Holt, Winifred (1870–1945)

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Holt, Winifred (1870–1945)

American sculptor, writer, and philanthropist. Name variations: Winifred Holt Mather; Mrs. Rufus Graves Mather. Born Winifred Holt in New York City on November 17, 1870; died of hypertensive heart disease in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, on June 14, 1945; interred at Evergreen Cemetery in Morristown, New Jersey; second daughter and fourth of seven children of

Henry Holt (the publisher) and Mary Florence (West) Holt; sister of Edith Holt (also a philanthropist); educated in private schools, ending with Brearley School in New York; studied anatomy and sculpture in Florence, Italy, and with Augustus Saint-Gaudens; married Rufus G. Mather (a researcher and lecturer on art), on November 16, 1922; no children.

Selected writings:

A Short Life of Henry Fawcett, the Blind Postmaster General of England (1911); The Beacon for the Blind (1914); The Light Which Cannot Fail (1922). Also author of numerous papers on the blind.

Winifred Holt was born in New York City on November 17, 1870, the daughter of publisher Henry Holt and Mary West Holt . Her mother died when she was eight. Though Winifred attended private schools and had a fragile constitution, her father intentionally expanded her sphere by having her serve one day a week at the Neighborhood Settlement in the Bowery. In the 1890s, Winifred was waylaid by malaria and advised to travel abroad. While in Florence, Italy, she studied anatomy and sculpture. She later studied with Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Her principal works were portraits, busts, and bas-reliefs, including a sculpture of Helen Keller .

Winifred Holt is best known, however, as the founder (along with her sister Edith Holt ) of the New York Association for the Blind. Started in Winifred's home in 1912, the organization soon moved to a rented loft where classes in sewing, typing, stenography, broom making, and other marketable skills were offered. Only one year later, classroom, workshops, and offices were moved to a permanent location and named the Lighthouse. It was dedicated by President William Howard Taft.

In 1915, Holt organized the first Lighthouse for the Blind in France. The following year, she lectured in leading cities of the United States on work for blinded soldiers, and established a number of Lighthouses in France and Italy; eventually, the international Lighthouse movement would spread to over 30 nations. Winifred Holt also created Searchlight, the first Braille magazine for children, and was instrumental in mainstreaming blind children into regular public-school classrooms. Her services were honored with various medals, including awards from the National Institute of Social Sciences (1914) and the Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor (1921). In 1922, she published the auto-biographical The Light Which Cannot Fail.

suggested reading:

Mather, Winifred Holt. First Lady of the Lighthouse. Lighthouse of the New York Association of the Blind, 1952.

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