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The White Rabbits

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The White Rabbits

Sculpture of Columbus by Mary Lawrence
Sculptor Lorado Taft needed assistants to help him carry out the decorations for the Horticulture building at Chicago's Columbian Exposition in 1893.

Horticulture building at the Columbia Exposition
Unfortunately all the qualified male sculptors were already occupied with other work. The deadline was approaching and he needed to complete the project in time.


Taft realized he had plenty of talented women among his students at the Chicago Art Institute.
Lorado Taft and his students at work, 1899
He asked Daniel Burnham, director of public works, if he could hire women to help him on the official project, a practice virtually unheard of at the time.



Burnham told Taft he could "hire anyone, even white rabbits, if they can get the work done." (Link to video)



The team of women promptly dubbed themselves "The White Rabbits," and successfully completed the work. They became some of the leading women sculptors in America, including Julia Bracken (1871–1942), Carol Brooks (1871–1944), Ellen Rankin Copp (1853-1901), Helen Farnsworth (1867–1916), Margaret Gerow, Mary Lawrence (1868–1945), Bessie Potter (1872–1954), Janet Scudder (1869–1940), Enid Yandell (1870–1934), and Zulime Taft.
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White Rabbits on Wikipedia
Online article on the White Rabbits
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5 Comments on Gurney Journey: The White Rabbits

  • Cathy
    on March 06, 2020 | 11:28 Cathysaid :
    "Wonderful! Thanks for posting!"
  • Tina
    on March 06, 2020 | 15:20 Tinasaid :
    "Yep, great tribute to the advancement women in the arts! They say necessity is the mother of invention, but it this case, it was the mother of deadlines! "
  • Jim Douglas
    on March 06, 2020 | 15:42 Jim Douglassaid :
    "How fortunate to have such talented women available as a back up plan!
    Call me a curmudgeon, but I highly doubt a similar result could be achieved today if the directive was "Hire anyone.""
  • C.via.SEATTLE
    on March 07, 2020 | 15:10 C.via.SEATTLEsaid :
    "This makes me super happy to learn about! Thanks, Mr. Gurney."
  • Penny Taylor
    on March 10, 2020 | 01:23 Penny Taylorsaid :
    "Oh, I love this piece... I love, love, love it. Wonderful."
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