I had received the invitation in the mail, no return address, no specific sender. Its only
directions: The Dinner Party – the Stroke of Midnight…Do Not Be Late. Firm hands on my
shoulders had guided me, in a dream-like state, from my home to the party where I was placed
firmly in a chair. Although a throne would be a more accurate word for it. The room I found
myself in was a large and dark expanse and the walls of the room seemed to disappear into that
darkness. The table was designed in the shape of a giant triangle, each side lined with
glamorous and decorated women, some I recognized and others I did not. In front of each of
woman, and myself as well, were plates of food piled high enough to just slightly block the view
of some of the shorter attendees. In the empty space in the center of the triangle, glossy tiles
decorated with the names of important women in history were scribbled in a curly golden font.
This was the Dinner Party.
Across the tile sat two queens, one Mary Queen of Scots and, next to her, her mortal
enemy, Queen Elizabeth the First. Instead of tearing at each other for the sake of their
respective countries, they sat chatting and giggling over goblets of dark burgundy wine. I hadn’t
noticed, but each woman was amidst vibrant and colorful conversations with those around her.
Each women adorned in a dress that represented her culture and her time in history. Some,
notably the two queens sitting across from me, wore dresses whose decorated necklines
concealed the bottom halves of their faces. Others, whose hair was tied into braids fit for battle,
were covered in metal armor. They carried shield and swords with them but had haphazardly
placed them next to their feet as they gripped goblets of colored liquors. I looked down at my
own dress, which reflected the latest fashion trends of the room. It had been a gift, a simple
black dress straight from the Hérmes 2017 Fall Collection. It was then I noticed, looking around
the room and feeling spectacularly underdressed, the artist sitting next to me.
Georgia O’Keeffe sat scribbling flowers idly on the napkin she had delicately placed on
her lap. Upon closer inspection, I could see the winding note that she had written privately on
that same napkin. Just as I leaned over to get a better look at what the note actually entailed,
she rose up from her chair. Her black and white dress shifting to match her now tall stance. She
placed the napkin on the table in front of her. “Welcome to the Dinner Party,” she started with a
clap of her hands, “you are all here because you have done something great in your lifetime.
You have prevailed despite the hardships that you have all faced. Now, through some mysticism
and a dash of magic we are all here tonight. I would like to go around the table and have each
of you share your story with the rest of us.”
Around the table erupted a slight murmur and a collection of dignified nods from the
women at the table. Throughout the night, we heard stories of women leading rebellions on
behalf of their tribes in Northern Europe, of women fighting to keep their thrones amidst coups
and diplomatic attempts to seize them and of artists whose work spoke for those who were the
most oppressed. Eventually, each leg of the table had shared their story and I was up next to
dazzle the women with a story of my bravery, courage and strength. However, I was simply a
poet, an award-winning poet, but a just poet nevertheless. These women had led armies and
quelled rebellions, I had just sat stuck in my yellow-painted attic. But, before I began, I
remembered the reason that I had found myself writing poetry. It was almost as dark as any of
these women’s tales about war or betrayal. So I began, “If I were to exaggerate, I would say that
I have had one near-death experience in my life. No, it did not come as a result of a car-crash or
a sickness but, from a loss of my soul. Because, then again, what would I be without my soul?
And it all started when my husband and my doctor decided that it would be a good idea to trap
me in my attic with nothing but the sturdy yellow walls, a piece of paper and a pen…”.
Note: This short story is in response to a permanent art installation at the Brooklyn Museum’s
Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. The installation is called “The Dinner Party” and
was created using mixed mediums by the artist Judy Chicago in the year 1979.