Women in American Ceramics, 1875-1945

Women in American Ceramics, 1875-1945

August 30, 2008 – March 22, 2009

Mint Museum of Art - Levine Gallery


MARY LOUISE MCLAUGHLIN. American, 1847-1939.




Women in American Ceramics exhibition page on the Mint Museum website



As a result of the Industrial Revolution, many products were mass produced but were of poor quality. In reaction, the demand for quality handiwork increased in the late 19th and early 20th century, forming the basis for the Arts and Crafts Movement. This movement affected all aspects of the decorative arts from furniture to bookbinding and was particularly influential in pottery, resulting in the American Art Pottery Movement. Major pottery manufacturers sprang up in places like New Orleans, Louisiana as well as Cincinnati, and Zanesville, Ohio creating a demand for jobs. Because there were limited opportunities for women during this time, the job openings created by the Art Pottery Movement were the perfect place for women, married or single, to make a respectable living. Sequestered to the decoration of pottery for the most part, due to the common idea that no woman would want to get her hands dirty thowing a vase, they saw a window of opportunity for self expression, and used it to its fullest extent: inventing new techniques, experimenting with glazes, and educating themselves and others. Their influence on pottery as an artform is the focus of this exhibition.



Coyne, Sara "Sallie" Elizabeth

  • Coyne specialized in landscapes and was a decorator at Rookwood from 1891 until 1931. She also studied at the Cincinnati Art Academy. 


Field, Abbie Tylor

  • Field, also known as Mrs. Walter Hunnewell Field, usually painted china but also decorated earthenware blanks. A founding member of the Cincinnati Pottery Club, Field was also President of the Porcelain League of Cincinnati and the Handicraft League.


Fry, Laura Anne (1857-1943)

  • A designer as well a collector of Rookwood Pottery, Fry invented a mouth-blown atomizer which dispersed colored slip over the surface of pottery for Rookwood. There was litigation over the patent for it, so she took her invention to Lonhuda Pottery, a competitor. She was an honorary member of Cincinnati Pottery Club and was also a woodcarver. Her grandfather and father, Henry Lindley and William Henry Fry, were actually the woodcarvers for Rookwood Estate. Fry was educated at McMicken School of Design, the Art Academy of Cincinnati and also in France and England.


Grotell, Maija (1899-1973)

  • Grotell was born in Finland and immigrated to America in 1927. She was an instructor at Cranbrook Academy of Art as well as several other institutions. The artist Harvey Littleton was among her students.
  • More about Grotell can be found in this article from Ceramics Today.


Harwell, Edith (1904-1982)

  • Harwell and her husband, Converse Harwell, established Pinewood Pottery in her native Charlotte in 1931. Invited by the Mint Museum to demonstrate the making of pottery, she subsequently moved her studio into the basement of the museum where it remained until 1938 when the couple moved to Alabama. Pinewood Pottery continued there and Harwell also served as head of the ceramics department at the Marietta Johnson School for Organic Education.
  • Scanlan Fine Arts Gallery online has additional information on Harwell and a picture of a tea set she made.
  • The photograph of Edith Harwell on the cover of Women Folk Potters: the Southern Pottery Tradition, Vol. I on display in the exhibition was taken in the "basement" of the Mint Museum by Bayard Wooten, a remarkable woman and photographer in her own right.


Hilton, Clara Maude Cobb (1885-1969)

  • Known for painting dogwood blossoms and rural landscapes on various forms, such as jugs and pots, Hilton experimented with different glazes and techniques; an uncommon practice, since most North Carolina potters in this period were very traditional in their techniques and seldom decorated their ware.
  • A picture of Hilton with her pottery, along with additional information can be found in Hunter Library's Digital Collections.


