Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: MC 1027

Mary Ross Taylor Letters from Judy Chicago, 1980-2019 (inclusive), 1980-1990 (bulk)


Letters from feminist artist Judy Chicago to her friend, arts administrator Mary Ross Taylor.


  • Creation: 1980-2019
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1980-1990


Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Mary Ross Taylor is held by Mary Ross Taylor during her lifetime. Upon her death, copyright will transfer to the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


.84 linear feet (2 file boxes)

These letters of Mary Ross Taylor are primarily from feminist artist Judy Chicago. Some letters from Taylor to Chicago are also included. Letters describe Chicago's feelings for Taylor, the developments of a number of her artworks, travel, and operations of Through the Flower.

The letters document milestones and changes in the dynamics of their relationship. After Taylor moved to Benicia to work with Chicago, the two began a short-lived romantic and sexual relationship alongside their longer-term working relationship. Letters between 1980 and 1984 refer to their love affair, and show their close emotional relationship, despite often being physically separate. In the late 1980s, Taylor rented a house she owned in New Mexico to Chicago and her husband Donald Woodman. The rent was low, and over the next several years, Taylor and Chicago disagreed about the rent and other particulars of the arrangement. Financial and artistic direction of Through the Flower is another topic discussed, and the focus of most of the letters written by Taylor in the collection.


Mary Ross Taylor was born January 26, 1945, grew up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and at 17 became an active partner in her family's timber and real estate business when her father died. Taylor graduated from the Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and pursued degrees in English at Vanderbilt University (B.A.) and the University of Tennessee (M.A.). She went on to a PhD program at the University of Texas, but did not complete her dissertation on Chaucer. She was married to James R. Rhyne in 1967; they divorced in 1975. In 1972 Taylor opened a feminist bookstore in Houston, Texas, and later founded the Texas Arts & Cultural Organization (TACO) with two friends in order to seek literature-related grants from state hotel and motel tax funds. Taylor read Judy Chicago's autobiography and became interested in the artist's work. Taylor then organized an effort that brought Chicago's installation artwork The Dinner Party to Houston in 1980. Chicago subsequently invited Taylor to move to Benicia, California, and become Project Director of her next large scale artwork, The Birth Project. Taylor later succeeded Diane Gelon as Executive Director of Through the Flower, the organization that administers and facilitates Judy Chicago's artwork. While running Through the Flower, Taylor earned an M.A. in Museum Administration from John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, California. In 1990, at the close of The Birth Project tour, Taylor returned to Houston. Texas Governor Ann Richards appointed Taylor to the Governor's Commission for Women in 1991. Taylor later served as Director of Lawndale Art Center in Houston. She has served on the advisory boards of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Brooklyn Museum, and on the board of Through the Flower.

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2019-M175

The letters of Mary Ross Taylor were given to the Schlesinger Library by Mary Ross Taylor in October 2019.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see papers of Judy Chicago (MC 502) and Additional papers of Judy Chicago (MC 909).

Processing Information

Processed: November 2019

By: Jenny Gotwals, with assistance from Sarah DeRupo.

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by the Alice Jeanette Ward Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

3 James St.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA