Sculpting Lincoln: Vinnie Ream, Sarah Fisher Ames, and the Equal Rights Movement
Within the turbulent world of post-Civil War America, Sarah Fisher Ames and Vinnie Ream (Hoxie) were the first sculptors to produce official images of the martyred president for the United State Capitol. Ames sculpted a marble Bust of Lincoln for the Senate in 1866; Ream's standing figure of Lincoln, commissioned in 1866, was unveiled in the Capitol Rotunda in 1871. At stake was not only the memory of the beloved president, but also the visualization of the progressive principles that undergirded this newly united nation.Ames and Ream produced their sculptures within the fleetingly reformist (even perhaps utopian) political environment of Reconstruction—the building of a new civil society in which all citizens were to participate freely and equally. Entering the public arena of monument-making, they attracted the attention of women's rights activists, such as Victoria Woodhull, Jane Grey Swisshelm, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. This essay explores the ways in which these artists negotiated the intersecting terrains of Reconstruction-era politics, the suffrage debates, and their public role in the commemoration process.