State Historical Marker “Creative Women of Fishers Hill” To Be Dedicated in Strasburg

Published September 30, 2021

Department of Historic Resources ( For Immediate Release September 30, 2021

Contact: Randy Jones, DHR 540-578-3031

—Shenandoah County marker highlights three women (two painters and one writer) who gained national prominence for their work during late 1800s

Marker text reproduced below and photos of women available on this webpage

RICHMOND – A state historical marker issued by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources will be dedicated this weekend that highlights three women—two painters, Bertha Von Hillern and Maria J. C. a’ Becket, and writer Emma Howard Wright—who lived in the Fishers Hill area of Shenandoah County during the 1880s and gained national prominence for their creative endeavors. The public dedication ceremony for the marker will be held at Strasburg Square, in Strasburg, beginning at 1:30 p.m., Sunday, October 3. Event speakers will include Strasburg Mayor Brandy Hawkins Boies; Shenandoah County Supervisors Tim Taylor and Dennis Morris; David Edwards of the Department of Historic Resources; marker researchers Cheryl Lyon, Neil Thorne, and Hope Brim. Painter, teacher, and independent scholar Christopher Volpe will offer keynote remarks. The Strasburg High School Tri-M Honor Society will provide musical contributions. The paintings of Von Hillern (ca. 1857-1939) and J.C. a’ Becket were influenced by the French Barbizon Movement, most active during the period between 1830 and 1870. The women, who shared a studio, “drew inspiration from the rugged forests” of the area around Fishers Hill, according to the marker. Their landscape paintings were exhibited in upscale galleries and at World’s Fairs. Emma Howard Wright (ca. 1863-1935) arrived to Fishers Hill in the late 1880s and produced novels, short stories, plays, radio dramas, and photoplays. Today, all three women’s work is “largely forgotten,” according to the marker. The “Creative Women of Fishers Hill” marker was approved for manufacture and installation in 2020 by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, which is authorized to designate new state historical markers. The marker’s manufacturing costs were covered by the sponsor, Fishers Hill Ladies Project. Virginia’s historical highway marker program, which began in 1927 with the installation of the first historical markers along U.S. Route 1, is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,600 official state markers, most maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, and by local partners in jurisdictions outside of VDOT’s authority. [PLEASE NOTE: DHR markers are erected not to “honor” their subjects but rather to educate and inform the public about a person, place, or event of regional, state, or national importance. In this regard, markers are not memorials.] Text of marker: Creative Women of Fishers Hill Three women who achieved national prominence for their creative endeavors, but were later largely forgotten, lived near Fishers Hill during the 1880s. Landscape painter Bertha Von Hillern (ca. 1857-1939), once renowned as a competitive endurance walker, shared a studio 1.5 miles northwest of here with painter Maria J. C. a’ Becket (1839-1904). The women, influenced by the French Barbizon Movement, drew inspiration from the rugged forests of this area, exhibited their works at elite galleries and World’s Fairs, and mentored one another. Emma Howard Wight (ca. 1863-1935) arrived here late in the 1880s and became a prolific author of novels, short stories, plays, radio dramas, and photoplays.

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