Friday, December 14, 2012

Sepia Saturday: Vinnie Ream

Lavinia Ellen Ream was born on September 25, 1847
in a log cabin in Madison, Wisconsin
to Robert and Lavinia (McDonald) Ream.

Robert was a surveyor and civil servant
in the Wisconsin Territory. 
The Reams also operated a stage coach stop --
Madison's first hotel -- in their home.
Guests slept on the floor.

Young Lavinia, known as Vinnie,
was a young woman of great promise.
She attended college in Columbia, Missouri
where her innate artistic ability blossomed.

In 1861, her family moved to Washington, D.C.
Vinnie became one of the first "women"
(she was a mere 14-year old when she was hired) 
to obtain employment with the federal government.
She worked as a clerk in the dead letter office
of the postal service beginning in 1862. 
Her employment there continued until 1866.   

That's impressive in itself.
But it was just a foreshadowing of her greatness.

In 1866, at age 18, she became the first woman
to receive a commission from the U.S. government
to create a statue.

She was awarded the commission 
for the full-size Carrara marble statue of Lincoln 
by a vote of Congress on July 28, 1866. 
She worked for a time in a studio
 in the basement of the Capitol.
Later, she traveled to Europe's art centers 
and while living in Rome, produced a finished marble figure
from her plaster model.

When the statue was complete, she returned to the U.S.
On January 25, 1871, her statue of (now-deceased)
President Abraham Lincoln was unveiled in the
Capitol Rotunda. 

In 1878, when she was 30, she married Richard L. Hoxie,
a member of the Army Corps of Engineers.

 They had one son and Richard's career took them
to postings in Montgomery, Alabama and St. Paul, Minnesota.
They eventually returned to Washington, D.C. 

Vinnie continued her career as a sculptor.

Among a number of well-known statues,

including this likeness of Sappho,
in the collection of Smithsonian's American History Museum,

she created the sculpture of Sequoyah,
the first Native American to be commemorated
by a statue in the Capitol's Statuary Hall.

She died on January 12, 1914.
She and her husband are both buried 
in Arlington National Cemetery,
across the Potomac from Washington, D.C.
 Her grave is in Section 3, site 1876.

(Interestingly, she's distantly related
to some of my Biggs cousins,
Dave and John Ream. . . )

photos from Library of Congress photo collection


Bob Scotney said...

Now here's a woman I would never have known about were it not for Sepia Saturday. An accomplished sculptor - what an achievement.

Meri said...

I wouldn't have know about her until I browsed the Library of Congress photo collection and wondered who she was. A little research -- including stumbling across info from the Reams -- and voila!

Peter said...

Like Bob I never heard of her before. But what talent!
There is another thing I never heard of and that is the dead letter office. Is that for the handling of death circulars or am I mistaken?

Mike Burnett said...

Likewise, I'd never heard of her, but Sculptors seems to get a rather poor press compared to Painters

Helen Bauch McHargue said...

What an amazing woman. I have to know more. Thanks for a great post.

Titania said...

An amzing lady with an amazing talent and zest for life. Just wonderful to read this. Meri, such an interesting story, she was also beautiful, she had it all, good on her.

Kristin said...

I think the dead letter office is where letters that cannot be delivered end up. Not for death circulars. Interesting artist info.

Deb Gould said...

Amazing -- how do you start with a hunk of marble and end up with such a gorgeous likenesses of Abraham Lincoln and Sappho?

Alan Burnett said...

What a fascinating post. The story of a woman, the story of an age, the story of a country.

judie said...

Great story! I am really happy you investigated and posted it. Thanks! I also love your Day 12 Mary. Both the picture and the thoughts about her.


What you described as "tame and stuffy", I find fascinating. The first woman commissioned for such an endeavor is no small feat.
Thanx 4 sharing!!

Tattered and Lost said...

Absolutely fascinating! So glad you chose this for your post. Just fascinating!

Wendy said...

I enjoyed reading this story of a young woman who made it in a man's world.

Mike Brubaker said...

A great post. Sculptors seem to get less notice and yet their work is often more in the public eye than that of painters. For a young woman to achieve such distinction in art at this time is amazing.

ScotSue said...

What a fascinating post. I had neer heard of Lavinia and you are so lucky to ahve such a photographic record of her - her portraits are so beautiful.