Although separated by more than 500 years, Christine de Pisan's "The Book of the City of Ladies" (1405) and Judy Chicago's "The Dinner Party" (1979) were created to validate and defend women and women's achievements and to move them from the periphery of the historical canon to the center, alongside accomplished men of history. Both are responses to misogynist beliefs and texts of their times. In this essay I present the historical basis of misogyny as well as events that led the two women to create their pieces. I illuminate the parallels between "The Book of the City of Ladies" and "The Dinner Party", and illustrate how both attempt to achieve their goal of reclaiming women's achievements to reinsert them into the historical record. I look at the paradoxes of confinement and freedom, separation and community, and individuality versus collaboration, themes that unite the book and the artwork. To conclude the essay, I consider the impact of "The Book of the City of Ladies" and "The Dinner Party" on women and the patriarchal canon, the success of their attempts, and what it means for the future. As part of my comparison of "The Book of the City of Ladies" and "The Dinner Party", and prior to this essay, I created twenty-seven original collages on canvas that imagine the meeting of Christine de Pisan and Judy Chicago. The resulting exhibition titled "Dinner in the City: A Narrative Exhibition ", presented from January 21 to February 2, 2007, was a twenty-first century reinterpretation of their work, telling their stories through my eyes. Images of the collages, with descriptions, are included in the essay.
Pippenger, M. M. (2007). Dinner in the City: Reclaiming the Female Half of History: Christine de Pisan's The Book of the City of Ladies and Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party (Master’s thesis). Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio.