Presentation on theme: "(Previous Image) Mary Caffrey Low, Colby 1875. 2004. Pastel monoprint/paper.44x30”. Margaret Libby. Mary Caffrey Low, a Waterville native, was the first."— Presentation transcript:
(Previous Image) Mary Caffrey Low, Colby 1875. 2004. Pastel monoprint/paper.44x30”. Margaret Libby. Mary Caffrey Low, a Waterville native, was the first woman to attend Colby and was among the first women in New England to attend college. It was considered unseemly at the time for women to aspire to higher education, and Mary Low was very courageous to apply to college after three years of teaching. She was the only female student until 1873. She and the four other women started a national sorority, Sigma Kappa, in December of 1874, to give themselves a literary and social support group. Mary Low graduated first in her class and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She was not allowed to give the valedictory address as first in her class, but instead delivered the Class Prophecy in Latin. It was a hot muggy day, and she was required to dress in a high-collared, black taffeta dress with long sleeves which covered her wrists. After teaching for two years, she married Leonard Carver of the class of 1868 in 1877. They had two children, Dwight, who died at age six, and Ruby, who graduated from Colby in 1904. She went on to become a cataloguer at the Maine State Library, beginning the arduous task of creating a card catalog for the library, and indexing and recording other important city of Augusta and state documents. She spearheaded the protest against President Small’s proposal to divide Colby into a men’s and women’s division, writing a series of letters to enlist the influential support of Louise Helen Coburn. She wrote a sixteen page pamphlet “Co-Education at Colby” protesting the division. In a newspaper article she is quoted as saying, “I have long been of the opinion that women who do the same work as men, and equally as well, should receive the same compensation, and I hope this will be brought about in the near future all over the country.” She traveled to Europe with her daughter Ruby in 1904, and lived with Ruby and her husband in Cambridge, Massachusetts, until her death in 1926.
(Previous Image) Louise Helen Coburn. Class of 1877. Mixed media(charcoal, pastel, cut dollar bills)/paper. 2004. Margaret Libby. Louise Helen Coburn was one of the first five women to come to Colby and a graduate of the class of 1877. She was a founding member of Sigma Kappa, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and the first woman to serve on the Board of Trustees. Her prosperous family was based in Skowhegan and supported Colby as well as Coburn Classical Institute. When Louise died, she continued that legacy by leaving $90,000 to schools, churches, public institutions, and individuals, including Colby. Louise was a trained botanist, poet, and author of Skowhegan on the Kennebec, a two-volume history of Skowhegan. Her botanical article, “Flora of Birch Island,” is in Special Collections, as well as copies of several poems and the volumes on Skowhegan.
Memorial to Lizzie. Elizabeth Gorham Hoag. Member of the class of 1877, died June 15, 1875. Mixed media(acrylic, pastel, sepia ink wash, dried rose sewn onto page)/paper. 2004. Margaret Libby. Elizabeth Gorham Hoag was one of the founding members of Sigma Kappa, a national sorority started by five Colby women, Mary Caffrey Low, Frances Mann Hall, Ida Mabel Fuller, Elizabeth Gorham Hoag, and Louise Helen Coburn, in 1874. Colby has no file on her, but the History of Sigma Kappa Sorority 1874-1924 compiled by Emma Elizabeth Kinne has several pictures of Lizzie and a short biography written by Louise Helen Coburn. Coburn talks of Lizzie’s love for music and art, and her humor and her melancholy eyes. Part of Lizzie’s final note to Louise in March of 1874 reads, “Adored Goody, I’ve gin out. I shan’t probably brighten our pleasant retirement with my radiant presence this week anyway. Please communicate with me as to the state of your feelings. Yours in the depths of despair, An Imp still.” Lizzie died in June. Here is a description of Lizzie by Frances Mann Hall, from page 20 of The History of Sigma Kappa Sorority, “She was a slender, dark-eyed girl, whose flashing smile kindled her sensitive face into rare beauty, whose brilliant conversation, intellectual gifts and musical attainments made her a center of attraction in whatever company she might be. Her temperament was essentially artistic, and art in every form applied to her.”
Bertha Erased, and “en face” with the Men (Bertha Louise Soule, Class of 1885.) Mixed media(erased charcoal, graphite, sepia ink wash heightened with white)/paper. 2004. Margaret Libby. Bertha Louise Soule was the only woman in the class of 1885, and its last survivor until her death in 1956 at age 93. She was born in Bath, Maine, and taught classics in Bath, Skowhegan, and Bangor after her graduation. She moved to New York in 1906, where she taught 28 years at Manual Training School in Brooklyn. She was an authority on Latin, and wrote several books and poems, two of which were biographies of Colby men. They were entitled Colby’s Roman, Julian Daniel Taylor, (Colby’s esteemed classics professor) and Colby’s President Roberts. She donated proceeds from the books to the college. Bertha received an honorary M.A. from the college in 1931.
Minnie Hartford Mathews (Mrs. William G. Mann) Class of 1880. Mixed media/paper. 2004. Margaret Libby. Minnie Mathews was one of three Mathews sisters from Waterville who attended Colby in the late 1870s. Minnie was the only woman in her class, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1880. She taught school in Maine and Colorado. She married another Colby graduate, William Mann, who was a Congregational minister. They served in pastorates in Colorado and Maine, and eventually settled in Westbrook. Minnie voted in 1892 in Colorado, a time when few states granted women suffrage, according to her daughter Lois in a letter to Colby in 1952. After her husband’s death in 1921, she lived with her three daughters and ran a children’s camp called Camp Kuhnawaumbek in Convene, Maine. Minnie died in 1952 at age 93.
