Helen Adelia Rowe Metcalf

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Helen Adelia Metcalf (Rowe)

Birthdate: (65)
Death: 1895 (65)
Immediate Family:

Wife of Jesse Metcalf
Mother of Stephen Olney Metcalf and Jesse H. Metcalf, U.S. Senator

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About Helen Adelia Rowe Metcalf


Helen Adelia Rowe Metcalf (1830-1895) was a founder and director of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence, Rhode Island.


Helen Adelia Rowe Metcalf was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1831. In 1852 she married Jesse Metcalf, who was a cotton buyer in the South for several years prior to the Civil War and then became a textile manufacturer in Providence, co-founding the Wanskuck Company in 1862 in Wanskuck, in the city's North End. Helen Metcalf taught at Sunday school and was an organist.

Helen Metcalf helped to found RISD in 1877 after she and a group of Rhode Island women traveled to the 1876 Centennial Celebration and were impressed by the arts displayed there. The group returned to Rhode Island with excess funds (in the amount of $1,675) which the group decided use to start an art school in Providence. The first class was mostly composed of women, who received education in "useful arts, as, for example, designing for calico printers, for jewelers' designs, for carriage and furniture making."

Metcalf directed the school until her death in 1895. Her involvement was direct and hands-on, and she took a keen interest in everything from teaching methods of the faculty, encouraging the students in their work, arranging the furniture in the most effective ways, and driving school fundraising efforts.

She was buried in the Swan Point Cemetery. Metcalf's daughter Eliza Greene Metcalf Radeke, served as president of the school after her mother's death. Metcalf's son, U.S. Senator Jesse H. Metcalf also served as a RISD trustee. She was inducted into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame in 1996.

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Helen Adelia Rowe Metcalf's Timeline

Age 27
November 16, 1860
Age 30
Providence, Rhode Island, United States
Age 65