a digital library of Unitarian Universalist biographies, history, books, and media
the digital library of Unitarian Universalism
Home » Biographies » Hosmer, Harriet (1830-1905)

Hosmer, Harriet (1830-1905)

Harriet Hosmer

Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-115183).

This pioneer woman sculptor was a descendant of James Hosmer, who came from England to Massachusetts in the 1630s. Since her mother died of tuberculosis when Harriet was four, her father encouraged her outdoor life. At Mrs. Charles Sedwick’s School in the Berkshires, her Unitarian school classmates, novelist Catherine Maria Sedgwick and actress Fanny Kemble, suggested that she become a professional sculptor.

Medical schools then denied women students, but a friend of her physician father taught her anatomy. When she was studying in Rome, her overseer was actress Charlotte Cushman. John Gibson, an English sculptor, accepted her as his only student.

Of her many works, the amusing “Puck” playing on a toadstool was purchased by the Prince of Wales. Because of its popularity, she created 50 replicas which sold for $1,000 each. A colossal statue of Senator Thomas Hart Benton was commissioned by the state of Missouri. When Harriet’s detractors claimed her work was done by male assistants, she brought a libel suit, and wrote in defense an authoritative Atlantic Monthly article on “The Process of Sculpture.”

Among the sculptor’s many friends in Rome were Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Notable in UU History
William Bentley

Bentley, William (1759-1819)

He was the minister of the Second Church in Salem, Massachusetts, for 36 years; famous for ... Read More
Pete Seeger

Seeger, Pete (1919-2014)

Below are two biographical perspectives on Pete Seeger, the first written by Richard Taskin, and the second ... Read More
Anne Sexton

Sexton, Anne (1928-1974)

Biographical Introduction Anne Gray Harvey was born in Newton, Massachusetts. Her father, a lawyer and woolen ... Read More
Caroline Veatch

Veatch, Caroline (1870-1953)

The below biography celebrates the life and generosity of Caroline Veatch and the ongoing legacy of ... Read More