Remember the Ladies
This exhibition of Ladies Portraits covers a span of 170 years. I have
deliberately identified the
women by their own names rather than that of their husbands. However,
during the 1800's you
will not find the ladies names in newspaper records, histories, etc.
Men wrote these records and a
woman was only important as a daughter, wife etc.
This exhibit includes paintings by artists of differing abilities and
skills In the years 1826 to 1845,
over 40 itinerant artists came to Lowell, included are some paintings
by these artists. Only two,
Lawson and Howes, remained and spent the rest of their lives painting
here. This Museum has
had special exhibitions focusing on some of these artists: Howes, Mary
Earl Wood, Hiscoe, etc.
For over 20 years, I have been researching Lowell artists and their
subjects. I have tried to
include an interesting fact or two about each subject and/or artist.
Cynthia Bicknell Atkinson (Mrs. James V. Atkinson) and
her daughter, Cynthia Jane, (later
Mrs. Albion Jones) were painted by the husband and wife team of Ruth
Whittier and Samuel A.
Shute. Both artists worked on the same painting. Shutes were here in
Lowell in 1830 1831 (in
and out). A surprising number of unsigned watercolors still exist that
they painted here of mill
girls, boarding house keepers etc. It is possible to identify the subjects
by some article they are
holding with their name on it for example letter, card or book.
Cynthia Bicknell born in Westford was a mill girl. James V. Atkinson
sang in the Beethoven
Singing Society. A list of women invited to sing with the society in
1826 includes Cynthia
Bicknell's name. They marry in 1827 Cynthia Jane born in 1828 was still
living in Lowell in the
early 1900's . She was frequently interviewed by the newspapers referring
to her as the only
person born in Lowell after it became a town who was still living here.
included details of the Cold Water Army an anti liquor society
that enlisted school children to
sign the pledge. I could talk for an hour on the Shutes and Atkinsons.
Minerva Amelia Carpenter Worcester (Mrs. Leonard Worcester)
probably a mill girl as she
came front . Sharon VT and he from Salem, MA. Lowell was a logical
meeting place for so many
of its earliest residents. She was the mother of 7 children. Their
home was at 92 Bartlett St. He
was a tailor and became successful owning several different enterprises.
Few details of Amelia's
life, but much information about her husband is available.
Abigail Abbott Wood (wife of Rev. Horatio Wood) Law son
painted this portrait and one of her
husband while they were living in Newburyport before both families
came to Lowell . Rev.
Woods became the minister of the "Free Church" . Much information is
available about the Free
Church, its minister and its various activities, schools, role in welfare,
etc. References are made
to Mrs. Wood's compassion, kindness and charitable concerns . The Lowell
also has a portrait of Rev Wood and a charming one of Mrs. Wood in
their later years. Lawson
painted the portraits of successful Lowellians, their wives, and a
few portraits of children His
register lists the subjects he painted and the charges ( $25 and up)
. One quote was he "painted
everybody who was anybody in Lowell". Lawson was the founder of the
Art Assoc. and
remained its president and guide until his death. His self portrait,
other portraits and still life
paintings of grapes are on exhibition in the House
Sarah Dodge Spalding (Mrs. Jonathan Spalding) died in
1837, age 49 Her husband and his
family are in every history, reference book in both Chelmsford and
Lowell. Little is known of
Sarah. This portrait was painted in 1837 by Alfred Ordway (age 18)
and just beginning a
successful career as landscape and portrait painter The Museum has
several of his paintings.
Lady in Black is representative of the scores of portraits
painted here by Howes. He came to
Lowell in 1835 intending to spend a few weeks, became successful and
remained until his death.
He painted mill girls, shop keepers and their families and many charming
portraits of children. His
prices ranged from $5 for a single subject to $25 for family groups.
