The World of Our Grandmothers

The World of Our Grandmothers

Granddaughter Robbin Henderson (right) and Great-Grandaughter Xenia Rudnycka stand in front of Henderson’s drawing of early 20th Century labor activist and feminist Matilda Rabinowitz.

Robbin Légère Henderson, a California native, received her BA at the University of California at Berkeley and attended Reed College and the San Francisco Art Institute. Her work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions in California, New York, Europe, Central America and New Zealand. Two of her large paintings have been selected for a yearlong exhibition at Berkeley’s City Hall (September 2016 to August 2017). A founding member of Southern Exposure gallery, Henderson also facilitated other artists’ careers for 30 years, as the curator and director of community arts organizations including Intersection for the Arts and the Berkeley Art Center. She served on the city of Berkeley’s Civic Arts Commission from February 2008 through January 2016, and is on the curatorial committee of the Richmond (California) Art Center.

For the past five years Henderson has devoted herself to scratchboard illustrations related to her family history.  The residency in 2015 at Blue Mountain Center provided an opportunity to complete the graphic memoir of her grandmother,  which will be published in 2017 by Cornell University Press. A limited-edition serigraph portfolio of 12 drawings from the memoir has been produced, as well. Henderson lives in Berkeley where she paints, draws and tends her garden. She is married to the artist Jos Sances.

Robbin Légère Henderson created more than 160 scratchboard drawings based on the unpublished memoir of her grandmother—labor activist and feminist Matilda (Robbins) Rabinowitz. A number of the drawings were shown last year at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco and appear in Cornell University Press’s edition of Rabinowitz’s memoir, Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman, set to be  published next fall.

Big Bill Haywood, a leader of the radical union Industrial Workers of the World, once remarked “a book could be written about Matilda.” Rabinowitz (1887-1963) actually wrote the book herself—for her grandchildren—never dreaming her stories about immigrating from the Ukraine at age 13, working in sweatshops, joining the IWW, and choosing to become a single mother would ever be published.  But Henderson—an artist and curator—felt her grandmother’s stirring commitment to labor rights, women’s rights, equal pay and sexual and personal autonomy would inspire us today.

Henderson completed her series of drawings at BMC. Hear Henderson’s talk about her grandmother and her art here.

The World of Our Grandmothers 1          “Soapbox Detroit”

The World of Our Grandmothers 2  “Atlantic Crossing”

The World of Our Grandmothers 3      “Matilda at Desk”

The World of Our Grandmothers 4“The Family in Ukraine”