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 Sarah Cheney Willoughby  (1841 - 1913)

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Lived/Active: Washington/Massachusetts      Known for: Indian figure, still life, marine

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Sarah Cheney Willoughby was born May 27, 1841, in Lowell, Massachusetts, growing up there. After attending an unknown college in New England, she was lured to the West in 1862 by an eighty dollar a month position teaching art and music in a recently established territorial university in Seattle, Washington. But, when there were not enough students to hold the classes, she got another job in Port Townsend, Washington, where she met a captain of a Coastal Survey ship, Charles B. Willoughby, marrying him in October 1865.

The artist did her most lasting work in a decade among the Makah and Quinault Indians, when her husband became a government agent to the Makahs in 1877, until performing the same duties with the Quinaults from 1882 until his death in 1888. The family lived on the Neah Bay agency in northwestern Clallam County during his first assignment, then the Quinault agency at Taholah, Chehallis County (now Grays Harbor). Sarah Willoughby made drawings in pencil, pen and ink, and English wax crayon, of the Indians homes, activities, and artifacts. Many of her works were used to illustrate her husband's government reports, and were published Smithsonian Institution leaflets. The University of Washington, in Seattle, has eleven of Willoughby's drawings of the main street into the village of the Quinault; an Indian graveyard; Indians spearing salmon; the towers of sea-otter hunters; and others.

Before living around the Indians, Willoughby had five children during the first twelve years of her marriage when the family lived in Port Townsend and her husband continued his work at sea. After his death in 1888, she returned permanently to Port Townsend, where she invested in The Call, a newspaper managed by her sons; made sound real estate investments; and continued her involvement in art activities and community affairs. Sarah Willoughby died November 7, 1913, in Port Townsend.

References to Sarah Willoughby's life and art include: Gerdts 3; Dawdy 3; Trip & Cook; Port Townsend Daily Leader, 8 Nov 1913; Seattle Times, 28 Jan 1951; US Census 1850, Middlesex County, MA, pg 291; US Census 1870, Jefferson County, WA, pg 82; US Census 1880, Clallam County, WA, ED 33, pg 1; US Census 1900, Jefferson County, WA, ED 50, pg 5; D. McBride (Washington State Capitol Museum), 1975; R. D. Monroe (Special Collections, University of Washington), 1975.

Phil Kovinick and Marian Yoshiki Kovinick, "An Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West"

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