Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Harriet G. Hosmer
Some years ago, in an art store in Boston, a crowd of persons stood gazing intently upon
a famous piece of statuary. The red curtains were drawn aside, and the white marble
seemed almost to speak. A group of girls stood together, and looked on in rapt
admiration. One of them said, "Just to think that a woman did it!"
"It makes me proud and glad," said another.
"Who is Harriet Hosmer?" said a third. "I wish I knew about her."
And then one of us, who had stolen all the hours she could get from school life to read art
books from the Hartford Athenaeum, and kept crude statues, made by herself from chalk
and plaster, secreted in her room, told all she had read about the brilliant author of
The statue was seven feet high, queenly in pose and face, yet delicate and beautiful, with
the thoughts which genius had wrought in it. The left arm supported the elegant drapery,
while the right hung listlessly by her side, both wrists chained; the captive of the Emperor
Aurelian. Since that time, I have looked upon other masterpieces in all the great galleries
of Europe, but perhaps none have ever made a stronger impression upon me than
"Zenobia," in those early years.
And who was the artist of whom we girls were so proud? Born in Watertown, Mass., Oct.
9, 1830, Harriet Hosmer came into the welcome home of a leading physician, and a
delicate mother, who soon died of consumption. Dr. Hosmer had also buried his only
child besides Harriet, with the same disease, and he determined that this girl should live
in sunshine and air, that he might save her if possible. He used to say, "There is a whole
life-time for the education of the mind, but the body develops in a few years; and during
that time nothing should be allowed to interfere with its free and healthy growth."
As soon as the child was large enough, she was given a pet dog, which she decked with
ribbons and bells. Then, as the Charles River flowed past their house, a boat was
provided, and she was allowed to row at will. A Venetian gondola was also built for her,
with silver prow and velvet cushions. "Too much spoiling--too much spoiling," said some
of the neighbors; but Dr. Hosmer knew that he was keeping his little daughter on the
earth instead of heaven.
A gun was now purchased, and the girl became an admirable marksman. Her room was a
perfect museum. Here were birds, bats, beetles, snakes, and toads; some dissected, some
preserved in spirits, and others stuffed, all gathered and prepared by her own hands. Now
she made an inkstand from the egg of a sea-gull and the body of a kingfisher; now she
climbed to the top of a tree and brought down a crow's nest. She could walk miles upon
miles with no fatigue. She grew up like a boy, which is only another way of saying that
she grew up healthy and strong physically. Probably polite society was shocked at Dr.