Oakes Ames | Blanche Ames Ames | Ames Family History | Life at Borderland

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 in life.”

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.