Irvine, Sadie (1887-1970)

  • Born Sara Agnes Estelle, Irvine is believed to be the creator of the "Oak Tree and the Moon" motif for Newcomb. Reportedly, she gave a piece of her work to Sarah Bernhardt when the legendary actress visited Newcomb.
  • In addition to pottery design, Irvine created illustrations, watercolors and prints. Irvine was educated at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Art Students League in New York and Newcomb College. She later became an instructor at Newcomb as well as the Academy of the Sacred Heart.
  • Additional information on Irvine can be found in the Artists section of the Newcomb website.


Levy, Sarah Bloom (?-1955)

  • Levy was affiliated with Newcomb from 1898 to 1912.


Liley, Florence S.

  • A ceramic modeller for Grueby, Liley is known for creating ornamental reliefs, usually on vases.


Lingenfelter, Elizabeth N. (1880-1957)

  • Lingenfelter, who also went by the name Lizzie Lincoln, was a decorator associated with Rookwood from 1892-1931. After she left Rookwood, she worked in hospitals.


Lonnegan, Ada Wilt (?-1963)

  • Known for her calligraphy as well as her pottery, Lonnegan was affiliated with Newcomb from 1900 to 1906.


McLaughlin, Mary Louise (1847-1939)

  • Generally known as the founder of the Cincinnati Pottery Club, McLaughlin experimented with the underglaze of colored slip (barbotine) and is the creator of several known innovations in ceramics decoration. She earned Silver Medals for her work at the Exposition Universelle in 1889 and 1900. Her creativity was not only reserved for pottery; she worked in a number of media including books, paintings, sculptures, and stained glass. McLaughlin was educated at McMicken School of Design as well as the Cincinnati Art Academy.
  • Ellis, Anita J. The Ceramic Career of M. Louise McLaughlin. Cincinnati, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2003. NK4605.5.U63 M354 2003 A very in-depth resource, this book contains many interesting details about McLaughlin and her life.
  • The Cincinnati Art Museum has a very concise and informative article about McLaughlin.
  • The full text of McLaughlin's China Painting: a Practical Manual for the Use of Amateurs in the Decoration of Hard Porcelain (1894) is available online from Google Books.


Newton, Clara Chipman (1848-1936)

  • In addition to pottery design, Newton is known for woodcarving, china painting, and metalwork. Educated at the McMicken School of Design, she was a classmate of Maria Longworth Nichols Storer at Miss Appleton's School. Storer later hired Newton to work at Rookwood. She became an instructor for Rookwood School of Pottery Decoration, as well as the Thane Miller School and Glendale College. Newton was a founding member of both the Cincinnati Pottery Club and the Porcelain League.


Pillsbury, Hester 

  • A decorator associated with Roseville as well as Weller Pottery, Pillsbury started working at Weller sometime after 1918, but is believed to have been decorating from as early as 1904.


Plimpton, Cordelia A. Busnell (1830-1886)

  • Also known as Mrs. Florus Beardsley Plimpton, Plimpton decorated black ware (basalt). Educated in Berlin, she worked as a studio artist with the Cinncinnati Pottery Club and was affiliated with the Women's Art Museum Association.


Rice, Julia H. 

  • Educated at McMicken School of Design, Rice is known for her woodwork as well as her pottery. 


  • Robineau, Adelaide Alsop (1865-1929) **

    • In March 2000, Art & Antiques Magazine designated one of Robineau's vases "the most important piece of American ceramics of the last one-hundred years." Read Barbara Bell's article online about the vase and this remarkable and influential artist.
    • In addition to pottery design, Robineau painted watercolors, china, and ivory miniatures, and also served as a faculty member at the University of Syracuse. Instructed by celebrated painter William M. Chase and later by ceramist Charles Binns, Robineau also used her skills to decorate porcelain for the Syracuse China Company and was a founder and editor of Keramic Studio, the pioneering publication on ceramics. The 1917 June edition of Keramic Studio will be on display in the exhibit.
    • Weiss, Peg. Adelaide Alsop Robineau: Glory in Porcelain. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1981. NK4210.R53 A84 A biography of Robineau with information about her publication Keramic Studio.
    • Ceramics Today has additional information about Robineau (this link is no longer available). There are links in the margin to other useful facts about ceramics.


