There’s more than meets the eye with this stained glass art piece, a recent addition to the History Colorado Gill Foundation LGBTQ+ Archive.
When Vicki Piotter and Peg Hickox Rapp opened Denver’s first feminist book collective in 1975, the Woman to Woman Feminist Bookcenter, lesbians had been vulnerable to both legal and social retribution on the grounds of their sexuality in the US, including arrest for wearing male attire, being fired, and even losing custody of their children. What’s more, FBI investigations into what J. Edgar Hoover called the “subversive ramifications” of the Women’s Liberation Movement generated a social air of distrust regarding the dissemination of feminist literature. So, when they opened their doors at 2023 East Colfax Avenue, it took grit and a great deal of bravery.
But “courage,” according to Piotter, “was found in the strength of numbers.” Women from different backgrounds found a place of safety, enlightenment, and compassion. To welcome visitors into the collective, Piotter and Rapp commissioned two stained glass pieces from local artist Mattie Sue Athan to hang in the windows. They both depicted two women facing each other, their faces made of mirrored glass so that every woman who entered would see her own face within the images.
Though the collective closed its doors in 1983, Woman to Woman Feminist Bookcenter provided invaluable services and resources for lesbians and other women in Denver for the better part of a decade, including a community meeting space, classes for women, access to queer and feminist literature, and social services recommendations. And—perhaps most importantly—it gave all women a place to see themselves and their experiences reflected in the world around them.