by Elissa Blattman, Project Assistant
Out of the 100 statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the US Capitol, only nine are of women. Most of the statues there and elsewhere in the Capitol are of men who have been deemed great and important enough to be on display in the building that represents our nation. Though women are underrepresented in the number of statues, there is one woman who is behind the creation of three of those that stand there.
Vinnie Ream was born on September 25, 1847 in Missouri. As a child, she was taught how to draw and paint by Winnebago Indians. Her family eventually moved to Washington, DC, where she began to study with DC-based sculptor, Benjamin Paul Akers. During the Civil War, Ream took up other work with the US Postal Service and also volunteered with war relief efforts. In 1863, Missouri Congressman and friend, James Rollins, introduced her to well-known sculptor, Clark Mills, who offered her a job as his apprentice. Under Mills, Ream flourished and began creating busts of some of Washington’s important people, including Thaddeus Stevens.
In 1964, Ream got James Rollins to ask President Abraham Lincoln’s permission for her to sculpt him while he was working in his office. Lincoln, after learning that she came from a poor background like he did, agreed to let her create a bust of him. Ream later said of Lincoln, “He had been painted and modeled before, but when he learned that I was poor, he granted me the sittings for no other purpose than that I was a poor girl. Had I been the greatest sculptor in the world, I am sure he would have refused at that time.” Ream visited the White House for 30 minutes a day everyday for five months to sit with Lincoln, until he died in April 1865. She said her time with Lincoln and his death impacted her life. Read the rest of this entry »