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Bible, literature, translation, and art in a museum catalogue: women’s work for the freedom of slaves, for the rights of all, and for the arts

October 28, 2011

“I would argue that for a broad variety of art museum exhibitions, reading a well-produced catalogue can be superior to visiting the actual exhibition itself.” So says Theophrastus. And if you agree, as I do, then you’ll want to read the

Souvenir of the Centennial exhibition
or, Connecticut’s representation at Philadelphia, 1876

compiled and written by George D. Curtis.

Souvenvir of the Century

As a matter of fact, you will not be able to visit the mammoth Centennial exhibition any other way now. Now, it’s 2011. The museum, if you will, was in 1876. It was constructed for the 100th birthday of the USA and was taken down not long afterwards. At the end of this post, you will find links to where to buy or to read for free the work by Curtis. In the mean time, I invite you to appreciate what Curtis does in the way of “the women’s department.” (He writes of this exhibit area in his Part II of his section on the state of Connecticut’s exhibits.)

What it shows is how active American women were in the abolition of slavery and in the equal rights for all citizens especially women and especially suffrage. It also shows already some of the disagreements about the place of women in society, even disagreements among women. The agency of women, just a century in to the new democracy, was not unimportant.

Most of us will probably recognize two names, the names of the ones I’ve put in bold font below. They are Harriet Beecher Stowe and Julia Evelina Smith.

Most of us know Beecher Stowe for her anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Fewer of us, however, know of her as a feminist, for her views on the Bible and on biblical womanhood and her life as the daughter of a minister, an egalitarian spouse, and a would-be minister herself had she not become so famous for her literary works. She was also an artist, a painter of oils and of watercolors. She appreciated artwork and incorporated the pieces of others in her books. Below, for example, is one of the front pages of her book, Bible Heroines being Narrative Biographies of Prominent Hebrew Women in the Patriarchal, National, and Christian Eras giving views of Women in Sacred History, as Revealed in the Light of the Present Day. The painting (and the various paintings in the book), Beecher Stowe elaborates on in some detail in the Introduction. It’s one by one of her contemporaries, of England, one Fred Goodall — his painting of Mary the mother of Jesus, to correspond to her chapter on this Bible heroine. (The book is a follow-up to Beecher Stowes’ Woman in Sacred History, which also included biblical women.)

Most of us have heard of Julia E. Smith, because she’s the first woman to translate the entire Bible, by herself. Her Bible shown in the centennial exhibit was published, finally, when she was 80 years old. She had finished it after translating and re-translating, working from the Hebrew, the Greek Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate, and the Greek New Testament. Notice how Curtis identifies her womanly purposes for completing her work and for finally bringing it to publication.

Below, then, is the “Women’s Department” excerpted from the Curtis catalogue. If you read the entire catalogue in its entirety, or if you just go into the next department, into the United States exhibition, then you will find the Bible that Suzanne posted about here, the first American Bible, that one also that was the first published by a woman, Jane Aitken. Women were not strangers in this magnificent museum.


The Women’s Department—Exhibition Of Evidences Of The

Skill And Industry Of The Ladies Of Connecticut—Arti-
Cles Both Useful And Ornamental — Art, Literature,
Household Industries, And The Trades Represented—The
United States Building—A Variety Of Interesting Exhib-
Its From The State—The Centennial Envelope Machine—
Iron And Steel Manufacturing—Representation Of The
Fishing Industries—Products Of Connecticut Mines And
Quarries, Etc., Etc.

