Dear Judy, I don’t know where I stand in the world. I don’t know who I am. That’s why I read, to find myself. Elizabeth, age 13
Judy Blume would love her censors to consider letters like this. Because while her coming-of-age tales have sold more than 82 million copies since 1970—and many couldn’t imagine adolescence without the relief of Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret or Blubber, mirrors that they were of our own private truths—Blume's work still landed on banned lists. Though that, as any preteen will attest, only ups its appeal. As a kid, books were a wormhole into other worlds; reading, an activity that felt like a secret gift. We discovered heroines like Miyax and Claudia Kishi, Sara Crewe and Mary Lennox; and saw the girls we were and the women we wanted to become. Here, we honor a few with recipes—savory date balls, pesto-slicked kelp noodles, a carrot skillet cake, and an over-the-top meringue—that, much like these protagonists, will capture your imagination.
“It is true that I passed for a phenomenon,” wrote Alice Guy-Blaché, the first female director (she worked on 700 plus films from 1896-1906) in her memoirs. A century later, the role remains more phenomenon than constant: According to San Diego State University’s Celluloid Ceiling report, only 7% of the top 250 grossing films in 2016 had female directors. Movies serve as escape but also education, teaching us new visual languages and ways of existing in the world. And if film and culture reside in a feedback loop, there must be parity in the position of influencer. Our menu—a slim farinata; a rosy, radicchio salad; a vinegar-doused fish; and delicate éclairs—is a tribute to women who broke through. Their films are not “women stories,” they are stories told by women, and we need more of them.
The muses of Greek mythology were the nine sister goddesses of libidinous old Zeus and Mnemosyne, each one assigned an area of art or science to preside over. Understood as a source of inspiration or guiding genius, a muse need not imply a passive exchange: they aren’t women acting merely in faculty of a man’s creative output. The muses we’ve chosen are, in our mind, not static figures, but women whose spirit, style, and smarts have helped them transcend the artists they are associated with and the era in which they emerged; whose fierce originality has made them endure in our collective consciousness as much as the paintings or poems or songs they inspired. Our amuses—smoked oyster bites, balsamic figs, dusted popcorn, braided cheese straws, and a golden nut bar—will command your attention as much as these women have.
“She said ‘kid, that’s when they put the S on the end of my name,” recalled Carol Burnett on PBS’s Pioneers of Television, of a comment her friend Lucille Ball made about becoming the boss on The Lucy Show, her first solo venture after parting ways from Desi Arnaz. Burnett would follow in Ball’s trailblazing footsteps and there would be more to come: Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols, the first African-American woman in a major role in 1966; Joan Rivers, host of one of the first syndicated talk shows in 1968; and Mary Tyler Moore, the first single working-woman protagonist in 1970. We paid homage to a few rule-skirting and rabble-rousing TV characters who captured our hearts and minds with a menu—quickie eggs; yellow lentil sliders; black garlic butter steak; a decadent cookie and spiked slushie—that’s as maverick as they are.
Barton-Ballentine’s photography and writing explores the interiors and landscapes of upstate New York and around the world. Her book Wild Stainless, published in 2017, is available at Dashwood books in NYC. Her clients include Martha Stewart Living, Wilder Quarterly, Ovenly bakery, and Urban Outfitters. Barton-Ballentine lives with her husband and daughter in Woodstock, NY. See her work at winonabartonballentine.com.
Who is your creative heroine? My friend and mentor Justine Kurland who is an amazing mother, teacher, and photographer.
A native New Yorker and graduate of Cornell’s College of Architecture, Avnet has been a professional artist since freeelancing for Glamour at 14. At 19, she was drafting ads for Manhattan department store B. Altman and Company. Since then, her illustrations have graced cookbooks, garden books, and magazines like Bon Appétit, House & Garden, and The Los Angeles Times Magazine. She’s designed wallpaper and pottery, and created fabric and bedding for Martex and West Point Pepperell. Based in Topanga, California, her work is inspired by her love of nature, food and mythology. See her work on Instagram @barbarabrodyavnet.