    Seaman, Marie A.

    • Affiliated with Grueby, Seaman was a modeller who specialized in ornamental reliefs and was educated at Massachusettes Normal Art School.


    Simpson, Anna Frances (?-1930)

    • Also known as Fanny, Simpson embroidered and made prints in addition to decorating pottery. She obtained a master's degree from Newcomb.


    Villere, Elizabeth

    • Villere was a decorator, but also bound books after being educated at Newcomb.


    Wieselthier, Vally (1895-1945)

    • Born and educated in Vienna, Wieselthier later immigrated to New York City.
    • Artnet has more facts about Wieselthier as well as pictures of her work.


    Winter, Thelma Frazier (1903-1977)

    • Winter was educated and taught classes at the Cleveland Institute of Art. She also won first prize in the Ceramic National, which was started by Adelaide A. Robineau.
    • There is more information on Winter at AskArt, including a picture of one of her works.


    Additional Artists in the Exhibition

    • Dorothy Draheim Armentrout
    • Kate Sears
    • Nellie C. Randall Stephen
    • Naomi Walch

    Groups and Manufactories

    Cincinnati Pottery Club

    • Also known as the Women's Pottery Club of Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Pottery Club was founded by Mary Louise McLaughlin in 1879. It gave women a place to learn, share ideas, and create pottery. Although it was not associated with any particular pottery company, the club did use the kilns at Dallas Pottery to fire pieces.
    • The University of Pennsylvania's "Celebration of Women Writers" Digital Initiative features the chapter The Work of Cincinnati Women in Decorated Pottery from Elizabeth W. Perry's Art and Handicraft from the Women's Building of the World's Columbian Exposition. It discusses the importance of the Cincinnati Pottery Club as well as the Columbian Exposition and prominent Cincinnati artists. 


    • The Grueby Faience Company was founded in 1897 by William H. Grueby. Many of the designs created by men at Grueby were inspired by the work of Frenchman Auguste Delaherche, and were later executed by women. Grueby is known for a distinctive alligator-like color and texture of their matte glaze. Although several colors were used throughout production, Grueby Green was the most popular.
    • Montgomery, Susan J. The Ceramics of William H. Grueby: The Spirit of the New Idea in Artistic Handicraft. Lambertville, N.J.: Arts & Crafts Quarterly Press, 1993. NK4210.G77 M66 1993 This book chronicles the creation and works produced by Grueby, and includes many examples of the pottery.
    • A very succinct article in Just Art Pottery has more information on Grueby.


    • Newcomb Pottery was part of the program at Newcomb College, founded in 1894 and a part of Tulane University in New Orleans. A few different glazes were used. Most were glossy with blue and green hues, although there were a few matte glazes. The style is typified by nature motifs with cross-sections of plants and flowers, silhouettes of rabbits, and ornate symmetry.
    • Poesch, Jessie. Newcomb Pottery: An Enterprise for Southern Women, 1895-1940. Exton, PA: Schiffer Pub., 1984. NK4340.N47 P64 1984 A history of the firm, information on many of the people who worked there, and examples of their work are included.
    • Tulane University has a section of their website devoted to the history and artists of Newcomb Pottery.


    North Carolina Pottery

    • Hussey, Billy Ray. Women Folk Potters: The Southern Pottery Heritage, V.1. Bennett, NC: Southern Folk Pottery Collectors Society, 1998. NK4011.S68 W66 This will be on display in the exhibit, but there is another copy in the library that can be accessed for information on Edith Harwell and Clara Maude Cobb Hilton.
    • North Carolina Pottery: The Collection of the Mint Museums. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004. NK4025.N8 N67 2004 Centered on the Mint Museum's extensive collection of North Carolina pottery, this book also contains some biographical information on the artists including Harwell.
    • Zug, Charles G. Turners and Burners: The Folk Potters of North Carolina. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1986. NK4025.N8 Z82 1986 A general look at the various potters of North Carolina, but it has information on Hilton.



