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Eliza Allen Starr

Eliza Allen Starr

Born at Deerfield, Massachusetts, 29 August, 1824; died at Durand, Illinois, 8 September, 1901.

She was educated at her father's home. On her father's side she was descended from Dr. Comfort Starr of Ashford, County Kent, England, who settled at Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1633, and, on her mother's side, from the "Allans of the Bars", who came from Chelmsford Essex, England. She inherited the love of literature from her parents, and when thirteen years of age went to Boston, where she finished her studies in 1845. In Boston she opened a studio, but, the climate proving unfavorable to her health, she moved to Brooklyn, thence to Philadelphia. She finally accepted a position as teacher in the family of a wealthy planter at Natchez, Mississippi. In 1853 she returned to Brooklyn as teacher of drawing in a boarding school. In 1848 she returned to Philadelphia. It was during this visit to her family she met the Rt. Rev. Francis Patrick Kenrick, who later became Archbishop of Baltimore. It was from this saintly and learned churchman that the germs of faith already in her heart received their first activities. After an incessant struggle of nine years she was received into the Catholic Church at Boston by Bishop Fitzpatrick on 23 December, 1854, and made her first Communion on the following Christmas morning in the chapel of the Sisters of Charity. In 1856 Miss Starr entered upon a larger field of labor. In Chicago she found her life work. She labored with her pen, and with the pencil illustrated her books. She lectured throughout the United States, and in the auditorium of her home annually gave a course of ten lectures upon art and literature.

Her published works include:

  • "Songs of a Lifetime";
  • "Patron Saints";
  • "Pilgrims and Shrines";
  • "Isabella of Castile";
  • "What we see";
  • "Ode to Christopher Columbus";
  • "Christmas-tide";
  • "Christian art in our own age";
  • "The Seven Dolours of the Virgin Mary";
  • "Literature of Christian Art";
  • "The Three Keys to the Camera della Segnatura in the Vatican";
  • "Art in the Chicago Churches", published in the "New World";
  • "Woman's Work in Art"; and
  • "The Three Archangels and the Guardian Angels in Art."

In recognition of this last work Leo XIII sent to her a beautiful medallion. She was the first woman to receive the Laetare Medal, which was conferred on her in 1865 by the University of Notre Dame, Indiana.


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