by Brian Burns and Judd Proctor Graphic Illustration DOUG DOBEY
Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Stamp
On July 10, 1981, the U. S. Postal Service issued an 18-cent commemorative stamp, honoring poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. The first day issue took place in Austerlitz, New York, where Millay’s farmstead, Steepletop, is located.
The image of Millay on the stamp, designed by Glenora Case Richards, was painted on a piece of old ivory and then mounted in a gold frame. Issued as part of the American Poet-Literary Arts Series, it was printed in panes of fifty stamps.
Millay was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1923. Openly bisexual, Millay celebrated the bohemian lifestyle she led in Greenwich Village in the early 1920s. Her later works made a big shift, with descriptions of free and cavalier female sexuality.
A Stamp for Margaret Mead
Born in Philadelphia in 1901, Margaret Mead became a leading cultural anthropologist of her time. As curator of ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History, she published the bestseller, Coming of Age in Samoa. Mead often made controversial comments on women’s rights, sexual morality, environmental pollution and world hunger. Her close relationship with fellow anthropologist Ruth Benedict was profound and long lasting.
On May 28, 1998, the U.S. Postal Service issued a 32-cent stamp, commemorating Mead as part of its Celebrate the Century series – in this case the 1920s.
Mead’s daughter ended up living in Hancock, New Hampshire, and in July 1999, the post office of that city held a touching ceremony. They presented Mead’s daughter, Mary Bateson, and her daughter, Sevanne Martin Kassarjian, a portrait based on Mead’s stamp.
A Commemorative Stamp for Ruth Benedict
On October 20, 1995 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the U.S. Postal Service issued a 46-cent Ruth Benedict stamp, as part of the Great Americans series. They went on sale nationwide the next day.
Benedict is regarded as one of the pioneers of cultural anthropology. She met Margaret Mead in 1922, and they became intimate friends bound by an intense intellectual collaboration. Both were considered the two most influential women anthropologists of their time, with Benedict being an expert in the culture of Japan. Benedict’s landmark book, Patterns of Culture, sold over a million and a half copies and was printed in fourteen languages.
In 1998, a man pleaded guilty for counterfeiting 9,742 Ruth Benedict stamps, telling the judge that the red and white stamp was easy to copy.