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The School

Throughout her career, Violet Oakley worked for educational institutions that valued her as a role model as well as an artist. Three of the new women’s colleges were among her patrons. She designed Bryn Mawr’s first May Day program brochure in 1900; made memorials for two students in the Vassar College Alumnae HouseThe Great Wonder: A Vision of the Apocalypse and Memorial to a Music Student; and created the seal for Sarah Lawrence College in 1926.

Private schools in Pennsylvania were eager to have murals by the state’s famous woman artist. Chestnut Hill Academy, a private boys’ school, commissioned the frieze Heroism, Sacrifice, Service in 1907, and fifty years later Westtown Friends School requested a mural of George Fox on Pendle Hill. Students at Germantown Friends School engaged Oakley to design their school seal in 1924. For the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where Oakley studied and later taught, she designed a poster for the Fourth Annual Watercolor Exhibition in 1907 and the Philadelphia Watercolor Club Medal in 1945. Oakley did not consider designing posters, programs, medals, and school seals to be trivial or beneath her dignity as a fine artist. Like her historical counterparts, she took on these projects as a civic responsibility and a legitimate extension of the artist’s role in society.  

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