The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio


November 6, 2011

‘The disabilities of womanhood’

Female artist from Ashtabula County painted presidents and generals, but her work has slipped into obscurity

She was an artist in an era when most female artists had a rich daddy or banker husband behind them to bankroll their  pursuits upon the canvas.

Caroline L. Ormes Ransom of Harpersfield Township eventually had neither, although she started out well enough. Her father, John, settled in the area of Harpersfield Township where the covered bridge and metro park are located. He built a home, gristmill, sawmill and woolen factory there. More than two dozen workers were employed at these enterprises, and John Ransom built tenant houses and a company store for their benefit.

The ventures prospered, and the hamlet became known as Ransom’s Mills or Ransomville. John, who had a reputation for kindness, and his wife Elizabeth opened their home to the community and were well respected by neighbors and workers. Life was good in Ransomville, small as it was.

The Ransoms could afford to send Caroline, born in 1826, to the most prestigious school in the county, Grand River Institute. She excelled at Latin, Greek and earth sciences, graduated with honors and became a member of its faculty. She rose to the position of Ladies Department principal and was a professor of Greek and Latin.

 Her father, however, was generous and trusting to a fault. His finances started to crumble in the mid-1850s and his investment in a failed lottery scheme eliminated their assets. By August 1864 the family had closed out its businesses in Ransomville and moved to Cleveland. Caroline, established in the city as a professional artist, went from enjoying the security of a family with means to helping her aged, destitute parents survive in a society that offered no safety net for the aged.

Fortunately, Caroline was up to the task, for she possessed both talent and fortitude, and applied both in her effort to break into a world controlled by males. It has been accurately stated in print that she was a liberated woman long before the movement crystallized in the 20th century.

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