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The Potters: Biographies

Vine Colby Born March 11, 1886 in Detroit, Michigan. Graduated from Central High School in 1904. She kept the "Potter's Log" of the events surrounding the group's activities. Essayist and short story writer for The Potter’s Wheel.  She went on to a career in journalism and published acclaimed short stories. In the 1910 Census, she was living with her parents in St. Louis and listed as an "occasional" member of the "editorial staff at Washington University." Married Charles Orville McCasland November 2, 1912, after living in California for several years. In 1940 Census she is listed with the family in Pasadena, California. Died September 15, 1971 in Santa Barbara, California

Inez George Dutro Born 1883 in St. Louis. Died November 18, 1901 in Hutchinson, Kansas. 

Lillie Rose Ernst Born Sept 14, 1870 Graduated Magna Cum Laude-Washington U at St.L 1892, then taught botany at Central HS. Eventually became Assistant Superintendent of St. Louis Schools. She retired in August 1941. Buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery December 8, 1943.

Celia Ellen Harris Born Sept 13, 1885 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Graduated from Univ of Nebraska. Celia was the scribe for the Potters, and a writer interested in the Celtic Revival.  A graduate of the University of Nebraska, she became a reporter and worked for the Charity Organizations Society in New York City. Ashes buried at El Carmelo Cemetery, Pacific Grove, Cal. Died January 18, 1976 in Monterey, California. 

Edna Wahlert McCourt Born July 19, 1887 in Denver, Colorado. Married Prof. Walter Edward McCourt in 1908 who was head of Geology Dept at Washington U. Edna published poems and stories and modeled in costumes for the Parrish sisters’ photographs.  She won debates as a young woman and published a particularly striking feminist short story entitled “Her America” in The Potter’s Wheel, republished in Seeking St. Louis: Voices from a River City, 1670-2000 edited by Lee Ann Sandweiss. Died January 1963. Buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery. 

Grace Parrish (1882-1954), Williamina’s younger sister.  She was also a very successful photographer in St. Louis, a model, and a violinist.

Williamina Parrish (1880-1940). Williamina “Will” was considered the editor and leader of the Potters.  With her sister, Grace, she ran a photography studio in St. Louis. She was also a painter and poet.  Her photographs were published widely in photography journals and were praised for their artistic aesthetic.

Caroline Risque (1883-1952).  Risque was a talented painter and sculptor, who lived in New Orleans and St. Louis. She was the Art Department chair at the John Burroughs School and studied at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts, the Art Student League of New York, and the Colarossi Academy in Paris, where she exhibited work in the 1912 Paris Salon.  Each year the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts awards the Caroline Risque Janis Prize in Sculpture in her memory.

Petronelle Sombart (1897-1949). Sombart was a talented actress, artist and designer.  She performed on Broadway and translated dramatic works from the Italian.

Sara Teasdale (1884-1933).  Teasdale was born in St. Louis, the youngest of her siblings by many years.  After graduating from Hosmer Hall School in 1903, she helped form the Potters' collective and began to circulate her poems, leading to her first published collection in 1907, Sonnets to Duse and Other Poems. Her illustrious career as a poet culminated in the 1918 Pulitzer Prize—the first Pulitzer for poetry ever awarded.  She died in 1933 of an overdose. 

Other Members: For more biographical information on other women associated with the Potters' collective, including their mentor, Lillie Rose Ernst, see "The Magazine as Mentor: A Turn-of-the-Century Handwritten Magazine by St. Louis Women Artists" by Lee Jolliffe in American Periodicals Vol. 7 (1997).

I am grateful to James B. Griffith, a volunteer researcher with the Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis, MO, who contacted me with additional biographical information on the Potters.