Anna Coleman Ladd: an artist's contributions to World War I

By Kelly Quinn

November 10, 2014

For Veterans Day, Kelly Quinn, the Terra Foundation Project Manager for Online Scholarly and Educational Initiatives, looks at the contributions of artist Anna Coleman Ladd in aiding soldiers disfigured during World War I.

Photograph of Anna Coleman Ladd
Anna Coleman Ladd, 1901 January / Fratelli D’Alessandri (Firm), photographer. Anna Coleman Ladd papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

In April 1919, Mrs. Charles Bochman wrote a note of thanks to sculptor Anna Coleman Ladd for a lecture Ladd delivered to a local chapter of the American Red Cross. Ladd had recently returned to the U.S. after a year abroad in France where she founded the American Red Cross Studio for Portrait-Masks. Ladd addressed the ladies’ auxiliary about her work crafting personalized cosmetic sculptures to be worn by men who had been badly disfigured in combat. She described the task of designing copper masks, characterized by Mrs. Bochman as “one of the saddest and most important features of the war.”

Mrs. Bochman’s letter is among Anna Coleman Ladd’s personal papers that are fully digitized and available online at the Terra Foundation Center for Digital Collections.

Recently, journalists have turned their attention to the collection and described Anna Coleman Ladd’s work in feature stories for radio and web publication. And, several years ago, art historian David Lubin wrote an essay for Archives of American Art Journal.

Veterans Day provides an opportune time to return to her records and their pieces to learn how an American woman artist contributed to the war effort during World War I.

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Kelly Quinn is the Terra Foundation Project Manager for Online Scholarly and Educational Initiatives at the Archives of American Art.