Work of the Week: "Marys' Daughters" by Carla Costuros

Date: Dec 6, 2019

It’s been 30 years since 14 women were massacred at École Polytechnique de Montréal. This week’s Work of the Week commemorates this tragic day, Marys’ Daughters by Carla Costuros. Costuros created the artwork as a response to the tragedy. 

The artwork features the names of the 14 victims, as well as quotes by Mary Astell (1666-1735), who is known as “the first English feminist” and Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), an advocate of women’s rights. The text, which combines quotes from books by Astell and Wollstonecraft, reads:

But they must excuse me if I be partial to my own sex as they are to theirs. And think women as capable of learning as men and that it becomes them as well. And who can tell how many generations may be necessary to give vigour to the virtue and talents of the freed posterity of abject slaves?

In 1991, December 6 was declared the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada to both honour those who were lost and to foster continued action toward a more equal society. 

About the Artist: Carla Costuros

Edmonton-born textile/fibre artist and book-maker Carla Costuros uses her art to explore the historical experiences of women, both their oppression and their artistic excellence, as achieved through the craft industry.

Costuros joined the Edmonton artist collective Subversive Textiles following the closure of Grant MacEwan’s fibre art program (1993). Her goal was to “subvert the notion of what textiles can and can’t be” through the exhibition she organized called Paperspeak. Fibre workers throughout the ages, she said, tended to be women at home workshops whose products were baskets, quilts and clothing; sexism denied the craft its due credit, but its history reveals women’s economic, cultural and social lives.