Mamas of Dada focuses on the lives and works of six representative female supporters of the Dada movement: Emmy Hennings, Gabrielle Buffet, Germaine Everling, Celine Arnauld, Juliette Roche, and Hannah Hoech.
Paula K. Kamenish selected these women for their avant-garde pursuits in the chief centers of Dada's rebellious activity and, more important, because they left behind a written record of their involvement with the movement, which was short lived - from 1916 to 1924 - but widespread geographically. The rebellious spirit of the Dada period proved portable and adaptable, and the movement led to later forms of surrealism at the same time that it borrowed from Expressionism, Constructivism, Futurism, and Cubism.
Its influence was felt on sculpture, painting, dance, music, textile art, film, decoupage, photomontage, mask making, and poetry. Some female Dadaists were active participants - appearing in literary journals, on stage, or in galleries - while others were observant and recording witnesses, but each played a role in supporting the movement and its more prominent members.
Female Dadaists motivated the hesitant Hugo Ball, tempered the mechanical Francis Picabia, and nurtured the inventive but temperamental Raoul Hausmann.
Some women inspired or gave a home to a wandering Tristan Tzara, while another provided a satiric chastisement of Dadaists in New York, Barcelona, and Paris.
Each woman helps us chronicle and better understand Dada's European (and sometimes American) manifestations. Unlike their Futurist and Surrealist sisters, whose contributions were grudgingly accepted by male artists and writers, female Dadaists were able to join more readily in the movement's unified attack on social norms. And, because of their individual talents and insights, they did so in ways that were often quite different from methods adopted by their male counterparts.