The timely, never-before-told story of five brilliant, passionate women who, in the early 1960s, converged at the newly founded Radcliffe Institute for Independent Study and became friends as well as artistic collaborators, and who went on to shape the course of feminism in ways that are still felt today.

In 1960, Harvard's sister college, Radcliffe, announced the founding of an Institute for Independent Study, a "messy experiment" in women's education that offered paid fellowships to those with a PhD or "the equivalent" in artistic achievement. Five of the women who received fellowships--poets Anne Sexton and Maxine Kumin, painter Barbara Swan, sculptor Mariana Pineda, and writer Tillie Olsen--quickly formed deep bonds with one another that would inspire and sustain their most ambitious work. They called themselves "the Equivalents." Drawing from notebooks, letters, recordings, journals, poetry, and prose, Maggie Doherty weaves a moving narrative of friendship and ambition, art and activism, love and heartbreak, and shows how the institute spoke to the condition of women on the cusp of liberation.

Cover photographs: Anne Sexton, 1961 by Rollie McKenna © Rosalie Thorne McKenna Foundation. Courtesy Center for Creative Photography. Print: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Rollie McKenna; Women's liberation demonstration © Freda Leinwand (detail). Print: Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University
Edge of cover image: 
Red, White and Gray, 1971 by Barbara Swan (detail). Used with permission from the Alpha Gallery, Boston.