With Nancy J. Farrier
A friend shared a factual tidbit on Facebook a couple of weeks ago about Vinnie Ream being only 18 when the U.S. Congress hired her to do a sculpture of Abraham Lincoln. A woman. Only 18. I shared that tidbit on my Facebook page and then wondered about the rest of this woman’s story. Fascinated by what I found, I decided to share her information with you.
Lavinnia Ellen Ream, born in 1847, showed an artistic interest at an early age. She studied art in school, but when her family moved to Washington D.C. in 1861 she began to tutor under Clark Mills. Mills was finishing a bronze Liberty sculpture.
While studying with Mills, Vinnie met many congressmen and was commissioned by some to do a bust of them. Her work was so popular that in 1864 Congress asked her to do a bust of Abraham Lincoln.
In 1866, Congress commissioned her to do a commemorative statue of Abraham Lincoln. At that time Vinnie was only eighteen and was the first woman commissioned by the federal government for such a project.
By Einar Einarsson Kvaran
She returned with her creation in late 1870 and the statue was unveiled in January 1871. Ream designed Lincoln so that he is looking down at his right hand, which holds a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation. His left hand is holding back his cloak. The piece is serious and contemplative, possible the way she thought of the former President.
During the next few years, Ream did many portraits of well-known American
figures. Among them were General Ulysses S. Grant and General George
A. Custer. She also did some sculptures, many of them noteworthy.
of the Capital
In 1878, Vinnie married Richard L. Hoxie, who she met when she was doing a sculpture of Admiral David G. Farragut. She made this sculpture from the propeller of the naval hero’s flagship. The statue was unveiled in 1881.
After the Farragut statue was complete, Vinnie stopped working for a time in accordance of her husband’s wishes. They had one son and she spent time raising him and caring for her family.
Vinnie Ream was a woman of many firsts, and of great renown. Her story is inspiring and little known. In addition to her art, she used to work with the soldiers at the hospitals during the Civil War, writing letters for them and entertaining them with music. She was an accomplished musician. Vinnie died in 1914 and is buried in Arlington Cemetary. Her grave is marked by the sculpture she did, Sappho.
Have you heard of Vinnie Ream before? Can you imagine having accomplished so much at such a young age? Have you ever visited Washington D.C. and seen any of her art work?
Nancy J Farrier is an award winning author who lives in Southern California in the Mojave Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. Nancy and her husband have five children and two grandsons. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. Nancy is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Literary Agency. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website: nancyjfarrier.com.