Mary Edmonia Lewis (ca. July 4, 1845 – ca. 1911) was the first African American and Native American woman to gain fame and recognition as a sculptor in the international fine arts world. She was of African American, Haitian and Ojibwe descent.
Early life and education
Her passport reads Mary Edmonia Lewis, born in July 1845 in Albany, New York, although the exact date of her birth is uncertain. Records indicate that she was actually born in Greenbush, New York, which is now the City of Rensselaer. Her inspiration for much of her artwork came from her ethnic background. Lewis' father was Haitian of African descent, while her mother was of Mississauga Ojibwe and African descent. Lewis’ mother was known as an excellent weaver and craftswoman.