A Short Biography of Cape Cod Artist
Alice Lucy Ware Armstrong by granddaughter Junardi Armstrong
Alice Ware Armstrong was born in Worcester, MA on October 6, 1876 to Elizabeth Hoxie Ware and Justin Arthur Ware.
She is descended from Joseph Hoxie 3d (MA State Representative) and Mary Holway of Sandwich, MA and Alonzo L. Ware (bookmaker) and Lucy M. Farrar of Holden, MA.
At the age of eighteen mos. she lost her hearing due to inflammation in her ears. Her parents refused to let that dominate her life and so never wavered in their commitment to give her as normal a life as possible. Her first formal schooling was at Clark School for the Deaf at Smith College in Northampton, MA, from 1881 through her graduation in 1893. Her murals in Baker Hall “gave pleasure to the children there”. Alice also studied with Bessie S. Lathrop, a noted woodworking teacher.
Alice’s hand carved secretary desk in her room at home.
Because of her gregarious nature and social skills, Alice was chosen to hostess Alexander Graham Bell when he visited. Helen Keller befriended her while there and later visited her as a young mother at Meadow Spring Farm, her home on Cape Cod. She attended Moses Brown School in RI. the Worcester Museum of Fine Arts School, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School and The Cowles Art School in Boston. One of her oil paintings,“ Woman in A Red Dress”, was accepted into the 71st Exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts Exhibition of 1902, along with Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, J. McNeil Whistler, Maxfield Parrish, Mary Cassatt, and Jessie Wilcox Smith.
Justin and Lizzy presented Alice into Worcester society as a young debutant and early photos show that she had a rich and varied social life, including theater play, trips to the beach and painting outings.
She lived at a time when her disability rendered her “deaf and dumb” and an outsider to those not in her inner circle of friends and family. There was still a stigma attached to being deaf in the culture at that time.
Her early life as a wife and mother was a rather idyllic and peaceful farm life on Cape Cod a mile walk through the woods, bogs and beyond the dunes to their own private beach on Cape Cod Bay.
She continued her painting and taught her children in many media while mentoring her cousin Rachel Kaufman who became a recognized fine artist.
Meadow Spring Farm
Meadow Spring was a dairy farm and David delivered milk as far away as Hyannis Port. Their oldest son Donald, after having adenoid surgery, came home with Diphtheria he’d contracted when an epidemic spread through the Boston Hospital. I later discovered in family letters that there had been an outbreak at the hospital and the administration was afraid of causing a panic, so they didn’t report it right away. He died tragically at the age of 12 in their quarantined home. Later, their youngest child, Dorcas, had a serious knee injury and spent years having multiple surgeries at the Boston Hospital even attending the Hospital High School.
After Alice’s parents died, the family’s funds ran out. Alice began selling handmade items at her friend Ann Wells Munger’s gallery, “The Sign of the Pines” in South Wellfleet, on the Cape. She then taught herself to weave and began selling her weaving’s. She had two to three stand up looms in the house at one time, and wove bed coverlets, rugs, shawls, bags, and scarves while keeping detailed records of her work and sales. Her pieces began to sell and help pay off some of the medical bills. At that time she was also initiating a fund raising campaign for her alma mater Clarke School. Alice kept records in all her works including pigments and how she mixed them, recipes for cements, wood coloring and modeling clay, stenciling and mosaics. Her weaving’s were described in “House Beautiful” of December 1927, as: “lovely coloring of the hand-woven cover… It goes through the whole rainbow of deep pastel shades, from a soft-violet to a very deep rose so that wherever you might place it you could find an answering note of color.” Frequently, her weaving’s were exhibited at the Sandwich and Barnstable County Fairs, as well as in shops around MA and NY. I’m not sure of the year, but she opened a weaving shop at the Daniel Webster Inn with the intention of enlisting the women of Sandwich in creating a cottage industry in weaving to offset the closing of the Sandwich Glass Company. That venture failed after almost a year. She then returned home and continued to create and sell weaving’s for many years.
Standard Times article
Alice was a member of a women’s writers group who met regularly and published in the Cedarville Journal.
Alice writing in her garden
Alice was member of the Cape Cod Artists Society and of the Boston Arts and Crafts Society co-founded by her close friend and cousin Mary Ware Dennett (another Ware who was responsible in large part for the Comstock laws to be changed in the early 1900’s). * See The Sex Side of Life by Constance M. Chen, The New Press, NY (biography of Mary Ware Dennett)
Alice driving her rubber wheeled surrey.
As a wife and mother she canned the farm’s fruits and vegetables, and made cheese and butter, all the while encouraging her children in the arts. A Cape Cod artist, feminist, freethinker, and mother of four at a time when the deaf were often isolated from society, Alice was a unique and inspiring woman. She kept many letters, records and journals. Some of which survive today. Meadow Spring Farm was sold in 1995 after being in the family for three hundred years. Her artwork, letters, journals, record keeping and personal artifacts are still in the possession of the family members. Our hope is that there might be some interest in preserving her work in an archive. Her works in oil, pastel, watercolor, charcoal, and woodcarving is still held by the family. I’ve been inspired by her work, her letters, her journals and her life for most of my own life and feel it would be a travesty for her life story and work to be lost. I have no doubt it would inspire others.