On this Day Three of Women’s History Month, I have selected a woman who has inspired and continues to inspire me.
At the age of around 58, I picked up a paint brush and said to myself, just paint. Give it a whirl.
That sounds like an easy thing to say, but it wasn’t.
I wasn’t trained, I didn’t know if I could paint anything that looked like anything and the whole idea was suspicious.
What was in my head? Where did it come from? nd wasn’t I too old to learn such a skill, I mean, even to attempt to?
I was a writer. Not an artist. I create, but painting wasn’t in my repertoire.
But long ago, I heard a bout a women who didn’t begin painting until she was 78.
I had seen her paintings and thought, well, I might not be able to do that, but I might be able to give it a whirl.
You probably know my woman …my inspiration.
Her public name is Grandma Moses. Her real name is Anna Mary Roberts Moses.
Because of her, I did not let age stop me.
Born on September 7, 1860, in Greenwich, New York, Anna Mary was one of ten children.
Her father ran a flax mill and had an interest in art ad often gave his children a piece of paper and pencil because, as he said, “It lasts longer than candy.”
Anna’s mother was the stricter of the two parents, and was of the mind that art, drawing,and such were quite frivolous, especially if there was work to do.
Anna attended a one-room schoolhouse. Where the teacher called on her for drawing maps. In that time, school was in session three months in the summer and three in the winter. Most girls did not attend the winter session.
At the age of 12, Anna was sent to live and work for a wealthy family. She cooked cleaned and did chores. The man she worked for noticed that she enjoyed drawing and gave her paper and some colors.
For 15 years, Anna worked for wealthy families in that position, until. At age 27, she met her husband.Thomas Salmon Moses, on a farm where they both worked.
Anna thought that he was stable and not frivolous, like many men.
Within an hour after their marriage, Ann and Thomas were off to North Carolina, to work on a far. Thomas thought it was a good opportunity.
They got as far as Virginia and liked it and that is where they settled. Anna loved the Shenandoah Valley. Thomas and Anna were a team. Thomas worked on the farms and Anna saved money and bought a cow. To make money, she made and sold butter and later, made and sold potato chips.
Anna gave birth to 10 children, 5 of them dying in early childhood.
There was no time to paint, but Anna did enjoy embroidery.She became very proficient and enjoyed it.
Eventually, Thomas got homesick for back home. Anna loved it in Virginia. She once said that the Blue Ridge Mountains made her feel on top of the world, whereas, the Adirondacks felt like a swamp.
But return to New York, they did, settling on a farm they purchased in Eagle Bridge. The year was 1905.
They continued working the farm and raising children until Thomas passed away from a heart attack, in 1927.
When Anna’s hands became arthritic and embroidery was difficult to do, Anna’s sister, suggested she paint.
Anna picked up a paintbrush, and the rest is a testament to her vision, talent, persistence and not letting age, however advanced, get in her way.
Painting on Masonite boards, Anna painted scenes that were inspired by Currier and Ive paintings.
She painted and painted … her family thinking it was a frivolous thing to do.
A local drugstore asked Anna if they could display some of their paintings as they were trying to raise money for a women’s cause. The paintings sat in the window and got dusty, until an art collector happened by and bought all of them. He also got Anna’s address and visited her and bought all she had.
He believed in her.
He sent her better paints and supplies.
Eventually, Anna’s work was displayed, but it wasn’t until 6 years later, that she became known.
A reporter was at a gallery show of Anna’s work. He found out that Anna’s nickname was Grandma Moses, and that is what she was known as, after that.
At that time, her paintings were being put on Christmas cards. And that is when Anna’s paintings were “discovered.”
Soon, she was a celebrity, appearing on television shows, being interview by Edward R. Murrow, and meeting presidents.
She preferred to not be part of the hub-bub and mostly stayed home and painted.
Grandma Moses’s100 and 101 birthdays were National celebrations. Her nostalgia and hope and goodness of her paintings were nationally held onto at a time when the Cold War rattled everyone.
Grandma Moses died at age 101 on December 13, 1961. Her death was memorialized by President Kennedy, who said, “The death of Grandma Moses removed a beloved figure from American life. The directness and vividness of her paintings restored a primitive freshness to our perception of the American scene. Both her work and her life helped our nation renew its pioneer heritage and recall its roots in the countryside and on the frontier. All Americans mourn her loss.”
Grandma Moses survived all except two of her children.
Her work is not just a legacy of her past, but a hope for each of our futures and march into advanced ages.