Monday, April 28, 2008

William Keith, Painter & Mary McHenry Keith, Suffragette & Legal Pioneer

[Gravestone photo by Michael Colbruno]

Plot 14B

William Keith (1838-1911) was born in Scotland and moved to San Francisco in 1859 after a brief apprenticeship in New York City. He became one of the leading landscape artists of the time and was dubbed the "Dean of California Painters." He became lifelong friends with John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club, who shared Keith's love of the California landscape.

In 1891, he shared his studio with tonalist painter George Innes, Sr. and the two men became devotees of Swedenborgianism. Keith lived in Berkeley, but worked out of a studio in San Francisco. Tragically, about 2,ooo of his paintings were destroyed by the earthquake and fire of 1906. By the turn of the 20th century, Keith was the wealthiest painter in California and one of the richest in the entire country.

Keith Avenue in Berkeley is named after him.

A devoted follower and art professor named Brother Cornelius worked for twenty years on a book about William Keith and established a home for much of his collection at St. Mary's College in Moraga, California.

Mary McHenry Keith
(1855-1947) was the first female graduate of Hastings Law School and a leading suffragette. One of her classmates was future Governor George Pardee, another Mountain View Cemetery denizen.

She was the daughter of Judge John McHenry, a former Louisiana Supreme Court Justice who came to California in 1850. After marrying William Keith, she stopped dreaming of practicing law after just one year and dedicated the next chapter of her life to fighting for the right for women to vote and other issues of equality, including fighting prostitution and ending white slavery.

Her collection of letters, which included correspondence with Susan B. Anthony, is housed at the University of California at Berkeley. William Keith painted a portrait of Susan B. Anthony.

After William Keith's death, she catalogued over 100 pieces of his work, often loaning them out so that the public could enjoy his work.

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1 comment:

Chine Colle said...

I've combed through Plot 14B many times and have yet to find McHenry - Pond and Wm Keith grave marker. Am wondering if it has been moved. The folks at the office aren't so helpful.