Pride Month Special: Edith Emerson and Violet Oakley

Grayscale photo of two women. Woman on the left is wearing a shirt and vest. Woman on the right is wearing a dress. Woman on the right is reaching out and caressing the woman on the left's cheek with a flower.

As Philadelphia wraps up this year’s Pride Month celebrations, a look back at artists and lifelong companions Violet Oakley and Edith Emerson. Both were muralists and illustrators- Oakley painted the murals at the State Capitol in Harrisburg, Emerson’s work is on the walls of the Philadelphia Little Theatre. Violet was part of the Red Rose Girls, an all-female artist collective who lived together at the Mount Airy home they called Cogslea. When the Red Rose Girls disbanded, Edith and Violet moved in together and remained together until Violet’s death. Afterwards, Edith kept Violet’s studio open as a museum until 1981. Newspaper clipping showing three women seated on antique chairs. Caption reads: Where the book of Honor Will Be Kept: The Library in Historic Strawberry Mansion, which has been furninshed by Mrs. Cyrus H. K. Curtis. It is here that distinguished guests of Philadelphia will inscribe their names in the register. In the photograph are Miss Violet Oakley, Mrs. Hampton L. Carson and Miss Edith Emerson. In a newspaper clipping from 1931 the pair visit Strawberry Mansion to view the Book of Honor, a hand-calligraphed book of notable women in Pennsylvania history created by activist Sarah Dickson Lowrie and artist Carolyn Haywood. A book in a wood and glass case. Calligraphy in blue, red, and gold ink reads: The Book of Honor of Notable Women of Pennsylvania with illustrations of angels. An oil portrait in a guilded frame of a large woman in a high necked brown blouse, her hands clasped on a table in front of her. She looks like she means business.               The Book of Honor is still on display at Strawberry; so is Oakley’s imposing oil portrait of Lowrie. Schedule your visit today to view them and to learn more about Oakley, Emerson, and other women who made their impact on Philly’s history.

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