Throughout Maine’s history, women have played key leadership roles in the shaping of the state. From groundbreaking politicians to cultural pioneers, women in Maine have been and continue to be trailblazers in their respective fields.
The Farnsworth Art Museum owes its existence to one such woman who, through her generosity and vision, helped transform the small, working-class city of Rockland into what is now recognized as the art capital of Maine.
Born in 1838, LUCY COPELAND FARNSWORTH was one of six children. She would outlive her siblings by twenty-eight years and her mother by twenty-five. After their deaths, she continued to live in the family home, the
Homestead, located just behind the museum on Elm Street where she died in 1935 at age ninety-seven.
Thanks to a generous inheritance from her father and brother James, and thanks as well to her own business acumen, Lucy left a sizable estate which she used to establish the William A. Farnsworth Library and Art Museum. The museum officially opened in August 1948.
In 2021, the Farnsworth will honor Lucy Copeland Farnsworth and 12 other Women of Vision with the Maine in America award for the profound impact they have made on Maine’s role in American art.
A central figure in—and an important bridge between— the photographic circles and cultural hubs of Paris and New York, Abbott made a major contribution to 20th-century photography with her ambitious project to photograph the people and places along US Route 1 from Florida to New York.
An entrepreneur and successful businesswoman, Bean is a descendant of L.L. Bean founder Leon Bean. A major supporter of the arts and land conservation in Maine, Bean is an important collector of the work of N.C. Wyeth. She has provided major support for the Farnsworth’s Wyeth Center and numerous other museum initiatives.
Katherine Bradford began painting while living in Maine in the 1970s. Though she moved to New York City in the 1980s, she continues to return each summer to her home on the coast of Maine. She was a founding member of the Union of Maine Visual Artists, and her perspective and teaching are avidly sought. She has been a resident faculty member at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and a senior critic at the Yale School of Art, and recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Joan Mitchell Foundation Award, a Pollock Krasner Grant, and two awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Bradford has had solo shows in New York, London, Paris, and Berlin, and her upcoming shows include ones in Milan, Belgium, New York, Tokyo, and Harvard’s Carpenter Center.
EDITH R. DIXON
A champion for art, Dixon and her late husband F. Eugene Dixon purchased Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture in 1978 for the City of Philadelphia to mark its bicentennial. Since 2009, Dixon has supported the installation of Indiana’s EAT sculpture on the Farnsworth roof—a work that has become the symbol of Rockland’s emergence as the art capital of Maine.
An artist whose practice seeks to find the magic in everyday life, Harvey’s work has been reviewed and featured in the New York Times, BBC, Vogue, the Wall Street Journal, the Independent, and New York Magazine. She is the author of three sold-out books, and her work is in the collections of major American museums, including the Farnsworth Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.
EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY
Born in Rockland, poet and playwright Millay came to prominence in 1912 when she recited her poem “Renascence” for guests attending a party at Camden’s Whitehall Inn. One attendee was so taken with the work that she sponsored Millay’s college education at Vassar. Millay went on to become one of America’s best-known poets. She received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1923 and was known for her feminist activism.
Recognized as one of the most important and innovative sculptors of the 20th century, Nevelson was born in present-day Ukraine in 1899. Her family fled persecution against the Jews to Rockland in 1905. Nevelson is included in many of the most important museum collections in the world, and the Farnsworth owns the second-largest public collection of her work.
A major American philanthropist, Noyce has had a significant impact on the Farnsworth Art Museum. Her bequest of the Elizabeth B. Noyce Collection included over seventy works to the Farnsworth, with paintings by George Bellows, Marsden Hartley, Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Emily Muir, and more. Noyce also created the Libra Foundation and was a catalyst for business support throughout Maine.
MOLLY NEPTUNE PARKER
Recipient of numerous awards and matriarch of four generations of Passamaquoddy basket weavers, Parker was a founding member of the Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance, driven to educate and organize a revival of basketmaking as a culturally significant and economically viable heritage artform. She worked tirelessly on the Indian Township Tribal Council, as its first woman Lieutenant Governor, directing the Tribal Housing Authority, the Health and Child Welfare departments, and, concurrently, recognizing the benefits of the arts to personal and communal well being.
A lifelong activist for women’s rights as well as an avid supporter of the visual arts, Rothschild was the Farnsworth’s first board president. She led the museum to national prominence, recruiting an accomplished board of trustees and a professional staff. Rothschild’s advocacy efforts took her to Israel, Eritrea, and Somalia to promote peace and women’s rights.
PHYLLIS MILLS WYETH
An extraordinary advocate for the arts, education, and the rights of the disabled, Wyeth consulted with the National Endowment for the Arts, the White House, and the President’s Committee. Her love of Maine led to the founding of Herring Gut Learning Center to teach marine conservation. She transformed the Farnsworth by raising funds for endowment and supporting community programs such as Share the Wonder.
MARGUERITE THOMPSON ZORACH
A painter, textile artist, and designer, Zorach was a major figure in American modernism. During her fifty-five-year career, she exhibited in the famed 1913 Armory Show in New York City, was featured among the “radicals” of 33 Moderns at the Grand Central Galleries, and was awarded commissions to execute murals in US Post Office buildings around the country.
Each year, the Farnsworth presents the Maine in America award. The award is presented by the Farnsworth to honor an individual or group who has made an outstanding contribution to Maine’s role in American art.
Previous recipients of the award include John Wilmerding (2006), Andrew Wyeth (2007), Will Barnet (2008), Robert Indiana (2009), Alex Katz (2010), Paul Caponigro (2011), Dahlov Ipcar (2012), Matthew Simmons (2013), The Shakers of Sabbathday Lake (2014), Lois Dodd (2015), Joyce Tenneson (2016), Betsy Wyeth (2017), Toshiko Mori (2018), and the artists of Slab City Rendezvous (2019).
Find out more about the Maine in America AwardMAINE IN AMERICA AWARD