Louisine Havemeyer

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Louisine Havemeyer and her Daughter Electra, 1895 pastel on paper by Mary Cassatt. Collection of Shelburne Museum

Louisine Waldron Elder Havemeyer (July 28, 1855 – January 6, 1929) was an art collector, feminist, and philanthropist. In addition to being a patron of impressionist art, she was one of the more prominent contributors to the suffrage movement in the United States. The impressionist painter Edgar Degas and feminist Alice Paul were among the renowned recipients of the benefactor's support.


Louisine was born in New York to a merchant George W. Elder (1831–1873) and his wife, Mathilda Adelaide Waldron (1834–1907). Shortly after her father's death, her mother elected to tour Europe instead of remarrying, and brought her along with her sister.

Life in Paris[edit]

While studying at Marie Del Sarte's boarding school in Paris, Havemeyer encountered fellow art student (and boarder) — Emily Sartain. Sartain, a Philadelphia native, got along fairly well with Havemeyer, and introduced her to Mary Cassatt — a fellow native of Pennsylvania (Allegheny City, now part of Pittsburgh) whom Sartain had studied with in Parma, Italy. As time passed, Cassatt became an advisor to Havemeyer, and facilitated the working relationship which Havemeyer would eventually have with Degas. Mary Cassatt also persuaded her to buy the work of Claude Monet. A lifelong friendship developed between Havemeyer and Cassatt, who later made several pastels of Louisine and her children.

Together with her husband, Louisine would build perhaps the finest art collection in America. Her three story manse at Fifth Avenue and East 66th Street in New York was filled with the finest possible examples of works by Manet, El Greco, Rembrandt, and Corot. The home was decorated 1889-1990 by Louis Comfort Tiffany and Samuel Colman, who made it an elegant showplace for their patron's varied and important collections.[1] Henry Clay Frick, J.P. Morgan, and Mrs. Isabella Stewart Gardner were among the collectors with which Mr. and Mrs. Havemeyer would have known and competed.

Family life[edit]

On August 22, 1883, a decade after her father's death, Louisine married Henry O. Havemeyer of the American Sugar Refining Company.*

Louisine and Henry Osborne had three children:

  • Adaline Havemeyer, a.k.a. Mrs. Peter H.B. Frelinghuysen — (1884–1963)
  • Horace Havemeyer — (1886–1956)
  • Electra Havemeyer, a.k.a. Mrs. James Watson Webb — (1888–1960)

* (Prior to his marriage to Louisine, Henry was married to Louisine's aunt Mary Louise Elder (1847-1897), but that marriage ended in divorce.)


In addition to her standing as an early and important collector of Impressionist art, Louisine Havemeyer was an advocate of women's rights.

Policeman in Syracuse welcoming Louisine Havemeyer on the arrival of the Prison Special in 1919.

Suffrage activist[edit]

After her husband's death in 1907, Mrs. Havemeyer focused her attention on the suffrage movement. In 1913, she founded the National Woman's Party with the radical suffragette Alice Paul. (The organization was previously known as the "Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage".) With the financial backing of Mrs. Havemeyer and others like her, Ms. Paul launched an increasingly confrontational series of protests that agitated for the right to vote. Paul's most famous efforts were the National Suffrage Parade, which produced a riot on the eve of President Woodrow Wilson's inauguration, and the wartime picketing of the White House. During the latter Paul used portions of the President's speeches heralding the defense of democracy in Europe which she masterfully contrasted with the denial of liberty to American women. When jailed for obstructing traffic she hunger struck, bringing tremendous pressure to bear on the Congress and Wilson Administration. The Nineteenth Amendment, which extended voting rights to women, was debated and ratified shortly thereafter.

Louisine Havemeyer became a well-known suffragette, publishing two articles about her work for the cause in Scribner's Magazine. The first, entitled "The Prison Special: Memories of a Militant", appeared in May 1922, and the other, "The Suffrage Torch: Memories of a Militant" appeared in June the same year.[2] In 1912 and 1915, Mrs. Havemeyer organized exhibitions of art works from her collection at Knoedler Gallery to raise funds to support suffrage efforts.[3] She participated in marches, much to the dismay of her children[citation needed], down New York's famed Fifth Avenue and addressed a standing room only audience at Carnegie Hall upon the completion of a nationwide speaking tour. A famous photograph of Mrs. Havemeyer shows her with an electric torch, similar in design to that of the Statue of Liberty, among other prominent suffragettes. Her attempt to burn an effigy of President Wilson outside the White House in 1919 drew national attention.

After a period of failing health, Mrs. Havemeyer died in 1929. Mrs. Havemeyer is interred at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. The terms of her will left a few choice paintings to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The final bequest, made possibly by the generosity of her children, included nearly two-thousand works that enrich nearly every segment of the museum's collections.

Many Tiffany pieces from her Fifth Avenue home, including a magnificent peacock mantelpiece decoration, and a chandelier are on permanent display at the University of Michigan Museum of Art.[4] A portion of the Music Room furniture suite is on view at the Shelburne Museum.[5]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Weitzenhoffer, Frances (1986). The Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America. New York: Harry Abrams. ISBN 978-0-8109-1096-6. 
  2. ^ Gere, Charlotte; Vaizey, Marina (1999). Great women collectors. London: P. Wilson. p. 138. ISBN 0856675032. 
  3. ^ Pollock, Griselda (1999). Differencing the Canon: Feminism and the Writing of Art's Histories. London: Routledge. ISBN 1135084475. 
  4. ^ "University of Michigan Museum of Art catalog". Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  5. ^ "Electra Havemeyer Webb Memorial Building at Shelburne Museum". Retrieved 8 May 2011. 

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