Two of Evelyn Longman Batchelder‘s standing bas-relief monuments are in the Lowell Cemetery in Lowell, Mass. Lowell Cemetery is a lovely 19th-century “garden” cemetery with an intriguing history, and just as intriguing are Longman’s graceful and poignant masterpieces.
The larger is Longman’s monument to Louisa Maria Wells, known also as the “Mill Girl” monument. Wells worked all her life in the Lowell mills, and never married. Her will provided for the memorial, which depicts an angel soothing a weary woman who rests her head on one hand and lets a bobbin drop from the other. The inscription reads: “Out of the fibre of her daily tasks/she wove the fabric of a useful life/Louisa Maria Wells/Died February 20, 1886.” Longman’s beautiful carving catches one by surprise. Instead of stock representations of Victorian sentiment (an angel, a fading mortal, the enveloping drapery of death), the figures radiate emotion and purpose; their faces, gestures, and clothing are individual and specific.
The bronze high relief figure of death on the Storey memorial is (unfortunately) in a state of picturesque deterioration. A cloaked woman holds a finger to her lips, gesturing for silence. In her left hand she holds a key, and a poppy, symbol of death, sleep, and forgetting. Smaller than the lifesize women on the Wells memorial, this stately figure is similarly arresting in the thoughtfulness of its execution. Longman, working with and within the conventional and antique symbology of death and resurrection, has endowed her figures with an individuality and humanity that communicates to us even after a hundred years.