Who is your creative heroine? My mother Trudy Brody who is an amazing artist and graphic designer and who broke many barriers in the ’50s advertising world. And Laurie Colwin, a beloved writer who always makes me want to cook a delicious meal.
Brown has had many jobs: waitress, elite horse trainer, juggler, bad unicycle rider, Renaissance Faire performer, Roman nanny. In 2011, she co-founded the surf and contemporary art publication WAX magazine with two other designers and is currently the deputy photo editor at Bloomberg Businessweek. She abandoned her graduate writing degree from Temple University in 2008 and now writes (occasionally) from a small table in her Brooklyn apartment, where she lives with her husband and wild little dog.
Who is your creative heroine? My mom, who is a fearless tour de force.
A seasoned design and interiors photographer with a particular affection for anything sun-lit or involving sparkly glass, Coleman’s regular clients include Lindsey Adelman, The Future Perfect, Kelly Behun, and Bec Brittain. She is also the brains behind Dunes magazine, an exquisite love letter to Palm Springs, the place where she spent her childhood living in a home as iconic (it was called the Ship of the Desert) as the ones she pays homage to. See her work at laurencoleman.nyc and order a copy of Dunes at thedunes.myshopify.com.
Who is your creative heroine? Georgia O’Keeffe and Elsa Peretti
Originally from northern California, it was while employed as a writer and editor covering interiors and lifestyle that Daley realized that she was more interested in working on the photo shoots that accompanied her articles. Styling has become the best way for her to mash-up her love of storytelling, and thrifting, with the desire to work with her hands. Currently obsessed with all things wabi-sabi, you can see her work at chloedaley.com.
Who is your creative heroine? My grandmother, Sidney Blackwell, who always says, “We can totally make that!” And then she does.
Yudi Ela Echevarria Blas grew up in Santa Ana, California with immigrant parents who constantly encouraged her to pursue her passion for photography. While at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University she developed her unique style while experiment- ing with film and printing processes in the darkroom. Her approach to photography is shaped by a desire to capture authentic, nostalgic moments; her work, stylistically evocative of a fondness for bygone eras and cultures. The artist splits her time between New York and L.A. See her work at yudiela.com.
Who is your creative heroine? Lady Miss Kier of Deee-Lite
Born in Mexico, raised in Barcelona, and based in New York City, Falquez started her career as a filmmaker but transitioned to photography when, in 2012, she started working as the editor and photographer of The Sartorialist, with Scott Schuman as her mentor. Three years ago she embarked on her own career and, since then, has worked for clients like Hermes and Louis Vuitton, and had her work published in a variety of magazines. Besides her editorial work, Falquez has a portraiture project and several traveling works in Cuba and Senegal. She had her first solo show in New York in 2016 called “Body of Work. See her work at camilafalquez.com.
Who is your creative heroine? Without a doubt, my mother. She is a creative force and always told me that nothing is impossible.
Born in Australia, Fletcher moved to New York in 1994 and, with no fashion design experience, launched her cult brand Lyell, eventually opening a store on Elizabeth Street. After hitting pause on Lyell after the birth of her second child, Fletcher served as creative director at Tocca. In 2015, she began collaborating with photographer Tamara Schlesinger on The Push Pose project, which informed the recent relaunch of a reinvisioned version of Lyell. Fletcher lives in Brooklyn with her two children. See lyellworld.com for info.
Who is your creative heroine? Patti Smith
Partners in photography and life, Andrea Gentl and Martin Hyers have been collaborating for over twenty years. Focused on food, travel, interiors, and portraits, their clients include Condé Nast Traveler, Coqui Coqui, Bon Appétit, The New York Times, and Häagen-Dazs. The pair have launched a photography workshop series called This is the Wanderlust, that focuses on visual storytelling and creative travel stories from the ground up.
Who is your creative heroine? Martin: Andrea. Andrea: I have many! Edna St. Vincent Millay, Jhumpa Lahiri, Mira Nair, Sally Mann, Imogen Cunningham, and Georgia O’Keeffe. And definitely my daughter Lula.
