Thursday, January 18, 2018

Vinnie Ream, Sculptor

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.

Lincoln Statue
By Einar Einarsson Kvaran
Vinnie made the model for the statue in her studio, but traveled to Rome where she would make the Lincoln statue in Carrara marble. She studied with many artistic masters, some on her way to Rome, when she stayed in Paris and then in Rome when she was at work on the commissioned statue. While there, she also made busts of Franz Liszt and Cardinal Antonelli.

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
Kirkwood: Architect
of the Capital
figures. Among them were General Ulysses S. Grant and General George A. Custer. She also did some sculptures, many of them noteworthy.

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.

In the early 1900’s she renewed her art work. She did a stature of Samuel Kirkwood, the Iowa governor, and a statue of Sequoyah, the Cherokee who developed the Cherokee written language.

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.
By cliff1066

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:


  1. Awesome and informative post. I had never heard of Vinnie Ream. What a gifted young lady and her accomplishments. Glad you shared about Ream.

    1. Thank you, Marilyn. I loved researching her. An amazing woman.

  2. I can see why you were enthralled with her story. That is certainly not typical of young women of that time. Her work is fantastic!

    1. I agree, Connie. I was not up to this standard at eighteen. Pretty incredible.

  3. Amazing bit of history! I've never heard of Vinnie Ream. It would be interesting to know about her parents and how they must have encouraged her at a time when women were only expected to make a good marriage and bear children.

    Thanks for bringing attention to such a gifted young woman.

    1. True, Barbara. I think her parents were amazing in that they saw her potential and encouraged her to do what she loved.

  4. Vinnie Ream was my husband's great aunt. My husbands middle name was after his great Aunt, Ream. Richard Ream Storm. There was a book written about Vinnie Ream by Holt,Rinehart,Winston. Copies of book were only sent to family members. Very interesting book. I always thought there should be a movie about Vinnie Ream.

    1. Thank you for sharing that. Her story was fascinating.