|Blanche with her brother Adelbert and charts from the
Blanche Ames (1878-1969) was an
artist, feminist, author and inventor. Leading citizens of
Lowell, Massachusetts, her parents believed in the equality
of women and encouraged their daughters to pursue higher education.
When Blanche entered Smith College in 1895, she was one of
a small minority of American women of her generation who attended
college. As president of the Class of 1899, she gave the commencement
address. She told her audience, which included President McKinley, “We
are fortunate to live in an age that—more than any other—makes
it possible for women to attain the best and truest development
One year after graduation, Blanche married Oakes Ames and moved
to North Easton. Between 1901 and 1910, she and Oakes had four
children. While raising her children and maintaining the family’s
winter and summer households, Blanche found time to create an
extensive body of portrait work, develop a color chart system,
and collaborate with Oakes on his botanical publications.
Although her family and her art were her primary concerns,
Blanche actively pursued a variety of other interests. A lifelong
supporter of woman suffrage, Blanche produced a series of political
cartoons that received national attention. In 1916, she co-founded
the Birth Control League of Massachusetts, an affiliate of
Margaret Sanger’s national group. During World War II, having noticed
that thread could snarl and jam a sewing machine motor, Blanche
used that same principle to design a device to ensnare low-flying
aircraft. The machine was demonstrated on the lawn at Borderland
for guests from the Pentagon. Although accepted by the U.S. Army,
it came too late for practical application in the war.
Angered by a passage in John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage,
criticizing her father as a “carpetbagger,” Blanche
set out to write a biography that would vindicate him and “correct” history.
She was eighty years old when she began the project. The research
took six years, and in 1964, Adelbert Ames: Broken Oaths and
Reconstruction in Mississippi was published.