Great Women Live from the Great Hall


Women took over the Great Hall at The Cooper Union March 18th as part of the Women's History Month celebrations in New York City. Women's Rights icon Gloria Steinem engaged in a fascinating conversation with Salamishah Tillet, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and scholar. The event was part of The Gardiner Foundation Great Hall Forum series and a day of Cooper Union programming, including an exhibition on view in the Foundation Building's colonnade windows, dedicated to lifting up and celebrating Great Women Live from the Great Hall.

Gloria Steinem

Steinem and Tillet were introduced by Laura Sparks, the first female president of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.

Hundreds of women and friends stood in line outside of Cooper Union to enter the Great Hall Saturday afternoon. We were invited to return that evening for stellar performances by Tiler Peck, principal ballet dancer for the New York City Ballet; Grammy nominated songstress Melissa Manchester; actress and author Melissa Errico; tap dancer, choreographer, and instructor who has been called "the mastress of her generation," Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards; comedienne and actress Alice Wetterlund; singer/songwriter and former National Youth Poet Laureate Kara Jackson; a solo dance performance by Tendayi Kuumba of Urban Bush Women; and Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Lisa Fischer.

Steinem and Tillet spoke of the backlash against women symbolized by the Dobbs decision overturning Roe vs. Wade, exacerbated by the Trump era. Steinem urged young women who are "...mad as hell and can't take it anymore" - as compared to older women who may have become more complacent - to pick up the ball and run with it where women's rights are concerned.

Melissa Manchester

That night Melissa Manchester expressed outrage that her daughter and granddaughter are being denied the rights that she herself was able to take for granted, and urged us not to be fooled by people who call themselves "pro-life." "They're really just pro-birth. If they were truly pro-life there would be free health care, free education, free nutritional programs, etc." She gave a rousing, heart-felt performance of her breakout hit "Midnight Blue," accompanying herself on the nine-foot concert grand Steinway. Melissa plays a mean piano!

We were invited to call out the names of ancestors at the beginning of the beautifully choreographed dance performance by Tendayi Kuumba of the Urban Bush Women.

Lisa Fischer

The highlight of the evening for me was an incredible performance by Lisa Fischer with her trio. Her vocal gymnastics are truly impressive, and her deeply moving performance of Dido's Lament: "When I am Laid in Earth" earned a standing ovation and shouts of "Brava!" It brought tears to my eyes.

Thank you to The Gardiner Foundation Great Hall Forum series at Cooper Union, The Ciafone and Argento Family, and Debby & Scott Rechler / Rechler Philanthropy for an uplifting, inspiring Saturday.


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