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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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Mrs. Harriet A. Ketchem

Harriet A. Ketchem, sculptor, was born in New Market, Ohio, July 12, 1846.  In 1851, she came with her parents to Mt. Pleasant.  She was educated in the public schools there and in the Iowa Wesleyan University, but did not complete the course, leaving school to marry William B. Ketchem.  They have three children:  Alfred, Earnest and Roma, the last one being born in Rome, her mother named her Roma.  It was not until after her marriage that she began working in clay;  her friends realized that the figures indicated artistic possibilities and persuaded her to go to Chicago to study.  She gave ten years of hard work and patient study to her art in this country, before she went to Italy, where she studied under several teachers, spending most of her time in Rome.  While there she made Peri at the Gates of Paradise her best known work, which was exhibited at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago and which received there favorable criticism by many art critics.  It is now in the library of the State House at Des Moines.  When the committee for the Iowa Soldiers' Monument asked for designs, forty-seven different models were submitted.  The one made by Mrs. Ketchem was accepted and the commission given to her.  She made busts of President Lincoln, Senator James Harlan, Senator W. B. Allison and of Judge Samuel F. Miller, all of which are prominently placed.  She was an untiring worker, and perhaps because of the nervous strain under which her ambition sometimes led her to work, she was stricken with paralysis and died in October, 1890.



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