November 19: Lavinia Ellen Ream Hoxie (1914)

Lavinia Ellen “Vinnie” Ream Hoxie was an American sculptor. Her most famous work is the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the U.S. Capitol rotunda. With that work, she became the first female to receive a government art commission. Vinnie was born in a log cabin in Madison, Wisconsin Territory. In 1861, her family moved to Washington, D.C. After her father’s health began to fail, she began working outside the home to support her family. Vinnie Ream was one of the first women to be employed by the federal government. She had innate artistic talents and sang at several local churches, including Epiphany, and for the wounded at Washington, D.C. hospitals during the Civil War. In 1863, Ream was introduced to sculptor Clark Mills. She became an apprentice in Mills’ sculpting studio the next year, at the age of seventeen.

In 1864, President Lincoln agreed to model for Vinnie in the morning for five months, and she created a bust of his figure. During this time, the two became friends. Following Lincoln’s assassination, two important things happened in Vinnie’s life. In June 1865, Vinnie and her sister Mary were baptized at Epiphany. A year later, Vinnie received the commission to do a statue of the slain president. In 1871, her white marble statue of Lincoln was unveiled in the United States Capitol rotunda. She opened a studio in Washington. George Armstrong Custer sat for a portrait bust. In 1876, she exhibited at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. She won a competition to do a statue of Admiral David G. Farragut, which stands in Farragut Square today. Ream married Richard L. Hoxie, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She died on November 20, 1914. Vinnie Ream Hoxie and her husband are buried in Arlington National Cemetery, marked by her statue of the Greek poet Sappho.

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