Greene moved to New York in the ‘90s to pursue a career as a fashion stylist. After a job at Issey Miyake, she moved into production, and worked on projects for Fischerspooner and Vanessa Beecroft at Deitch Projects. Throughout her production experiences Greene often gravitated toward sets and props, which eventually led to her shift into set design and prop styling. Now a full-time stylist, her clients include Saks Fifth Avenue, Marie Claire, Ace Hotel, and SWELL. Greene lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two sons. See her work at helloartists.com/ stylists/heather-greene and heather-greene.com.
Who is your creative heroine? Above all I choose my grandmother Margaret Elve Greene. She sewed, painted, quilted, created beautiful interiors, and established community through her daily artistic practices until she was almost 95. My hero!
Kovel, Gather’s contributing recipe developer, learned the culinary ropes in Boston restaurants like Upstairs at the Pudding and Biba, and summers as a private chef on Martha’s Vineyard. She went on to cook in France at La Varenne École de Cuisine and Ecaille et Plume, and in California at Chez Panisse, before moving to New York for a job as food editor at Martha Stewart Living. For over a decade there she created and styled magazine stories and produced cookbooks. Now a freelance recipe developer and food stylist, Kovel’s work has been featured in Martha Stewart Living, The Wall Street Journal, and Better Homes and Gardens, where she has a monthly column. She’s currently working on her first book. See her work at annakovel.com.
Who is your creative heroine? Elizabeth David, the British food writer whose books opened up a world to me and make me want to eat.
Born in San Antonio, Michalek moved to New York to attend Parsons. After working in the art departments of NYLON magazine and VFILES and as the senior art director at Sephora in San Francisco, Michalek flipped the script and moved to Kagoshima Japan where she teaches at three high schools on the Osumi Peninsula. Long enamored of Japan, she’s ecstatic to now be able to combine her passion for design with English education in her destined homeland. Her goal is to inspire confidence and encourage creative self-expression in her students.
Who is your creative heroine? My first figure skating coach Sheree, an eccentric, artsy Australian who gave zero fucks about what conservative Texans thought of her hand-painted denim and henna tattoos. She encouraged me to paint and draw and inspired my creative spirit on and off the ice.
Born in India, Patel’s passion for and approach to visual storytelling has been influenced by the places she lived and visited while winding her way to New York. After studying art history and printmaking, and working in film, she became style director at Martha Stewart Living, where she informed the brand’s aesthetic. Now, as a freelance stylist, Patel constantly strives to unearth beauty and to create worlds both familiar and unique. See her work at ayeshapatel.com
Who is your creative heroine? Agnes Martin
Gather’s co-recipe editor grew up in the Cornhusker state, where her love of food started with runzas, fresh corn, and bundt cakes. After attending the International Culinary Center, she was the pastry chef of Brooklyn’s Roberta’s and Blanca. Peetz has been named one of Zagat’s 30 Under 30, and Star Chef’s Rising Star Pastry Chef. She has been a recipe developer and chef consultant since 2013. See her work at katypeetz.com.
Who is your creative heroine? My mother’s artistic mastery shines in casseroles and care packages, which are made with nothing but love.
Peppler is a Brooklyn- and Paris-based writer and food stylist. Her clients include The New York Times, Saveur, Bon Appetit, Real Simple, Rachael Ray Magazine, Food Network, and multiple cookbooks. She is currently working on two French- focused cookbooks.
Who is your creative heroine? Sappho and Meryl Streep
The Brooklyn-based beauty editor at Vogue traces the start of her magazine career to an interview in Martha Stewart’s Bedford kitchen (as chronicled in a recent issue of Apartamento), but an interest in the culture and commerce of food goes back further: to backyard calamondins and reruns of Supermarket Sweep. The most revelatory street food she’s ever eaten is a golden banana-coconut fritter in Hue, Vietnam.
Who is your creative heroine? Charlotte Perriand, the formidable design talent in a ball-bearings necklace. She rose above a knee-jerk dismissal from Le Corbusier’s studio (“We don’t embroider cushions here”) to forge a historic collaboration.
