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REMEMBER THE LADIES
 
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. One remembrance 
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 Historical Society
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 Portrait Painter.

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 literary compositions". 
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 Hall Portraits)

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 99.
 
 

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 show.

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 Revolution.

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 information

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 the legislation 
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 the LAA

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: Therese O'Connor, 
Anastasia Porter, Molly McCarthy, Janet Lambert Moore, Carol Duncan, Anne O'Brien, 
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
 

 

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