Next to the exhibits in the Main Building and Machinery Hall, Connecticut was most largely represented in the Women’s Pavilion, where the ladies of the State gave an extensive and widely varied showing of their ingenuity and industry. The ladies of the Connecticut Association report that in making the collection they were met by a difficulty, “which proved almost insuperable, of presenting women’s work as a separate exhibit. Women were found engaged in manufactures of almost every description; but in numerous instances their work was so interwoven with the work of the men that it was difficult to procure articles that could be rightfully classed as distinct work. This difficulty presented itself in every department of the Exhibition; and in the fields of art, in particular, many ladies preferred to exhibit their productions in competition with those of men, without permitting sex to come in as a factor in the consideration of the merits of their work. As a whole, in the Women’s Pavilion, as elsewhere, women’s work gave many indications of originality, excellence of execution, mechanical ingenuity, and inventive power.” Mrs. Gillespie, president of the Women’s Centennial Executive Committee, is reported as commenting on the exhibits by the women of the country: “The Exhibition has done an immense good in showing women how many avenues of work are open to them, and in stimulating many to follow where now a few are leading. This is, doubtless, one of its best results; for, although there were, melancholy failures in every department, notably in that of pictures, still, even there, there was enough decided ability, even marked success, shown, to prove that women need not be afraid to take hold of any work, and, working with the persistence of men, compete successfully with men.” However, Mrs. S. J. Cowen, president of the “Women’s Centennial Association of Hartford, who had large experience in obtaining and preparing the exhibits from that section of the State, takes a somewhat different view in her final report of the Centennial work of the association. She writes: “So far as the members of this society have expressed an opinion, it is unfavorable to this unnatural and necessarily incomplete division of the products of labor. . . . They unanimously agree that hereafter work should be judged without refer, ence to the sex of the worker, and hope that by the next Centennial women will be able to exhibit the products of their industry side by side with those of men, asking no favors, and fairly earning any praise they may receive. The tendency of women to painful and elaborate work upon useless objects, which had not even the merit of artistic beauty to recommend them, must have received a check from some of the exhibits in the Pavilion, which were fairly pathetic in their toilfully wrought ugliness.”

Among the Connecticut exhibits, art work and literary productions were noticeably prominent. In the number of books written by women Connecticut was second only to Massachusetts. Unfortunately for the authors, the literary section was placed where the visitor might pass it unnoticed, or, if especially sought, it could not be inspected with any degree of satisfaction. In the number of exhibitors of literary works Hartford took precedence, and Mrs. H. B. Stowe contributed a large number of the books whose popularity has won for her so brilliant a reputation in the world of literature. Prominent among these books was her “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” a work of years ago, familiar in every household of to-day, honored by translations into European languages, and still further, by the important part it played in educating the North to an appreciation of the evils of slavery. A really remarkable work shown, and one which largely attracted the attention of visitors, was the literal translation of the Bible made by Miss Julia E. Smithof Glastonbury. Miss Smith studied Latin and Greek at school, and years afterward, when studying the Scriptures, she translated the Greek New Testament so as to get the literal meaning of every word. By using the same English word for the same Greek word Miss Smith was satisfied that she obtained a clearer understanding of the text. She next wrote out the Septuagint (which is older than any Hebrew copy extant), and afterward studied Hebrew, with the sole object of rendering the Bible into English from that original tongue. She enjoyed her work, and at intervals made five translations, two each from the Greek and Hebrew, and one from the Vulgate, the Vatican Bible. The translation that was finally printed was issued from the press of the American Publishing Company of Hartford, the Misses Smith paying the entire expense of $4,000 for 1,000 copies. To the surprise of the translator, the work received praise from quarters where it was least expected, and many copies were sold throughout the country. She has been identified with the women’s rights movement for some years, and a peculiarity of her Bible is that the text gives predit to women for acting in many instances where men only are distinctively mentioned in the ordinary version.

That Connecticut authoresses have produced other works requiring patient research, and an exactness in writing not demanded in novels or poetry, was evidenced by a “History of Windham County,” written by Ellen D. Larned of Hartford, and histories of Norwich and New London, by Frances Manning Caulkins of the last-named city. Mrs. E. G. Barrett of New Haven, Rose Terry and Lucy C. Bull of Hartford, contributed volumes of poems, the latter sending a book of poetry for the little folks. Mrs. Julie P. Smith of Hartford, whose novels are yearly growing in popularity, exhibited nine volumes; and Mrs. “W. L. Gage of Hartford, a charmingly written work, “Helen on Her Travels.” The largest contributor in the department of literature was Mrs. Sigourney of Hartford, whose thirty-four volumes gave proof of the versatility and earnest work of the authoress, rewarded, it it gratifying to note, not only by the praises of her hosts of readers, but by fair remuneration for her labor. The above are mentioned without any purpose of discrimination, but merely as illustrations of the varied character of the works. The full list of authors and their books will be found at the close of this chapter.

