Vol. I No. 09 12/1/2020
by Carole Owens
In the last issue of SU, we ran an image of Vice President Elect Kamala Harris in a dark suit briefcase in hand striding beside a white wall. On the wall is the silhouette of a little girl taken from a painting by Norman Rockwell.
The silhouette represented six-year-old Ruby Bridges breaking the color barrier by attending the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana. From the first Black female in an all-white school to first female of color elected Vice President, the image was created by Bria Goeller who said, "We hoped it would inspire young women." The Goeller image went viral.
Sixty years earlier the Rockwell image became an iconic image of the civil rights movement. It was commissioned in 1960 by Look magazine and ran on the January 14, 1964 cover. Rockwell called it "The Problems We All Live With". It was painted in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and the model for six-year-old Ruby Bridges was eight-year-old Stockbridge resident Lynda Gunn. It is amazing how often pivotal moments in American history have a connection to this tiny Massachusetts village.
Never was Stockbridge more than a village. Founded in 1739, its population was virtually unchanged in its 281-year history. And yet…
Stockbridge was home to:
- Three Supreme Court Justices: Stephen Johnson Field appointed by Abraham Lincoln; David Josiah Brewer and Henry Billings appointed by Benjamin Harrison
- The man who laid the transatlantic cable, Cyrus Field
- The man who invented the electric trolley car, Stephen Field
- President Thomas Jefferson's aide, Congressman Barnabas Bidwell
- Vice President Aaron Burr's mother, Esther Edwards Burr
The first transatlantic cable was received in Stockbridge. It was sent from Cyrus Field to his brother Jonathan. The Hudson River School painters, Frederick Edwin Church, Asher B. Durand and George Inness painted the Housatonic River, Monument Mountain and Gould Meadows to name a few locations in Stockbridge.
While residing in Stockbridge:
- Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote A Wonder Book for Boys and Girls, House of Seven Gables, and collected his first royalty check for The Scarlet Letter.
- Frank Crowninshield and Norman Rockwell created the illustrations for Vanity Fair and the covers of the Saturday Evening Post.
- Author Catharine Sedgwick created the images symbolic of American life in words as Rockwell did a century later in pictures.
The description of the village itself became synonymous with Americana. The history of Stockbridge was more than a picture or a paragraph, it was a window into who we were as Americans and who we wished to be. The people of Stockbridge contributed to the history of the nation.
Ours is a history worth preserving.
View near Stockbridge by Frederic Edwin Church