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Collecting Inspiration with Supersisters

Liz Zanis, Collections Management Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints

Posted: Thursday, April 3, 2014

Suzy Chaffee, Supersisters No. 1

Published by Supersisters, Inc. Suzy Chaffee, Supersisters No. 1, 1979. Photolithograph. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Jefferson R. Burdick Bequest, 1981 (1981.1214.1)

«Published in 1979, the Supersisters trading cards were a playful, informative, and accessible way to spread feminism to younger audiences. The series was inspired by Lois Rich's daughter, an eight-year-old baseball-card collector, who asked why there weren't any pictures of girls on the cards. With a grant from the New York State Education Department, Lois Rich and her sister, Barbara Egerman, contacted five hundred women of achievement and created cards of the first seventy-two to respond.»

Designed to emulate collectible sports cards, the Supersisters cards were sold as a set, numbered with a photo on one side and statistics on the other. The biographies and photographs provided by the women featured not only highlighted accomplishments, but also shared hobbies and personal details (though several of the Supersisters refrained from sharing their age). Ranging from athletes to activists to anthropologists to poets and members of Congress, many were pioneers in their respective fields. The initial sets were distributed in New York State schools and were also available by mail order. Over ten thousand sets were sold.

Left: Ruby Dee, Supersisters No. 43; Right: Jane Pauley, Supersisters No. 52

Left: Published by Supersisters, Inc. Ruby Dee, Supersisters No. 43, 1979. Photolithograph. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Jefferson R. Burdick Bequest, 1981 (1981.1214.43). Right: Published by Supersisters, Inc. Jane Pauley, Supersisters No. 52, 1979. Photolithograph. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Jefferson R. Burdick Bequest, 1981 (1981.1214.52)

In keeping with its mission of collecting all forms of printed visual culture, Supersisters came into the Department of Drawings and Prints' collection in 1981—the year Congress passed the law designating the week beginning March 7, 1982, as "Women's History Week." As an unofficial extension of Women's History Month, the department is pleased to highlight several examples from the Museum's collection here.

Bella S. Abzug, Supersisters No. 8

Published by Supersisters, Inc. Bella S. Abzug, Supersisters No. 8, 1979. Photolithograph. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Jefferson R. Burdick Bequest, 1981 (1981.1214.8)

Left: Margaret Mead, Supersisters No. 16; Right: Rosa Parks, Supersisters No. 27

Left: Published by Supersisters, Inc. Margaret Mead, Supersisters No. 16, 1979. Photolithograph. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Jefferson R. Burdick Bequest, 1981 (1981.1214.16). Right: Published by Supersisters, Inc. Rosa Parks, Supersisters No. 27, 1979. Photolithograph. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Jefferson R. Burdick Bequest, 1981 (1981.1214.27)

Janet Guthrie, Supersisters No. 53

Published by Supersisters, Inc. Janet Guthrie, Supersisters No. 53, 1979. Photolithograph. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Jefferson R. Burdick Bequest, 1981 (1981.1214.53)

Meredith Monk, Supersisters No. 40

Published by Supersisters, Inc. Meredith Monk, Supersisters No. 40, 1979. Photolithograph. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Jefferson R. Burdick Bequest, 1981 (1981.1214.40)

Left: Shari Lewis, Supersisters No. 38; Right: Shirley Chisholm, Supersisters No. 71

Left: Published by Supersisters, Inc. Shari Lewis, Supersisters No. 38, 1979. Photolithograph. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Jefferson R. Burdick Bequest, 1981 (1981.1214.38). Right: Published by Supersisters, Inc. Shirley Chisholm, Supersisters No. 71, 1979. Photolithograph. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Jefferson R. Burdick Bequest, 1981 (1981.1214.71)

Laura Lee Ching, Supersisters No. 37

Published by Supersisters, Inc. Laura Lee Ching, Supersisters No. 37, 1979. Photolithograph. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Jefferson R. Burdick Bequest, 1981 (1981.1214.37)

Department(s): Drawings and Prints

Comments

  • Kit Basquin says:

    Super collection! Inspiring. Thanks for presenting it.

    Posted: April 3, 2014, 9:05 p.m.

  • Mary Ellen Carne says:

    I gave these cards to my daughter when she was 8 and she still has them at 43. She sent me this article with great pleasure at revisiting her cards. She and I both feel that they are Met-worthy and revel in this shared blast from the past! How about another set to commemorate another Women's History month? Hopefully you'd have to make two or three decks to cover all of the notable women of today.

    Posted: April 14, 2014, 2:30 p.m.

  • Susan Piggott says:

    How about putting out sets in different genres? High achieving women artists, writers, poets, politicians, composers, architects, academics, feminists..... any group of women not famous for being famous or models, movie/tv celebrities etc

    Posted: April 15, 2014, 5:57 a.m.

  • Liz Zanis says:

    Kit, Mary Ellen, and Susan, thank you for your positive responses! And thank you for sharing your Supersisters memories. Yes, there are so many cards that still need to be made. Though the cards are not on display, they can be viewed by appointment in the Print Study Room. More information about how to do that is here: http://www.metmuseum.org/en/research/libraries-and-study-centers/study-rooms-for-drawings-and-prints

    Posted: April 16, 2014, 12:54 p.m.

  • Rebecca Griffin says:

    This inspired me to think about people I would put in an updated set. Please come share your ideas in the comments: http://ow.ly/vVD0Z

    Posted: April 19, 2014, 12:53 p.m.

  • Colta Ives says:

    Thanks so much for bringing the "Sisters" to the Museum's website. They look pretty pleased to be there and it's wonderful to see them in their glory.

    Posted: July 24, 2014, 11:09 a.m.

  • Danielle says:

    I was so proud to order a set of my own when I was in middle school (JR. High back in the day!) I recently found them in my mom's attic and passed them on to my college-bound daughter...a feminist in her own right. Was so funny to see how some old school they were and to share with her that it was still pretty new to encourage girls in those days to do more with their lives.

    Posted: July 25, 2014, 3:34 p.m.

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About the Author

Liz Zanis is a collections management assistant in the Department of Drawings and Prints.

About this Blog

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