Research for over two years
culminated in a catalogue and exhibition of his work was in 1986. At
that time, 50 paintings had
been identified, today over 200 are known. Although only a few are
signed, his unique style leads
to easy identification of his earlier works. However after the development
of daguerreotypes and
photography, the market for all artists who could not reproduce their
sitters in satisfactory fashion
was finished . The itinerant artist also disappeared. Howes changed
with the times. his skill
improved and identification of his later work is difficult. In his
earlier paintings Howes' own big
nose appears on face after face, as well as the sofa or chair he had
in his studio. Howes was not
a member of the Lowell Art Assoc. and none of his works were ever exhibited
in their shows
until the 1986 exhibition. See copy of catalogue Samuel P. Howes
Harriet Farley was born in Claremont, NH, coming to Lowell
to earn her living. An
Improvement circle was formed under the leadership of Rev. Thomas of
2nd Universalist Church.
The purpose of the society was " to encourage writing and reading of
Lowell Offering's first issue was published in 1840. Later Harriet
Farley, a frequent contributor,
became editor. A book of her writings entitled "Shells from the Strand
of the Sea of Genius" was
published in 1847. She married, had a daughter and died in New York
In 1890. Artist and date
of painting unknown.
Harriet Rebecca Mansur Nesmith ( Mrs. John Nesmith) Thomas
Cantwell Healy painted this
portrait c 1840. He came to Lowell (age 19) in 1839 after studies in
Paris He painted some of
the prominent citizens, their wives, and daughters in the 2 years he
was here Letters he wrote to his
brother, George, are the basic source of material about his Lowell
years. He named some of his
sitters, all members of wealthy, prominent families. He told how Mrs.
Nesmith wished to be
painted in a white silk dress. John Nesmith refused to have one made,
(perhaps the expenses of
building the mansion on Andover St. were pressing). She is painted
in a dress she borrowed,
belonging to Sarah Hildreth (later Mrs. Benjamin Butler). Healy left
here in 1842 after the death
of his brother, John, from a cholera epidemic in Lowell , and spent
the rest of his life painting in
the south. Another brother was George Peter Alexander Healy. (City
Harriet was the belle of Lowell when she married John Nesmith, she age
24 he 48. She was his
3rd wife and the mother of 10 children. Their portraits were also painted
by Lawson and David
Neal. Their home was famous for its social activities and hospitality.
This portrait hung over the
fireplace in the parlor until the Nesmith's left the house in 1940.
Her granddaughter, Mary Nesmith,
gave the painting to the Lowell Historical Society with the wish the
portrait be exhibited in the
Nesmith House. Mary, the last of the grandchildren, died in 1998 age
Harriet Rogers Talbot (Mrs. Charles Potts Talbot) She
was born in 1817 in Lempster NH,
her husband in Ireland, they married in Lowell in 1835. He made his
fortune like many other young
men in the wonderful opportunities Lowell offered. He and his brother
established the Talbot
Mills in Billerica. She gave the Chapel in the Lowell Cemetery in memory
of her husband . She
was the grandmother of Harriet Talbot Parker whose portrait is in this
Mary Greeley Parker Morrison (Mrs. Leonard Morrison) was
the sister of Moses Greeley
Parker. She inherited 1/2 of his estate and at her death left it to
their nephew, Theodore Edson
Parker. The bulls of the fortune came from investments in the telephone
company. She planned
the Dracut Library as a memorial to her brother. Both she and her brother
were very interested
in history and such organizations as Sons and Daughters of the American
Red Cross Volunteer and Portrait of Young Woman by Mary
Earl Wood who was for
many years Secretary of the Lowell Art Assoc. Her untiring efforts
in securing major Boston
artists to exhibit here in the 1910 1930 era, resulted in the growth
of the society's collection.
She had her studio on the 3rd floor. She was a prolific artist. The
Museum has a collection of
her unfinished work and a number of sketches and charming watercolors
of Lowell girls and
woman in their native costumes . The Volunteer is to represent
the hundreds of Lowell woman
who have contributed so much not only in war times but in all the charitable
and civic causes.
