Woman of the Century/Nancy H. Adsit
ADSIT, Mrs. Nancy H., art-lecturer, born in Palermo, Oswego county, N.Y., 21st May, 1825. She is of New England Puritan lineage, is descended from the Mayflower Robinsons on the mother's side, and from the patriotic Warrens of Massachusetts on the father's side, her father being a clergyman and missionary. Her early life was a discipline in self-dependence, which aided and stimulated the development of an inherited force of character, enabling her to combat and conquer adverse conditions, overcome obstacles and from childhood mark out for herself and pursue steadily a career that has been crowned with success. At the age of thirteen years she assumed entire charge of herself and her fortunes. The expenses of a collegiate course, in Ingham University, were met by teaching and journalism. She was a regular contributor to the columns of the New York "Baptist Register," the Boston "Recorder," the New York "Tribune" and the "Western Literary Messenger." This earlier work was mostly in the line of poetic effusions and several series of "Lay Sermons" under the signature of "Probus." These sermons aroused intense antagonism in clerical circles, on account of their latitudinarianism on theologic questions. Heated and prolonged discussions followed each publication. "Probus," the unknown, was adjudged by a general council "guilty of heresy," and the sermons were denounced and condemned. The series was completed, however, and her identity was held sacredly between herself and the editor, and not until many years later, by her own voluntary confession, was the writer identified. Meanwhile the thought of the clergy, as of the world at large, had broadened, and the sermons were no longer under proscription. Mrs. Adsit was married to Charles Davenport Adsit, of Buffalo, N. Y., 13th December, 1862. Her home during the next three years was at 11 North Division street, in that city. Alternating literary, charitable and church work with her domestic duties, she developed an ideal home. They removed to Milwaukee, Wis., in 1865, where Mr. Adsit died in 1873, leaving the erstwhile happy wife charged with large responsibilities in a hitherto unexplored field. Mrs. Adsit immediately assumed the entire charge and management of a general insurance agency, at once meeting every requirement of its multiform duties in person. She was the first woman in general insurance in this country, and, so far as is known, in the world. Protests from family friends and jealous antagonisms on the part of business competitors met her at the threshold of the work, but she won public favor as she gave assurance of ability, until the work was crowned with such success as to leave no cause for its further prosecution. Accordingly, Mrs. Adsit sold the business, with her good will, and resumed the pen as a more congenial exponent of her taste. Her range of work was many sided, reaching from the political questions of the day to science and art. Her contributions to the London "Art Journal," many years since, brought a request for a series of articles on the "White and Black in Art," or "Etching and Engraving." Finding no satisfactory data for thorough investigation in books, she visited the studios of artists as well as the workshops of engravers, gathering at first NANCY H. ADSIT. hands the necessary information, even to the practical use of the tools of each craft. An entire year was consumed in this preparatory work. Months before the articles were completed the demand for parlor conversation on the topics which so absorbed her induced Mrs Adsit to open her home to groups of ladies and gentlemen, who cared to take up the study in earnest. The field of her labor gradually broadened, and during the last thirteen years she has given her lecture courses in nearly all the principal cities east and west. Her name is now prominently identified with art education, both in this country and abroad. While Mrs. Adsit disclaims being an artist, she is yet a most competent and thorough critic and elucidator of art. Her criticisms of prints, especially, are sought by connoisseurs and collectors. The secret of her success lies in the fact that her work is simply the expression of her own personality. Her abounding enthusiasm carries her audiences on its forceful tide. In a recent report of its Wisconsin secretary to the Association for the Advancement of Women, of which Mrs. Adsit is one of the vice-presidents, the writer says: "To Mrs. C. D. Adsit's work is due, directly or indirectly, most of the art interest in our State as well as the entire West." Her own adverse experiences have quickened and enlarged her sympathies toward all working women, to whom she gives not only wholesome advice, but also substantial aid. Her pleasant home in Milwaukee is a center of art and of delightful social interchange.