Art was represented by numerous paintings and water-colors, a few by professional painters, but the majority by amateurs. The art section included two fine oils, the “German “Wedding” and the “Valley Farm,” both by Hartford amateurs. Mrs. James H. Brush of Greenwich, exhibited two good landscapes in oil; Mrs. Farnham of Hartford, the “Camp;” Miss L. P. Graves of New Haven, two excellent flower pieces—pond-lilies and fuchsias; Miss A. Pomeroy of Hartford, pond-lilies; Miss Rebecca T. Porter of New Haven, a well executed interior, in oil; and Mrs. Henry Webster of Hartford, a study of game. The display of watercolors was larger than that of oil-paintings, the artists exhibiting, as a general thing, studies of fruits and flowers. Mrs. C. M. Badger of Madison, exhibited two pretty works, apple blossoms and night-blooming cereus; Mrs. W. C. Badger of New Haven, a volume of wild flowers, drawn and colored from nature; Mrs. Mary H. Burton of Hartford, a charming grouping of autumn field flowers; Mrs. H. B. Washburn of East River, a study of apples; Mrs. S. E. Barney, New Haven, hollyhocks and fleur de lis; Mrs. Warner of Hartford, a charming bunch of daisies, while Mrs. H. B. Stowe established her ability with the brush as well as the pen, by a study of yellow jessamines. Others essayed a different class of subjects: Mrs. Corson of Hartford, a street scene in Belgium (a charming bit of coloring); Mrs. L. B. Newcomb of New Haven, illuminations in water-colors; Mrs. G. W. Hooker of that city, an illuminated design; and Miss Minnie G. Lockwood, text, illuminated border. The decorative furore prevailing during the Centennial year was manifested in the exhibition of several beautifully decorated vases, fans, tiles, shells, etc., by Miss H. D. Andrews, Miss Hodge, and Miss Terry of Hartford, Miss A. H. Bradford of New Haven, Miss Dunning of Canaan, and others, the last-named exhibiting a prettily painted glove-box. Colored photographs were shown by Miss F. M. Griffin, a young lady who achieved a high reputation in Hartford for that delicate artistic work. Mrs. 0. H. Whitmore of nartford, exhibited a finely ornamented glass screen, which was given a prominent place in the art section. In addition to water-colors, Miss Tuthill of Hartford, had on exhibition two excellent pencil sketches, “Venus de Milo ” and “Marble Madonna of Milan;” and Miss C. Collins, a fine pen-and-ink etching, in which the effects were capital. A belle of ’76 and portrait of a boy were the subjects of two well-executed crayons by Miss Pec’.c of Hartford.

Classed with the pictures were photographs of the Russell Library at Middletown, and Memorial Chapel at Indian Hill, contributed by Mrs. Samuel Russell of Middletown, and three colored photo, graphs, two exterior, and one interior, of the Church of the Good Shepherd at Hartford, the latter showing the Easter decorations. These were contributed by Mrs. Samuel Colt. The Memorial Chapel, Berkeley Divinity School at Middletown, was also represented by photographs, presented by Mrs. Dr. Mutter of that city. A large photograph of the New Haven Orphan Asylum was supplemented by a chart which gave a short history of the institution, in three languages.

Embroideries, and work of a similar nature, were represented by a beautiful specimen of ecclesiastical embroidery, an altar cloth, by the ladies of St. John’s Guild, New Haven (this received an award); a rich specimen of tapestry-work, a worsted rug, by Mrs. T. R. Pickering of Portland; a child’s creeping rug, by Edith Beach of Hartford, and a mat of pansies in wool, by Mrs. Candee of New Haven.

In the Pavilion the illustrations of women’s handiwork in the trades was meager, being limited to some very creditable specimens of printing, by Miss Addie Pickering of Portland, and a number of brass bird-cages made by the women in the employ of Hendryx & Bartholomew of Ansonia. In other branches of the exhibition, however, it was represented by specimens of etching and engraving, from the Meriden Britannia Company; plain and ornamental stationery from the Plimpton Manufacturing Company of Hartford; two hundred specimens of braid from the Novelty Works, Hartford, and metallic elastics and armlets from F. Armstrong, Bridgeport. Carpets, woolen cloths, silks, clocks, and many other articles shown by Connecticut exhibitors, were in part the results of women’s labor, but so intermingled was their work with that of the men, that in seeking to give credit it would be difficult to establish the division line.

