Vinnie Ream Hoxie

Vinnie Ream Hoxie
American Sculptor

Vinnie Ream Hoxie was an American Sculptor.  She enjoys the distinction of being the first woman to receive an order from the United States government for a statue.

Vinnie Ream Hoxie was born one of three children in Madison, Wisconsin on September 25, 1846.  Her parents were Robert Lee Ream and Lavinia McDonald Ream.  Vinnie’s family moved around a lot as she grew up.  When she was ten, her family moved to western Missouri where she attended the academy section of Christian College in Columbia, Missouri.  She showed a talent for music and art.  When the Civil War began, the family was now in Fort Smith, Arkansas where her father worked in Real Estate.  At this time they wanted to move to Washington, D.C.  The family managed to skirt the Confederate Troops in order to get there and upon settling in Washington, Robert was given a government job and Vinnie became a clerk in the Post Office Department.  It was here that Vinnie was to spend most of her life.

When she was living in Washington, Vinnie discovered her own taste and talent for art and devoted her energies to the arts, with special emphasis on sculpture.    In 1863 she visited the studio of sculptor Clark Mills and there decided to try her hand at sculpting.  She found she had a talent for it and Mr. Mills took her on as a student because he was so impressed with her work.  Before long she was sculpting busts of important men in Washington such as Congressmen, Senators, and others of prominence.  Her models included such men as General Grant, John Sherman, and Thaddeus Stevens.  She also produced The Indian Girl, which was a full-length figure cast in bronze, and Miriam which was done in marble and was of her most noted creations.

But one of the crowning honors of her career was the opportunity to produce a statue of Abraham Lincoln, which she executed in bronze, to be placed in the Capitol.  In 1864, some friends of hers had arranged with President Lincoln for him to pose for Vinnie in order that she  might make a bust of him.  At first he refused, but relented upon hearing that Vinnie was a poor girl, struggling to make her own way in the world.  He gave her half-hour sittings over five months and the bust she created was well received.  In 1866, Congress awarded her a $10,000 contract to do a full-size marble statue of Lincoln to stand in the Capitol rotunda.  She was the first woman to receive such a federal commission.

After she finished the model, Vinnie took it to Italy to be transferred to marble.  Her parents accompanied her and together they lived in Rome for three years.  While there, George P.A. Healy and Caleb Bingham painted Vinnie and Gustave Dore gave her  one of his own paintings and inscribed it personally.

In 1871 the finished statue of President Lincoln was unveiled.  It was an awesome production and it was positively received by Washington society.  The statue was so well liked that in 1875 Vinnie receive another federal commission for 420,000 to sculpt a bronze statue of Admiral David G. Farragut, a naval hero.  While she was working on the model for this statue, Vinnie married Lieutenant Richard Leveridge Hoxie.  At the request of her husband, Vinnie gave up sculpting for money, but continued to sculpt for love.