Creator of Bushnell Park’s Spirit of Victory, Evelyn Beatrice Longman Batchelder was a longtime resident of Windsor, Conn., where her husband was headmaster at the Loomis-Chafee School. She also sculpted numerous other well-known monuments in Hartford, Windsor and around the country. Batchelder was the first woman to be allowed full membership in the National Academy of Design.
Evelyn Longman was born on a farm in Ohio, the daughter of Edwin Henry and Clara Adnam Longman. Her childhood was difficult and unhappy and, at the age of fourteen, she began working in a dry goods store. After six years she had earned enough money to begin studies at the Art Institute of Chicago. At the age of nineteen, she had discovered a love of sculpting after visiting the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. As an art student, her talent was soon recognized by her instructors and she was invited to work as an assistant instructor. She completed her four-year program in only two years, graduating with highest honors in 1900.
With only $40 in her pocket, she moved to New York City in 1901 and began to work with well-known sculptor Daniel Chester French. Her first recognized large-scale sculpture, Victory, was given a place on the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair Festival Hall. In 1915, the AT&T Company commissioned her Genius of Electricity, which was placed atop the company’s corporate headquarters in Manhattan. An image of the sculpture also appeared on all Bell telephone directories published from the late-1930s to the 1960s. Longman also worked closely with her mentor, Daniel French, who sought her advice on his own designs. She worked on some of French’s major projects, including the Lincoln Memorial, for which she sculpted numerous wreath, eagle and inscription ornaments and is said to have sculpted Lincoln’s hands. Longman’s reputation continued to grow as she received many important commissions and won major competitions. In 1919, she became the first female sculptor to receive full membership in the National Academy of Design.
In 1918 she was hired by Nathanial Horton Batchelder, headmaster of the Loomis Institute, to sculpt a memorial to his late wife. Two years later she married Batchelder, moving to Connecticut at the height of her career. The dozens of works she completed during her 30 years in Connecticut include the Williams Memorial, for which she received a gold medal from the National Academy of Design; Aenigma, for which she received a prize from the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts; a large bas-relief portrait of Daniel French for the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian; and the Spirit of Victory, Hartford’s famous Spanish-American War Memorial. Other commissioned works include a marble fountain in the lobby of the Hencksher Museum of Art, the Horsford Doors on the chapel of Wellesley College, the Great Bronze Memorial door at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. She is the only sculptor for whom Thomas Edison would sit and her bronze bust of the inventor is displayed at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.
At the time of her husband’s retirement, Batchelder moved her studio to Cape Cod, where she died in 1954 as one of the most respected and honored sculptors in American history.
In addition to Bushnell Park’s Spirit of Victory, many other Batchelder works are on display around Connecticut, including several in Windsor: Madonna and Child in the Grace Episcopal Church, the Eagle War Memorial, and the Founders of Windsor Memorial. Her last work, Victory of Mercy, is on display at the Loomis-Chaffee School.
During This Time
1921 - 1945: Prosperity, Depression, & War
Industrial growth, economic expansion, and plenty of consumer goods gave women more purchasing power and pleasure in the 1920s. Women gained political office, but after achieving the right to vote the Women’s Movement fractured over the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The percentage of married women in the workforce doubled, though in menial jobs, while women of color had few opportunities. The media’s message about the home was ambivalent. For daughters, the young flapper was glamorized in movies starring Clara Bow who had It (sex appeal). But the modern mother, equipped with widely-advertised appliances, was expected to keep house and raise children with new efficiency.
The prosperity of the twenties contrasted with the hardships of the 1930s following the 1929 stock market crash. Farm families in the Dust Bowl, suffering from drought and crop failures, fled to California where they worked as migratory laborers. As impoverished families across America struggled, desertion rose (but not divorce, which was expensive), and family size grew smaller. Women’s jobs were largely confined to low-paying domestic labor, garment factories, and food-processing plants, all further segregated by race and ethnicity.
In the midst of the Great Depression, President Roosevelt, helped by wife Eleanor, brought strong leadership toward recovery with the New Deal. Professional women were included in federal projects, and work relief programs gave help to poor women. The Social Security Act of 1935 owed much to Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, the first woman to serve in the Cabinet. African-American Mary McLeod Bethune, using her executive position in the National Youth Administration, pressured the administration to provide equal pay for blacks in all programs.
World War II deeply influenced women’s lives. Sex-segregated labor diminished, as symbolized in the poster of “Rosie the Riveter.” Women were accepted into the military, though the public was concerned about the loss of femininity. Defense industries were reluctant to admit women, but as men were drafted, the resistance eroded. Older, married women provided the largest number of new workers. Black, Mexican, and Chinese women had new opportunities, but Japanese women suffered internment in camps. With demobilization, women were laid off, but many were soon back on the job. Their role still was defined in the home, but the war had increased women’s activities in the workplace.
Special thanks to Barbara E. Lacey, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of History, St. Joseph's College (Hartford, CT) for preparing these historical summaries.