The charitable associations of the State conducted by ladies were represented by reports from Hartford, New Haven, Middletown, Bridgeport, and Stamford, showing the origin of the several societies, their progress, and their systems of operation. However, these were of slight practical benefit, for amid the attractions of the Pavilion, and of the great Exhibition itself, few visitors would have had an opportunity to examine the reports with the care merited, even if they had desired to.

The Connecticut exhibits in the Pavilion were the subject of earnest care by Mrs. T. R. Pickering of Portland, who gave her best services to their proper display in the space allotted to Connecticut. Each article was readily distinguished by a blue card placed upon it, bearing the name of the State, the miscellaneous articles being shown in the Connecticut case, the paintings and drawings in the art section, and the books in the library. Upon the close of the Exhibition, the articles were carefully packed and returned to their owners, and it is worthy of remark that in no instance was there occasion for complaint of injuries sustained in the shipment to and fro, or during the many weeks that the articles remained in the Pavilion.

The following is a list of the exhibits by the ladies of Connecticut:

Amateurs, Hartford: Miniature on porcelain; two painted fans; two painted doorstones; Turin, a water-color; German Wedding, an oil painting; Valley Farm, an oil painting; Italian Peasants, two water-colors.

Miss II. D. Andrews, Hartford: Chocolate pitcher, painted; four earthen tiles,


Miss Carrie Atwater, New Haven: Paper cut ornamentally with scissors.
Delia Bacon, New Haven: Volume—Tales of the Puritans.

Mrs. C M. Badger, Madison: Apple-blossoms and Night-Blooming Cereua, watercolor.

Mrs. W. C. Badger, New Haven: Volume, Wild Flowers, drawn and colored from Nature.

Mas. E. G. B. Barrett, New Haven: Volume of poems.

Mrs. 8. E. Barney, New Haven: Hollyhocks, water-color; Fleur-de-Lls, water-color. Edith Beach, Hartford: Child’s creeping rug.

Mas. J. S. Beach, New Haven: Nine numbers of “Spirit of Seventy-Six.”

Miss Catherine E. Beecher: Nine volumes: The Housekeeper’s Manual, Housekeeper and Health-keeper, Physiology and Calisthenics, Educational Reminiscences and Suggestions, Letters to the People, Principles of Domestic Science, Religious Training of Children, The Bible and the People, An Appeal to the People.

Miss C.collins, Hartford; Pen-and-ink Etching.

Mrs. Samuel Colt, Hartford: The Church of the Good Shepherd at Hartford, represented by three colored photographs, two exteriors and one interior, the latter showing the Easter decorations.

Miss n. M. Cooks, Hartford: Volume, “Gold Threads.”

Rose Tesrt Cooks and Annie T. Slobson, Hartford: Compilation entitled “Easter Lilies.”

Mrs. A C. Corson, Hartford: Street Scene in Belgium, water-color.

Martha Dat, New Haven: “Literary Remains.”

Miss Dunning, Canaan: Glove-box, painted; Tiles, painted.

MissE. W. Davenport, New Haven: Heliotropes, water-color, on silk; Clematis and Cardinal Flowers, water-color; Tile, painted. Silhouette. Mrs. Farnham, Hartford: “Camp, oil-painting. Mr^. W. L. Gage, Hartford: Volume, “Helen on Her Travels.” Miss F. M. Qripmn, Hartford: Colored Photographs.

Miss L. P. Graves, New Haven: Pond Lilies, oil painting; Fuchsias, oil painting; Caudles, painted. Miss Goodwin, Hartford: Specimen Autumn Leaves.

Mrs. Hawks, Hartford: Two Volumes, Memoir of Mrs. Van Lennep, Memoir of Brskine J. Hawes. Miss Mary Hillhouse, New Haven; Two Volumes. Lydia Huntley, Hartford: Two Volumes.

Mns. G. W. Hooker, New Haven: Illuminated deBign, water-color.

Mrs. Hodge, Hartford: Shell, painted.

Mrs. B. E. Hooker, Hartford: Two Volumes.