Harriet Talbot Parker (Mrs. Theodore Edson Parker) by
Margaret Richardson They married
in 1913 and lived in her parents home at 142 Chestnut St., She was
a lovely and well liked
woman with many friends. She was active in her church, historical societies,
many charities as
well as the Garden Club and LAA They had no children and lived a very
quiet life, each with
separate interests. See A Foundation and a City for additional
Elizabeth Mitchell Her father and his brother established
the Bon Marche Department store in
1897 merging several stores into one.. Elizabeth became president in
1910 after the death of her
brother in 1910. It was unusual at this time for a woman to be in charge
of a major store. Legend
is this portrait portrayed her holding an infant. When she decided
to exhibit the portrait in the
store, the child was painted out, the dark shawl replaced it. The painting
hung over the elevator
on the main floor of the store.
Sheila was a clerk in a store in Centralville Prof Hiscoe
shared a studio with John Wolcott on
the second floor of the WH for many years. He taught at Lowell Normal
School, later Teachers
College from 1920 until his retirement Sheila was a model for this
portrait. Prof. Hiscoe told me
Sheila was so neat, so pleasant and such a good model. Does anyone
know Sheila's last name?
Mrs. Demetropoulos painted by her son, Charles Demetropoulos.
He was born in Lowell,
attended the Lowell schools. His talents were recognized by Miss Helene
Abels when he was a
student at the Bartlett School. She encouraged him to attend Mass College
of Art, where he
later taught for many years. A number of present Lowell artists can
recall being his students.
The Museum has 2 portraits of his mother and one of his father. He
is famous for his water
colors of the Boston area. Many Lowellians own his paintings.
Edith Nourse Ropers (Mrs. John Jacob Rogers) was born
in Saco, Maine in 1881. Her
husband was elected Representative to Congress in 1913 and served until
his death in 1925.
Edith Nourse Rogers continued to represent the 5`h district until her
death in 1960. She was a
liberal supporting the New Deal programs and Social Security. She sponsored
that created the Women's Army Corp and the GI Bill of Rights, and many
other important bills
that aided veterans and her district.
Bette Davis Edith Burger painted this portrait for a event
honoring Bette Davis that was held
in Lowell. The "mile of mills" in the background is a unique Lowell
feature that appears in many
landscape paintings. Her birthplace in the Highlands has a commemorative
plaque. She is
Lowell's most famous movie star.
Harriet Nesmith Edith Burger drew this portrait of Harriet
in the 1930's . Harriet was the
daughter of James Nesmith, youngest child of John and Harriet Rebecca
Her uncle, Joseph was
the prime mover in saving the Whistler House and served for 17 years
as president She lived all
her life in the home built for her parents on the Nesmith estate (2
homes up Andover St)
Goldie Estes Turner (Mrs. Clyde Turner) This is very much
the style of women's portraits
during the 1930's 1950's straightforward, confident, conservatively
but elegantly dressed. Mr.
and Mrs. Turner purchased the Hirsch home on Pine St and discovered
in the attic the
wonderful collection of Chelmsford glass made in 1803 1825 that is
now on exhibition at the
Barrett Byam House in Chelmsford They were members and supporters of
Edith Burger (Mrs. Calvin Burger) by Wallace Rugg. Edith
was secretary of the LAA for 35
years and supported all of its activities. She has served as President
of the LGH Auxiliary,
Middlesex Women's Club, Lowell Garden Club, Paint and Powder Club etc.
and was active
many other community activities. She was the first woman to serve on
the Board of Directors of
the Lowell General Hospital. Wallace Rugg lived in the local area in
the 1950's, His portraits
and other paintings have been exhibited throughout NE states. He lives
in NH today.
Margaret Weld (Mrs Frederick Weld) Bernard Petruzziello
did this interesting study of Mrs.
Weld. She was the mother of Helen Weld, longtime board member and volunteer.
Ann Schecter (Mrs. Frederick C. Schecter) by Tom Gill.
Ann had many interests: artist,
teacher, actress, writer, art critic for the Lowell Sun, etc. This
is the Museum's newest painting.
The next group are familiar ladies to you all. Wonderful talented women:
Anastasia Porter, Molly McCarthy, Janet Lambert Moore, Carol Duncan,
Mary Sampan, and Marina Schell
The exhibit is co sponsored by the Lowell Historical Society, Whistler
House Museum and
the Nesmith House, MCC. It is supported by a grant from the Lowell
Cultural Council which
is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.
Catherine L. Goodwin Curator