Born and raised in Barcelona, Riverola began her studies of photography and fine arts there before moving to New York City to attend the School of Visual Arts. Her work, which spans the fashion, still life, landscape and architectural photography genres, is distinguished by its vivid color palette and distinct composi- tion and has been informed by her travels around the world. Now based in Mexico City, Riverola’s work has appeared in Vogue, i-D, The Wall Street Journal, Purple, Amuse, and Vice, among others. See her work at cargocollective.com/ piariverola.
Who is your creative heroine? Elizabeth Peyton
Gather’s food stylist and co-recipe editor entered the gastronomical world after selling her East Village bar and using the proceeds to attend culinary school. She logged time in some of the city’s most esteemed restaurant kitchens before shifting her focus to food styling and recipe development. See her work at maggieruggiero.com.
Who is your creative heroine? Like Mary Shelley, I’d cobble people together to make my heroine. Perhaps parts of Louise Bourgeois, Nan Goldin, and the middle finger of Joan Rivers.
Born in Orel, Russia, where she studied art, design, and advertising and earned a master’s in graphic design, she’s now an illustrator based in Saint Petersburg. Her clients include Taittinger, Lela Rose, Esprit de France, Interview, and Harper’s Bazaar. See her work at saintemaria.com.
Who is your creative heroine? A collective image of all women around the world, from Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the girl at my local bakery, who are fighting problems big and small.
The Chicago-born, Paris- based illustrator, food stylist and author is best known for her vibrant watercolor illustrations and fine-line coloring books. Weiner’s work has appeared in Vogue, T, Le Nouvel Observateur, and M Le Magazine du Monde. Her book Edible Paradise: A Coloring Book of Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables (Rizzoli), explores the edible plant kingdom. Weiner also writes and illustrates a popular blog about her life, thefrancofly. com. See her work at jessiekanelosweiner.com.
Who is your creative heroine? Aretha Franklin.
Born in California and raised in a renovated barn in Pennsylvania, Wilson got her start as a financial reporter before becoming the style editor at Real Simple. Now a prop stylist, her clients include Bon Appétit, William Sonoma, Condé Nast Traveler, Whole Foods, and Vanity Fair. Wilson has worked on the books Bringing Nature Home, Gjelina: Cooking from Venice, and Dinner at the Long Table. She also works as a garden designer with The Organic Gardener, focusing on rooftops and other urban spaces. See her work at amyelisewilson.com.
Who is your creative heroine? Chavela Vargas, a creative genius and badass who lived many lives and was an inspiration for many others.
Anna Sui once said, “every collection, I always think, is this cool enough to wear to a concert?” A onetime regular at iconic New York music meccas like Mudd Club, her designs feel like a rock n’ roll fantasy sprung to life. Sui is celebrated this year with an exhibit at London’s Fashion & Textile […]
“I dare you to understand what makes me a woman,” Angel Olsen posits suggestively, her voice and the music swelling in time on “Woman,” a track from last year’s revelatory album My Woman which shimmers against a backdrop of ’70s rock. Here, Olsen gathers songs by both women and men that celebrate love and the […]
A DJ for more than three decades (tune in to her on L.A.’s KCRW) and music supervisor for more than two, her song placement wizardry can be seen in The Kids Are All Right, Friday Night Lights, Parenthood, and HBO’s The Leftovers, where she’s weaved in Wu-Tang, Simon & Garfunkel, Christian rock, Rihanna, and the […]
An avowed vinyl head, music plays a role in all of Rotter’s projects, from t-shirt label Rotter and Friends, a sartorial ode to her music idols, to the tour merch she designs for Cat Stevens, Mavis Staples, and the Grateful Dead. Her first book, I’m Bored (Hat and Beard Press), an idiosyncratic array of illustrations, […]
VMA-nominated director Tabitha Denholm has worked with artists like Florence and the Machine, HAIM, and Jessie J, among others. A frequent contributor to Nowness, Dazed, and I-D, Denholm is also the founder of Women Under the Influence (womenundertheinfluence.org), an organization dedicated to spotlighting female directors.