January 21: Margaret Cassatt Coleman Freeman (1894)

Thomas Sully (American, 1783 – 1872 ), The Coleman Sisters, 1844, oil on canvas, Gift of William C. Freeman

Margaret Cassatt Coleman Freeman had a goodly heritage. On her mother’s side (the Cassatts), she was a cousin of artist Mary Cassatt. On her father’s side, she was a descendant of Robert Coleman, the iron industry baron and Pennsylvania’s first millionaire. The accompanying image of The Coleman Sisters by Thomas Sully, painted in 1844, depicts Margaret and two of her other unmarried sisters. Two years later, Margaret married William Freeman, a West Point graduate, who served on the staff of General Winfield Scott. Over time, Margaret and her siblings took an active interest in the operation of several Cornwall, Pennsylvania iron furnaces, especially profitable during the Civil War with the making of munitions.

 

In 1853, Margaret’s sister Sarah purchased a home at 1525 H St, NW, Washington [today’s Parish House for St. John’s Church] and subsequently deeded half interest in the property to Margaret and her husband. The families would spend the winter months in DC. Early fall and late spring, they would return to their home in Cornwall, Pennsylvania and then spend the summer at a home in Bar Harbor, Maine. Margaret, her sister Sarah, and her two daughters Margaret and Isabel, were great friends of Epiphany, providing significant financial support over a 75-year period. Margaret Freeman’s funeral took place from Epiphany. She was later buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.

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