Born Sept. 2, 1821, in Watertown, Mass., Anne Whitney was educated primarily at home by private tutors, but she did spend her thirteenth year at Mrs. Little's Select School for Young Ladies in Bucksport, Maine. Upon graduation, she taught school and dabbled at writing poetry, publishing her first volume of poems in 1859.
Her real passion and talent lay in sculpting, however, which she discovered quite by accident upon overturning a watering can in her greenhouse and beginning to create in wet sand. She traveled to Philadelphia and New York to study sculpture as well as anatomy at the Brooklyn Hospital. Her first piece, a marble bust of a child, was entered in an 1860 exhibit at the National Academy of Design in New York. That piece is now in the National Collection of Fine Arts.
The Civil War canceled her plans to study abroad, but she remained at home working and exhibiting several large works in New York and Boston.
In 1867, she was finally able to study in Italy, where she remained for four years. Upon her return to America, she was commissioned to create a life-sized statue of Samuel Adams for the Statuary Hall in the Capitol in Washington. She worked for the next 20 years from her studio in Beacon Hill, creating works that still stand in Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, Wellesley College and on the Commonwealth Avenue Mall in Boston.
A passionate opponent of slavery and an advocate of women's rights, Whitney's work often reflected her political beliefs. This included sculptured busts of Lucy Stone, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frances Willard, Harriet Martineau, Mary Livermore and William Lloyd Garrison.
Anne was asked by the city of Boston to re-work a monument to celebrate the achievements of Charles Sumner that she had begun in 1875. She had been a great political support of Sumner in his campaign against slavery. When officials discovered she was a woman, the commission was withdrawn. This annoyed her greatly, but she finally completed the statue in 1902 at the age of 81. The statue stands today at the center of Harvard Square.
Midge Kirk writes "Herstory" relating the stories of women who have been important in the development of the nation.