Lewis, Edmonia

  • Currently 0/5 Stars.
You may use the stars on the left to rate and leave feedback for the current article. No registration is required. Waiting for 5 votes 0.0 of 5 stars (0 votes) — Thanks for your vote

Please fill out the following optional information before submitting your rating:

Much is unknown or disputed about Lewis' early and late life. Sources give her year of birth as "sometime in the 1840s," "around 1843 to 1845," "the middle of the 19th century," 1840, 1843, 1843?, 1844?, 1845, and 1845?, and her year of death as 1909, "after 1911," "last reported living in Rome in 1911," 1911?, and "date and place of her death are unknown."

She was a free-born child of an Haitian African-American father and Chippewa mother. Her birth name was Wildfire (her older brother was named Sunrise), but she changed it to Mary Edmonia while a student at Oberlin College, one of the few colleges which admitted non-white students at the time. She was orphaned as a child (age "before she was five," nine or 12) and then raised by her mother's sisters with the Ojibwa people (or "adopted by abolitionist parents"), until her brother, a successful gold miner in California, paid for her to go to college in 1859. She was accused of trying to poison two fellow-students, and in spite of being acquitted (her lawyer was John Mercer Langston), she was compelled to leave.

She was already known for her artistic talent and moved first to Boston and then to Florence and Rome, where she became a prominent member of the expatriate artists' colony. Slavery and emancipation were central themes of her sculpture. She is the first known African-American or Native American woman professional sculptor.

She disappears from the historical record in 1911.

Her most important works are Forever Free (1867) and The Death of Cleopatra (1876). She is included in an Internet directory of important Black gay and bisexual persons, but aside from her tendency to dress in masculine clothes, no evidence to support this is given.


"Artnoir's African/American Art History 101: Mary Edmonia Lewis (1843?-1911?)." [Includes portrait]. Available at: http://www.artnoir.com/index.lewis.e.html
Post Road Gallery. "Edmonia Lewis, American, (1840-1909), Bust of James P. Thomas." Available at: http://www.postroadgallery.com/lewis.html
"Defiant Women: Edmonia Lewis (c. 1843-1911?)." [Includes portrait]. Available at: http://members.tripod.com/cathreese/DefiantWomen/artists/edmonialewis.html
"Learning Network: People: Edmonia Lewis, Sculptor." Available at: http://www.factmonster.com/ipka/A0878495.html
San Josť Public Library. "Edmonia Lewis: First African-American Sculptor of Renown." [Includes portrait]. Available at: http://www.sjpl.lib.ca.us/MLK/exhibits/lewis.htm
Hunter-Gault, Charlayne; Gurney, George; and Driskell, David. "Testament to Bravery, August 5, 1996: Transcript." [Includes portraits]. Available at: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/entertainment/edmonia_8-5.html
"Edmonia Lewis (1845-1890)." Available at: http://www.cas.ilstu.edu/English/351/hypertext98/hankins/african/Lewis.html
Reno, Dawn. Edmonia Lewis: The Sculptor they Called "Wildfire". (Bookmice.com, 2000)
Brooke, Asian. "Proud History: Edmonia Lewis." Available at: http://www.blackstripe.com/blacklist/frontiers1.html


Native American and Alaskan Native, Inuit
19th Century
20th Century
Art, Architecture, Planning
Sexuality: Gay Men, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transsexuals
Ethnic or Religious Identity Confused or Concealed, Racism
School-age Years, Adolescence
Orphaned (Both Parents)
Uncles and Aunts, Parents' Uncles and Aunts
Customary or Traditional Adoption, Informal and Extra-Legal Care
Parent(s) Died, Disappeared or Became Incapacitated
Birth Sibling(s) Separated
Visitor Comments (0) - Be the first to comment
Adding your comments contributes to the adoption community. Please keep all comments on topic and civil. Visitors are invited to comment and vote for or flag comments based on appropriateness and helpfulness. All comments must adhere to our commenting rules and are subject to moderation.

To see local Adoption resources, please select a location (U.S. only):

Need a Home Study?
Adoption Photolisting
Randy (PA / 14 / M)
Randy is a reserved teen who enjoys listening to Michael Jackson music, watching television, and playing video games, particularly Madden football. His favorite show is... [more]
Parent Profiles
We are kid tested and approved! Cameron and Reed and so excited to be big brothers. We hope 2014 is our year to welcome a new little one into our family. Our hearts and home are... [more]
Directory of Adoption Professionals
Find a professional
for all of your adoption needs including:

Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of Adoption.com.

Settings Help Feedback
Template Settings
Width: 1024     1280
Choose a Location:
Choose a Theme: