Women were slowly gaining political rights, as Wyoming was the first state to grant women full suffrage in 1890. The Chicago Exposition of 1893 featured a pavilion representing the state of California featured an art gallery in which more than half of those on exhibit were done by women. Women have worked in the West as long as humans have inhabited the region beginning with the earliest periods. Native Americans created pottery, wove, and made baskets.
As women, we approach life differently than men. Even today, women are still expected to do the lion's share of taking care of the home and children while we work full-time. We strive to connect with each other and to our own lives and to derive meaning. Family ties both empower and constrain women artists as we try to find their own artistic voices while we balance the responsibilities and demands of our families. Some of us want escape from the bonds of family and society while others find safety, comfort, and support from that community. Whatever our individual needs require, women face challenges that are unique to our gender and our work has, in many cases, taken a back seat to the artwork of men in the same social and racial class.
This is why I write the blog. I want to honor those women who took such incredible risks, especially during such an early, unsettled time in our history, and dared to push boundaries in both their lives and in their work.
A native of Ohio, Mary Achey executed her first known western works during the 1860s when she lived in Colorado. In 1862 and 65, Achey lived in Kansas and Missouri while her husband served in the Second Colorado Cavalry Volunteers. She produced drawings of army fort scenes in Colorado and Kansas. Achey became the territory's first resident female artist while living in Central City, Colorado and painted a number of views of Clear Creek that received attention in the Denver newspapers. Her painting of Lake Creek garnered praise as the "handsomest oil painting ever seen in Colorado" by the Rocky Mountain News in November of 1869.
Oil on canvas
According to her own accounts, Mary Achey completed over 500 works in oil, watercolor, pen and ink and pencil. Her subjects included landscapes of California, Oregon and Washington, army fort scenes, wild west genre, portraits, and still lifes, and she supported her two sons with the sales of her paintings. Because she lived and worked so long ago, it is difficult to get the correct titles and dates for her works.
13.5 x 20.5 inches
Oil on canvas
Oil on canvas
Independent Spirits, Women Painters of the American West, 1890-1945, ed. Patricia Trenton
An Encyclopedia of Women Artists of the American West, Phil Kovnick and Marian Yoshiki Kovnick
AskArt: The Artist's Bluebook, http://www.askart.com/askart/a/mary_elizabeth_achey/mary_elizabeth_achey.aspx, retrieved September 26, 2014.