Emily Peace Meader, Class of 1878. Mixed media/paper. 2005. Margaret Libby. Emily Peace Meader was born in Waterville and graduated from Colby as the only woman to graduate in her class in 1878. Other class members were Ida Mabel Fuller, Fannie Elliot Mann, and Ellen Statira Koopman. We have very little information on “Peace” as Louise Coburn refers to her. Our records consist of copies of her sheet music and her entry in the General Catalog of Colby College, 1820-1920. She died in Waterville in 1914.
Marion Thompson Osborne, Colby 1900. Mixed media/paper. 2004-5. Margaret Libby. Marion Thompson Osborne was the first black woman to graduate from Colby. She was the daughter of Sam Osborne, Colby’s longtime janitor and freed slave. Marion attended Waterville schools and graduated from Colby in 1900. She was class secretary for two of her four years and graduated as one of thirteen in the original class of twenty-six women. She taught school and later became a bookkeeper. She married Duncan Matheson in 1917 and moved to New York, where she was a past matron of the Eastern Star in Brooklyn. After his death she returned to Waterville to live with her family on Ash Street. Marion was an active church member of the Pleasant Street Methodist Church, sang in the choir, and was Central District President of Woman’s Society of Christian Service of the Methodist church. She died in 1954 and is buried in the family plot at Pine Grove Cemetery in Waterville.
Ruby Carver (Mrs. R.D.H. Emerson) Class of 1904. oil,charcoal/canvas.2004. Margaret Libby. Ruby Carver was the daughter of Mary Low Carver (1875) and Leonard Carver (1868) and graduated in 1904. She was a member of Sigma Kappa and served the organization in many ways, chiefly on the Scholarship Award Committee and as National Vice-President and President in the 1930s. While her mother was alive, Ruby preferred to let Mary Low take the spotlight. After her mother’s death, she became more vocal about carrying on her mother’s legacy. She hosted many Boston-area alumnae meetings, and wrote an open letter to Colby entitled, “Alumnus Suggestions, March 24, 1934.” The main idea of the letter, written shortly after her mother’s birthday anniversary, is that the Alumnus should include more information on the lives of alumnae, especially the women. Her gentle words include the following, “Perhaps the suggestion (above) is already covered by the undergraduate magazine (issued by the women still, is it?) perhaps also you would feel it an intrusion upon someone’s time-your own is very limited-or it might be that I wanted some controversial matter between alumnae and alumni. I do not mean that at all, it would be inspirational, literary, ethical, and have nothing to do with practical (so-called) side of life. Miss Gilpatrick and I exchanged the idea that when Colby women are once understood and appreciated the college will have taken a great step forward, especially in these times when character and high virtue are so much needed and demanded…”
Left Handed Study for Group Portrait (First Five Women of Colby: Mary Low, botton, Lizzie Hoag, center, Louise Coburn, left, Fannie Mann top center, Ida Mae Pierce, right) 2005. Mixed media (charcoal, purple sharpie, sanguine conte crayon, coffee and charcoal wash)/paper. 44x30” Margaret Libby. Group Portrait is done from a photo of the first five women at Colby who were the founders of Sigma Kappa Sorority. Clockwise from the bottom they are: Mary Low, Colby 1875; Louise Coburn, Colby 1877; Frances Mann, Ida Mae Pierce, and Elizabeth Gorham Hoag, bottom center. An interesting historical tidbit is that only one in three women graduated from college in the nineteenth century, and this group is a good example. Elizabeth Hoag died of consumption (tuberculosis) at nineteen, and both Ida and Frances left Colby for various reasons. Only Mary Low and Louise Coburn, of the Skowhegan Coburns and Coburn Classical Institute, were to graduate.
Film Still of Mary Low Asleep, erased Talking Head Above. 2205. Charcoal heightened with white/paper. 47.5x30” Margaret Libby. In the first sequence of the video, Mary Low enters and stands by a chair. Mary Low, as the first female student, waits alone onscreen. In a close up view, her shoulders move up and down and her eyes close then open as if she is dreamlike state. The animation is deliberately clumsy, pre-cinematic as it were, as the original photo is from a time period before the invention of moving pictures or cinema as we know it today. The style is also influence by William Kentridge’s films, which are hand-drawn and consist of drawings that are wiped out and redrawn and refilmed, which is very similar to my studio practice of drawing, wiping out, redrawing, until the mark-making and work process is literally embedded on the surface of the paper.
Memorial Wall for Colby Women, 1875-1900. 2006 Installation in the Faculty Group Show in the Colby Museum of Art. Acrylic and collage/paper (10’3”x51”)’ two DVDs projected onto two 18x24” canvases; 148 mortared bricks with collaged vinyl names of all the female graduates from 1875-1900; eight 7x6” silverpoint drawings and letters/gessoed panels. Margaret Libby. This installation is meant to honor all the women who graduated in this time period. The list of names is repeated twice, once in a linear fashion as the names are collaged onto paper by year of graduation, and again as a name on bricks which signify these nineteenth-century women as providers of the foundation of opportunities for all of Colby’s women today. The piece is also about linking past and present, as the two video loops show present-day female students’ hands laying flowers on the gravestones of Mary Low, the first woman to graduate, and also on the gravestone of Marion Osborne, the first black woman to graduate from Colby. Having the videos projected onto blank canvases serves as a way to animate and create a literal flow of time onto canvas. The silverpoint medium will also change the drawn images over time, as the silver oxidizes with air and becomes slightly browner than its original silvery gray application.
Screen shots from two videos from Memorial Wall to Colby Women, 1875-1900. Top: Beginning shots of the gravestones of Mary Low (Carver) and Marion Osborne (Matheson) as they were projected onto canvases, and ending stills of their gravestones with flowers laid by current students. 2006. Margaret Libby.