. They have developed and applied new technologies, data collection techniques, and visual presentations to their maps as they charted new terrain, illustrated historical narratives, and pushed political and social agendas. In the 20th century, women mapmakers continued this work in larger numbers than ever—and no short post can account sufficiently for all of their contributions over a century that saw technological and social revolutions, one after another.
Examining just a small sample of the many compelling maps made by North American women in the 20th century, a theme emerges: aesthetic mastery.
In the days before the women’s liberation movement (except for a brief moment during World War II), most women didn’t have access to technical training in cartography. “Civil engineering, where topographic drafting was taught, was not a ‘girls’ subject,” writes Judith Tyner, a professor emerita of geography at California State University, Long Beach, in a presentation given at mapping conference earlier this year. But this didn’t stop women from participating in cartography. It simply meant that many who did started with a background in the arts…
More of the story– and several beautiful examples– at “How 20th-Century Women Put the ‘Art’ in Cartography,” the third installment in a series on women and maps; see also Part 1 and Part 2.
* Ursula Le Guin
As we contemplate cartography, we might spare a thought for Francesco Petrarca– Petrarch: on this date in 1341, he became the first poet laureate since antiquity, crowned by Roman Senatori Giordano Orsini and Orso dell’Anguillara on the holy grounds of Rome’s Capitol. Considered by many to have been “the Father of Humanism,” and reputed to have coined the term “Renaissance,” Petrarch was famous for his paeans to his idealized lover “Laura” (modeled, many scholars believe, on the wife of Hugues de Sade, Laura de Noves, whom he met in Avignon in 1327, and who died in 1348). But Petrarch’s more fundamental and lasting contribution to culture came via Pietro Bembo, who created the model for the modern Italian language in the 16th century based largely on the works of Petrarch (and to a lesser degree, those of Dante and Petrarch’s frequent correspondent, Boccaccio).