A cafe filled with art, tears and joy to celebrate women

Marina Whitchurch (left going clockwise) Sophie Traub, Maelagh Baker and Annabella Eisner with her friend Monte perform at the 30th Women’s Cafe held at the Dome School in Takilma Saturday, March 25.
(Photos by Laura Mancuso, Illinois Valley News)

Gwen Barringer and Laura Mancuso

Women’s Café held its 30th annual fundraiser for the Dome School March 25 in Takilma. The event brought sweet treats, meaningful art pieces, heartfelt performances and a sense of community to all in the audience.
The event was held just in time to celebrate Women’s History designated for March. At the entrance, participants could pick up a 2023 Women’s History booklet “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories” from the National Women’s History Alliance.
The crowd mingled at the start of things, browsing the many displays of art that had been curated from local artisans. The menu consisted of organic and locally sourced items, from quiche and salad to cake and cookies for dessert.

A combination of laughter and introspective conversation filled the room, then the lights dimmed and signaled that the performances would soon begin.
Event coordinator Deborah Murphy, instructor at RCC and local artist, introduced each person who took the stage and shared some of her own stories in between acts. She expressed her pride in the community and those who had shown up to support not only artists, but women.
When Murphy was asked how she thought the event went she said, “Given postponement, weather and the beginning of Spring Break I thought it was quite lovely.
“We had such a variety of talented women of all ages! Sculptures, paintings, textiles and drawings graced the walls. The performances were funny, touching and some politically motivated.”
Paulette Kay was a featured artist with 24 paintings. A former Illinois Valley resident, and former Dome School grandmother, Paulette recently died at 100 years old. Born in a small village in Normandy she had a very interesting life – she danced at the Moulin Rouge in Paris as a Bluebelle, the French equivalent of the Rockettes.
From there, Kay lived in New York, Alaska, and even Hollywood, as a former husband of hers directed TV shows. Later in life she became a prolific painter and was recognized for her talents.
The subject matter of the artists who spoke and sang on the stage varied, taking the audience from a lighthearted mother-daughter duet, to a story about finding the perfect wedding dress by Marina Whitchurch and the impactful poetry about the pandemic and nature’s glory by Maelagh Baker.
Sophie Traub had the audience laughing and crying with her presentation about anti-trans legislation and the banning of women’s right to choose. She sang her thought provoking songs, while playing her ukulele, about society’s fears and myths.
Annabell Eisenhower, who first played at the Women’s Cafe when she was 10 years old, came home from college for Spring Break and performed. She sang her own songs, and played the piano and guitar with a good friend, Monte.
During the course of a few hours, it was very obvious that each individual was passionate about their respective craft, with several first time participants even managing to take the microphone. No matter how nervous, each person kept the audience captivated and was met with intense applause.
The afternoon was calm, yet intense, with the firm intention to celebrate and provide a safe place for women of all varieties to speak their piece and commune with one another.