    • Rookwood was founded in 1880 by Maria Longworth Nichols Storer after she was excluded from the Cincinnati Pottery Club. She was in fact extended an invitation to join, but never received it. Storer saw it as a personal insult from M. Louise McLaughlin, and their rivalry was born. Located in Cincinnati and named for Storer's family home, Rookwood is characterized by a wide range of subjects: flowers, insects, Native American portraits, landscapes, and Japanese themes. There were a variety of glazes used including Standard which has earth tones and realistic shading on a dark background. In addition to these, Vellum, Iris, and Matte were also used.
    • Peck, Herbert. The Book of Rookwood Pottery. New York: Bonanza, 1968. NK4340.R7 P4 1968b A history of the firm as well as information on the founder and various artists.
    • Just Art Pottery has an article on Rookwood's origins and style.
    • For more information on Storer, see this online article (this link is no longer available) by Paula Miner Bortka about her influence in on the Art Pottery Movement in Cincinnati and also the creation of Rookwood.
    • The Divas section of Discovering the Story at the Cincinnati Art Museum's website, chronicles the rivalry between Storer and McLaughlin.



    • Formerly Lonhuda Pottery, Weller Pottery Company is named for its founder Samuel Weller. Weller usually took cues from Rookwood pottery in glazes and techniques, partially due to its close proximity to Cincinnati in Zanesville, Ohio and Laura Fry's influence. For example, Louwelsa was developed by Fry as a variant of Rookwood's Standard. Weller's only unique glaze to the American market was Sicardo developed by Jaques Sicard. It is characterized by rainbows of color and iridescence. Weller Pottery usually has nature motifs and forms which are all similar to Newcomb as well as Rookwood Pottery.

    • Additional information about Weller Pottery can be found in this article at Just Art Pottery, which also contains several examples.


    General Exhibition Resources

    • Buckley, Cheryl. Potters and Paintresses: Women Designers in the Pottery Industry, 1870-1955. London: Women's Press, 1990. NK4200.B83 1990 Information about women's roles in society and the pottery industry.

    • Frelinghuysen, Alice Cooney. American Art Pottery: Selections from the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art. Orlando Museum of Art; Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995. NK4007.C47 1995 Good examples of Weller, Rookwood and Newcomb pottery in various forms. Detailed information on Art Pottery on pages 12-32.

    • Levin, Elaine. The History of American Ceramics, 1607 to the Present. New York: Abrams, 1988. Comprehensive, essential and very readable.

    • Perry, Barbara, ed. American Ceramics: the Collection of Everson Museum of Art. New York: Rizzoli, 1989. Excellent overview of the pottery and the potters.

    • Prather-Moses, Alice Irma. The International Dictionary of Women Workers in the Decorative Arts: A Historical Survey from the Distant Past to the Early Decades of the Twentieth Century. Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1981. REF HD6069.P7 Brief biographical information on many female artists of the American Art Pottery movement. An excellent starting point for research.

    • Reif, Rita. "Proving That Pottery Was Women's Work." The New York Times, January 27, 2002, Art/Architecture. A fascinating article about Frelinghuysen's study of women potters, many of whom are in the exhibition, and their profound impact upon ceramics.

    • Vincentelli, Moira. Women and Ceramics: Gendered Vessels. New York: Manchester University Press, 1999. NK3780.V56 1990 A detailed history of women's influence on the pottery industry. Chapter 5, The Decorative Woman, has specific information on the role of women in the Art Pottery Movement.

      A list of American Women in American Ceramics resources from MARCO (Mint Art Research Catalog Online)





    Page created by Lauren DeReese, Intern at the Mint Museum Library