The Blanche Ames Gallery is named for an exceptional Unitarian Universalist who serves as an inspiration to us today.
Blanche Ames’ life and work bridged the 19th and 20th centuries. Born in Lowell, MA in 1878, her influence in the arts and sciences continued until her death in 1969. The range of her art included oil portraits of prominent people, minutely observed drawings and etchings of orchids, even witty political cartoons. She illustrated her husband Oakes’ scholarly seven volume treatise on orchids, which is still used and is considered the best researched and classified of all the large plant families. Her etchings can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and her oil paintings at Harvard, Dartmouth, Columbia and Phillips Exeter Academy as well as the Mississippi State Hall of Governors.
Ames' endeavors extended beyond art. She was a feminist, a leader in civic and charitable affairs, an inventor, an engineer, and an author. For themselves, Blanche and Oakes designed and built their home in North Easton, MA. They named their beautiful stone mansion and its surrounding 1250 acres Borderland. Here, they raised four children. Ames engineered dams and ponds throughout the estate. Her patented inventions include a hexagonal lumber cutter, a method to ensnare enemy airplanes, and a water pollution device. Ames was an active lobbyist for women’s rights to birth control and suffrage. As a member of the board of directors of the New England Hospital for Women and Children, she raised sufficient funds to ensure an exclusively female staff and administration for that institution.
Blanche Ames survived her husband by 19 years, maintaining an active life. At age 80, she wrote a biography of her father, entitled Adelbert Ames: Broken Oaths and Reconstruction in Mississippi, 1853-1933. At age 90, she received the patent for her invention, “the antipollution toilet.” Her daughter said of her mother’s many accomplishments, “For her to have an idea was to act.”
In 1969, Ames suffered a stroke and died in her Borderland home. Memorial services were held at the Unitarian Church of North Easton, MA, where her eulogy included appreciation for her many contributions to various causes, but especially her expression of nature in her art as a lasting gift to all. Today, her beautiful estate and surrounding acreage are a Massachusetts State Park named Borderland.