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The Blue Book of Iowa Women A History of Contemporary Women

Compiled by Winona Evans Reeves, 1914.


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Miss Nellie V. Walker

Miss Nellie Verne Walker, one of the well known American artists, was born in Red Oak, Dec. 8, 1874.  She is the daughter of Everett A. and Rebecca Jane Lindsey Walker of Moulton, to which town they moved when she was a little girl.  When she was still a child, she had the consciousness of her own ability, and one day asked her father --- who was a dealer in monuments, for a block of marble which he had on his shelf.  The piece of marble was probably worth ten dollars.  He hesitated and asked her why she wanted it;  she replied that she knew she could "make something."  She persisted for several days and finally appealed to her mother, who is ever the child's mediator, and she was given the marble.  She found a picture of Lincoln, which she set up before her, and with such tools as she found in her father's shop, went to work.  In a few days the face of Lincoln with its gaunt outlines emerged from the block of marble.  Finally the bust was finished and was displayed in the Iowa building at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago as the work of an Iowa girl.  There were six children in her father's family and not much money to be spent in developing her talent.  She studied stenography and worked in an office until she had enough money to pay her way to Chicago.  Lorado Taft tells the story of her coming this way:  "One day there walked into my studio, a little girl, who had come to Chicago to learn sculpture and make her mark in the world of art.  It was all arranged in her own mind, --- she had decided it.  It made no difference how steep or how hard the way, she was going to succeed.  And she has succeeded, and we are proud of her.  But one day, we are going to be very, very proud of her."  It was altogether characteristic of Miss Walker that she should to go the very best teacher she knew anything about.  Lorado Taft at once recognized her ability and has been her friend as well as her teacher.  During the first years in Chicago she supported herself by doing stenographer's work at odd hours and taught some in the are institute.  The way has not always been easy, but her spirit undaunted, and with faith in her own ability and an all consuming love for her art kept her steadfast to her purpose until today she stands well to the front among American sculptors.  She has executed many important commissions;  among them a statue of Winfield Scott Stratton, and also a memorial to him in Colorado Springs, the ideal group, "Her Son" which is in the Art Institute in Chicago, "Young Donatello," a statue of James Harlan in Washington, D. C., Memorials in Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, in Battle Creek and in Cadillac, Michigan, and the splendid bronze statue of Chief Keokuk in heroic size, which stands on the bluff overlooking the river in Rand Park, Keokuk.  In 1914 she went to Europe to study.  She had gone to Europe twice before but only for a short stay.  It was her purpose this time to stay a year, but a group of friends in Chicago, quite unknown to her made up a purse which will allow her to stay several years.  This gift was significant of the faith which the art-loving people of that great city have in her.  She is a tiny woman, only a little over five feet tall, --- modest, gracious and most lovable.  Her studio is on Ellis Ave., Chicago, in the Midway Studios.



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