"The Education of Our Girls," Vermont Chronicle, Aug 8, 1868
Grace Greenwood takes Harriet Hosmer as a prime example of an unconventional education that has made her a strong a celebrated woman. Greenwood bases her account on her own experience and acquaintance with Hosmer in Rome in the 1850s. She counters reports that have depicted Hosmer as "unwomanly."
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In a letter from Italy I find the following paragraph:
"Miss Hosmer is often seen in public in Rome, at times driving a handsome carriage and span rapidly along the streets, at times on horseback, making her way to the mete of the foxhounds, or the Campagna. Miss Hosmer is an expert rider, and may be often seen going at a furious rate over walls, fences, and ditches, close upon the heels of the hounds."
Had the late Dr. Hosmer been governed by conventional ideas of delicacy and propriety in the education of girls, there would probably long ago have been on the banks of the Charles River a little grave [...]. "This was Harriet, the Doctor's youngest and brightest daughter. She was always puny and delicate [...] She had queer old ways and notions; she never played with dolls, but I've heard her folks tell how, on bakin' days, she would sit in her little rockin' chair with a plate in her lap covered with bits of dough, and out of them she'd make little figures of animals and human creaturs [sic], as natural as life [...]."
Doubtless if this early death had taken place, Sunday School Libraries, mediocre sculptors, hard-ridden hunters, and the foxes of the Campagna would have been the gainers; but the world of arts would have been the losers, by many a fair and stately shape, unguessed at possibilities of that little maiden's genius; the artistic and social circles of Rome would now have had one attraction the less. many a heart would have missed the pleasure of one royal friendship, and the aspiring womanhood of the age would have lacked one brave, triumphant life.
Miss Hosmer's early education had evidently much to do, not only with the moulding of her character and the formation of her peculiar tastes, but with fitting her for her present unique and arduous career. Her father, who was a man of unusual talent, originality, and force of character, having lost his wife and several daughters by consumption, resolved to devote himself to the perfect physical education of this, his last child, who seemed to have inherited her mother's delicacy of constitution. He took her into the fields, by the riverside, the seaside: he let her run wild among the hills; he horrified all the prudent old ladies in his neighborhood by unring her to sun and storm, and teachigh her to ride, drive, hunt, fish, row, skate, and swim. In all out-door exercised she became a proficient, and as a matter of course, grew up strong and vigorous. She is remarkable for her power of endurance, for steadiness of nerve and courage. She is not only the bravest woman I ever met, but I know no man more utterly fearless than she.
I was with Miss Hosmer during her first winter in Rome, and that was – ah, me! fifteen years ago. She was then small and slight, singulary vigorous and muscular, a bundle of healthy nerves, energy, and will. The strong head borne with infinite spirit, was crowned with beautiful brown hair, short and curling. The face was fresh ad piquant, but of force and character. About her mouth the lines of a strong purpose were hardening already into resolution, fixed and inexorable. Out of her gray eyes shone the steady light of well-assured ambition. Her style of dress was slightly after the masculine order, but in admirable keeping with her chosen work. In manner and conversation she was the farthest possible remove from the conventional fine lady yet neither coarse nor unwomanly. I have, it is true, since heard some startling stories of her manly, independent goings-on, her "tricks and her manners." [...] – a strong, healthful, unconventional, Shaksperian [sic] woman; intellectual, but not pedantic sympathetic, but not sentimental.