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Why this 1933 interview with Frida Kahlo has gone viral

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Susan Devaney
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Sometimes we all need a stark reminder of how far we’ve come, and how much further women have still got to go…

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone today who wouldn’t be able to tell you just one thing about Frida Kahlo. Maybe they’d recall her fearless attitude toward fighting for women’s rights? Or the way she used her decorative prosthetic leg to bring disabilities into the mainstream? Possibly how she rocked a monobrow, going against societal beauty standards? Kahlo continues to fascinate us today, but everyone knows that she was an incredible painter first and foremost.

But, according to a newspaper article from 1933 (that has subsequently now gone viral on Twitter thanks to New York Times writer Paula Froelich), Kahlo was first introduced to the public as … a wife. The interview with Kahlo, published in the Detroit News and written by Florence Davies, ran the headline, ‘Wife of the Master Mural Painter Gleefully Dabbles in Works of Art’. 

Kahlo, who is arguably one of the world’s most famous painters, apparently was only ‘dabbling’ when she painted 143 pieces (55 of which were self-portraits). AND she was just the wife of a much more worthy artist: her husband, Diego Rivera (sorry, who?).

But, have no fear, Kahlo’s self-belief brilliantly comes through in the interview. At the mention of her husband and the assumption she learned her craft from him, she responds:

“No. I didn’t study with Diego [Rivera]. I didn’t study with anyone. I just started to paint.”

Then she predicts her own success by hilariously poking fun at her husband.

“He does pretty well for a little boy, but it is I who am the big artist.”

As many people have pointed out, it is very likely that the headline was written by a copy editor at the newspaper.

“I’m guessing the female writer had a male editor who wrote the headline,” wrote Froelich. 

In response, people have also shared examples from today’s headlines (yeah, it’s still happening). The Washington Post ran a headline in 2016 which read: ‘Tom Waits, his wife, John Prine receive songwriting awards.’ His wife? Kathleen Brennan, a very successful musician and songwriter in her own right. 

And in the same year, Katie Ledecky set a world record in the women’s 800 freestyle during the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, but the headline, ‘Phelps ties for silver in 100 fly’ is apparently more important. 

From bottomless Kahlo-themed brunches to brilliant exhibitions, let’s continue to celebrate Kahlo’s incredible work. 

Images: Getty / Twitter

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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for Stylist.co.uk, writing about fashion, beauty, travel, feminism, and everything else in-between.

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