Auctions | May 26, 2022

Focus on Women at Swann June 2: Alcott, Parks & More

Courtesy of Swann Galleries

Louisa May Alcott, Autograph Letter Signed, written to a fan praising Little Women, post-1868. Estimate: $1,200-1,800

New York — Swann Galleries will present the second iteration of Focus on Women, Thursday, June 2. The sale is poised to emphasize women’s experiences and contributions to literature, science, art, politics, and thought. With published and manuscript material from the hand-press period, through the work of living artists, collectors will have a chance to bid on photographs, prints, books, archives and more.

The history of women’s rights are chronicled throughout the sale with items related to Suffrage — including The History of Woman Suffrage, 1881-1922 by Susan B. Anthony and Ida Husted Harper ($7,000-10,000) — through the Civil Rights and Equal Pay movements, with a 1970 lithograph poster illustrated by Dana C. Chandler Jr. urging the release of Angela Davis ($600-900), a 1970s poster for NOW, the National Organization for Women ($300-500), and Cry Out, created by the Chicago Women’s Graphics Collective in 1971 ($800-1,200).

Trailblazers include images of Rosa Parks ($300-500), Amelia Earhart ($300-500), a signed and inscribed image of Sally Ride ($150-250) alongside a selection of 16 photographs depicting women in space from 1995 to 2002 ($500-750), and Helen Keller ($400-600). Also on offer is a 1908 autograph letter signed by Clara Barton, the founder of the Red Cross ($250-350); and an 1859 letter signed by Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom to King Francis II of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies ($700-1,000).

Literary works by Black women form a significant portion of the auction, beginning with a rare Phillis Wheatley poem — Recollection, to Miss A_ M_, Humbly Inscribed by the Authoress as printed in The London Magazine, 1772 ($1,500-2,500), and continuing into the nineteenth century, with Sojourner Truth’s 1875 autobiography ($1,000-1,500). Also featured are literary prize winners and first editions from the twentieth century: a signed and inscribed copy of Georgia Johnson’s Bronze, 1922 ($4,000-6,000), Nella Larsen’s Passing, 1929 ($600-800), Gwendolyn Brooks’s A Street in Bronzeville, 1945 ($400-600), and a number of first editions by Toni Morrison and Alice Walker.

Other literary highlights include an autograph letter signed by Louisa May Alcott written post-1868 with mentions of Little Women ($1,200-1,800); Anne Bradstreet’s Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, full of Delight, 1758 ($1,000-2,000); a first edition of Pearl S. Buck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning The Good Earth, 1931 ($3,000-5,000), a signed limited edition of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, 1929 ($3,000-4,000), and a run of works by Gertrude Stein.

Highlights from women in entertainment include a 1925 program for the New Plantation Revue’s Show, Tan Town Topics which was headlined by Ethel Waters and featured a young Josephine Baker in a scene just before her move to France and impending stardom ($1,000-1,500); and Eve Arnold’s image Marilyn Monroe in the Nevada desert rehearsing lines during filming of The Misfits, silver print, 1960, printed circa 2000 ($2,500-3,500).

Artists include a small archive once belonging to Elaine de Kooning ($2,000-3,000), as well as a bronze relief sculpture, circa 1985, cast between1992 and 1994 ($10,000-15,000). Additional highlights include works by the Guerrilla Girls, Dorothy Dehner, Marlene Dumas, Helena Bochoráková-Dittrichová, Mary Cassatt, Imogen Cunningham, Hedda Sterne, and Helen Frankenthaler, among others.  

Lots related to preserving stories of more obscure women in history include Christine La Barraque’s Hastings Law School Class Photograph — she was the first blind woman admitted to practice law in California ($300-500). A Free Norma Jean Croy t-shirt, as well as the original silkscreen used for printing, circa 1980s to 1990s, is on offer ($150-250); Croy, a member of the Shasta-Karok tribe, was wrongly convicted and sentenced after a racially charged incident in 1978, her case was upheld by social justice groups in the 1990s working to free wrongly convicted Native Americans. And, a salt-print of the Harvard College house cleaning team from 1863 ($300-500) — Harvard maintained a cleaning staff to tend to the residents of student housing until 1950. These items are offered alongside a number of lots containing unique manuscript material, including travel diaries and unpublished letters created by people obscured by a male-dominated lens.

Exhibition hours are 12 p.m to 5 p.m from May 30 through June 1. Live online bidding platforms will be the Swann Galleries App, Invaluable, and Live Auctioneers. The complete catalogue and bidding information is available at and the Swann Galleries App.
The complete lot listing can be found here.