Mary Edmonia Lewis was the first North American woman of color to gain fame as a sculptor. Lewis was the daughter of an Ojibwe woman and an African-American man born free in New Jersey. Lewis attended Oberlin College. In 1863 she moved to Boston where she became a neoclassical sculptor. Her bust of Abraham Lincoln became famous. Lewis’s most ambitious piece was the “Death of Cleopatra,” a response to monumental works by white male American sculptors. Lewis moved to Rome in 1865. Her studio there was open to the public to prove that she worked the marble herself. A devout Catholic, Lewis used religious as well as abolitionist subjects.


  • Title: Edmonia Lewis (1844-1907)
  • Creator: Henry Rocher
  • Location: Chicago. Illinois
  • Physical Dimensions: Carte-de-visite (albumen), 4" x 2 1/2"
  • Provenance: The Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation
  • Subject Keywords: Sculptress
  • Type: Photograph
  • Date: ca. 1870

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