Arts, progress, women’s history to collide in Women’s Club lecture

As an artist, teacher, historian and feminist, Jennifer Seaman Cook encapsulates a modern female perspective and hopes to share that perspective with the women of Chautauqua Institution.

Cook will speak at 1 p.m. today in the Chautauqua Women’s Clubhouse in a talk titled “Arts, Crafts & Progress: Women Artist-Teachers in the Western New York Arts and Crafts Movement.” She is the first speaker in the Women’s Club Monday afternoon “Professional Women’s Network” series.

Cook describes herself as a student of the “cultural history of women.” Her current focus is on women’s progress in western New York, with particular emphasis on the Arts and Crafts Movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Cook’s work was recently featured in Heide Hatry’s book Not a Rose, along with the work of more than 100 other writers, modern philosophers and historians. Each contributor interpreted the flower’s meaning from a different perspective.

Cook’s piece in the book was creative nonfiction, focusing on women’s fashion and body image and how these ideals have perpetuated the passive roles women are “grounded in.” Hatry’s background is in nature and feminism, and Cook found it easy to attach herself to Not a Rose because their interests were so similar. She plans to discuss the themes of that piece in today’s talk.

Cook was introduced to the Institution by a friend’s grandmother, Margaret Dossett, who had volunteered at the Women’s Club in the 1960s. After some additional research, Cook realized her work intersected nicely with the Institution’s history and made an inquiry into presenting some of her work.

Cook has a master’s degree in art education from the Rochester Institute of Technology and is currently pursuing her doctorate at the University at Buffalo’s Department of Transnational Studies.