I’ve been remiss in introducing you to sufficient numbers of fine dead ladies, so here’s my first effort at rectifying the situation:
First of all, she has a fantastic name. That’s the name she went by, although her full legal name was Lavinia Ellen Ream Hoxie, which is a neat name in itself.
Anyway, Ms. Ream was a very talented sculptor. But this beauty was ballsy too. When she was only 16 she wangled herself an opportunity to create a bust of Abraham Lincoln, and she was granted a half-hour audience with the president every day for five months. That takes some serious cojones. Ever see the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the U.S. Capitol rotunda? That’s her work. She was 18 when she won the commission to create this piece in 1866, becoming the first woman and youngest artist ever to be awarded a federal art commission. Mary Todd Lincoln wasn’t pleased about the selection of Ream for the 1866 comission. But Mrs. Lincoln was a hot mess, so I’ll cut her a little bit of slack here. (I’ll write more about this crazy woman in another entry.)
The sculpture of Lincoln propelled Ream to fame. She would go on to create pieces for Ulysses S. Grant, Franz Liszt, Horace Greeley, George A. Custer, Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, Thaddeus Stevens, Peter Cooper, and Ezra Cornell, among others. She received her second federal commission in 1875 to create a life-size statue of Admiral David Farragut. When she died in 1914, Ream had just completed her third federally commissioned sculpture, of Sequoyah, the inventor of the Cherokee alphabet.