Miss Mary Keep, Hartford: Ear of Corn, water-color.

Ellen D. Larned, Hartford : History of Windham County, 1 vol.

Miss A. P. Lloyd, Hartford: Receipt for ” ‘Lection” Coke, 1 vol.

Miss Minnie O. Lockwood, New Haven: Text, Illuminated border, water-color; Grasses and Lobelia, water-color.

Mrs. Dr. Mutter, Middletown: Memorial Chapel, Berkeley Divinity School at Middletown, represented by two photographs.

Mrs, L. B. Newcomb, New Haven : Three Illuminations, water-colors.

Mrs. II. K. Olmstku, Hartford: Three water-colors.

Miss Peck, Hartford: Belle or'”16,” crayon; Portrait of boy, crayon.

Miss Addie Pickerins, Portland: Speciuieus of Printing.

Mrs. T. K. Pickering, Portland: Worsted Kug, tapestry-work.

Miss Anna Plato, Hartford: 1 vol. Proeuand Poetry.

Miss Ellen Pomeroy, Hartford: Pond Lilies, oil painting.

Mils. Porter, Hartford: Portrait of Italian woman.

Miss Rebecca T. Porter, Now Haven: Interior, oil painting.

Miss Rose Porter, New Haven: Five Volumes.

Mrs. Samuel Hussell, Middletown: The Russell Library at Middletown, and Memorial Chapel at Indian Hill Cemetery, represented by photographs.

Miss F. M. Sherman, New Haven: Madonna and Child, lithograph.

Mrs. Sioourney, Hartford: 37 Vols.—Huntley &, Hyde, Connecticut Forty Years Since, Poems, Si^ounicy’s Poetical Works, Gleanings, Daily Counsellor, Man of Uz, Western Homes, Post Meridian, Letters of Life, Zinzendorf, Letters to Mothers, Letters to Young Ladies, Selections from Various Sources, Poems, Poems for the Sea, Water-Drops, Pleasant Memories, Scenes In My Native Land, Poems, Pocahontas, Letters to My Pupils, Examples of Life and Death, Memoir of Mrs. II. M. Cook, Faded Hope. Myrtles, Select Poems, Whisper to a Bride, Olive Buds, Lovely Sisters, Transplanted Daisy, Poems, Weeping Willow, Biography, Boys’ Reading Book, Girls’ Reading Book.

Mrs. Julie P. Smith, Hartford: 7 Vols., The Widow Goldsmith’s Daughter, Chris and Otho, Shiftless Folks, The Widower, Ten Old Maids, Courting and Farming, the Married Belle.

Miss Julia E. Smith, Glastonbury: New translation of the Bible, literal.

Mrs. Stevens, New Haven: CecropiaMoth, painted 70years ago, water-color.

Ladies Of St. John’s Guild, New Haven: Ecclesiastical Embroidery (altar cloth).

Mrs. H. B. Stowe, Hartford: 30 Vols. In uniform binding, and special case, viz.: The May Flower, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Pearl of Orr’s Island, Agnes of Sorrento, Dred, a tale of the Dismal Swamp. Minister’s Wooing, Queer Little People, Pussy Willow, Old Town Folks, Old Town Fireside Stories, Pink and White Tyranny, Little Foxes, Household Papers, Lady Byron Vindicated, My Wife and I, We and Our Neighbors, Palmetto Leaves, Betty’s Bright Idea. Mrs. Stowe also exhibited a water-color (jessamine).

Miss Jennie Terry, Hartford: Painted Fan.

Rose Terry, Hartford: Poems, 1 vol.

Miss Tuthill. Hartford: Wreck, water-color: Sketches,water-color; Venus de Mllo, pencil sketch: Marble Madonna of Milan, pencil Bketch. Mrs. Mary Spring Walker, Hartford: Five Volumes. Mrs. Geo. Warner, Hartford: DalBles, water-color. Mrs. H. B. Washburn, East River: Study of Apples, water-color. Mrs. Henry Webster, Hartford: Game, oil painting. Mrs. O. II. Whitmore, Hartford: Glass Screen.


The entire Souvenir of the Centennial exhibition can be found here

and here

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 29, 2011 11:18 pm

    Great find, Kurk!

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