Residential Stained Glass Windows

This window is not a residential window, but is included in this article as an example of an allegorical window. Many residential windows were designed as allegorical windows – that is they were symbolic, or the design within the window told a story that could be interpreted by people who knew the elements or symbols represented in the design. In the days before mass media such stories were important to establish the importance or beliefs of the resident, or the institution that embraced the story represented in the stained glass.
This window is a rare survivor from the Woman’s Building from the 1893 Chicago Exposition of 1893. A picture of the Woman’s Building is shown below.

Removed from the Woman’s Building before its destruction, the window and other decoration was stored in the Sibley Warehouse in Chicago. Then long thought lost, the previous owner of this window obtained it many years ago after it was stored in a barn in Michigan. No one knows how it came to be there. The window is in two pieces, a main light with two figures and a transom. The garments are of drapery glass, the background is machine made rippled glass. Some portions of the window are plated.

While flat-topped came is used on the figures, a narrow pointed top “colonial” lead came is used in the vines. The glass and leading are almost all original with very little evidence of repair and glass replacement.

Gift of the Charles Hinds Family to the Smith Museum.

The design of many stained glass windows in both residential and religious buildings formed an allegorical function, and symbolized a higher purpose than merely decoration of a space in a building. Many windows – like this one – were deeply symbolic, even political, and are important artifacts of their time period. Because of the well-documented history of this window, its allegorical importance has been included here, along with a photograph and a description of the Woman’s Building at the Fair.

The following is an article provided by the Smith Museum of Stained Glass about this window:

Stained Glass window titled:


Designed, signed and dated, by Elizabeth Parsons, Edith Blake Brown and Ethel Isadore Brown.

Fabricated by Ford and Brooks of Boston, Massachusetts, 1893.

111″ H x 43″ W SM 1040

This window is the most important stained glass to survive from the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exhibition, where it was the centerpiece of three windows from Massachusetts installed in back of the stage at the east-end of the assembly room of the Woman’s Building. It is an early and major statement of American feminism.

The central composition depicts the allegorical scene entitled “Massachusetts Mothering the Coming Woman of Liberty, Progress, and Light”. The figure on the right, the older of the two, is the personification of Massachusetts. She is something of a mother figure, just as the state of Massachusetts is one of the inspiring states of the early United States, to the younger woman on left representing the Coming woman, the woman of the future. The young woman, as a personification of freedom, wears a Liberty cap (Phrygian cap) and holds high a Light, a torch lighting the way to wisdom and knowledge.

In brief, the window represents the three key elements argued for by women at the Exposition and represented by their building: Liberty for all women; Enlightenment for the oppressors; and the Progress made when this is accomplished. As she steps from the level of the older woman, she is the woman of the future, the women who will realize all that the older woman has striven for, Liberty, Progress and Light.

Both figures, each draped in classically inspired garment, represent an early view of feminist mission and ideals in thought and action, as the 1893 World’s Fair was among the first public venues to express it. Both figures join left hands. The older woman looks at the younger one.

The placement of this composition at the center of the Woman’s Pavilion’s most-seen wall must today be viewed as a key device to make clear to everyone, that all women, then and in the future, must attain Liberty, and when they have done so, progress will have been made.

With a seating capacity of 1,000, the assembly room was used extensively for lectures, meetings and musical performances sponsored by the World’s Congress of Representative Women throughout the run of the Fair.

Inscription of emblem reads: Ense Petit Placidam Sub Libertate Quietem.
Name plate on the left: Ann Bradstreet / Mary Dyer
Name plate on the right:Ann Hutchison / Mercy Otis Warren
The main window names:
Abigail Adams / Hannah Adams / Catherine Maria Sedwick / Eliza Lee Follen / Mary Lyon / Maria Weston Chapman / Dorothea Lynde Dix / Laydia Maria Child / Margaret Fuller Ossoli / Abby Kelley Foster / Maria Mitchell / Louisa May Alcott / Charlotte Cushman / Abby Williams May
Presented by the Women of Massachusetts For the Woman’s Building
Of the World’s Fair at Chicago MDCCCXCIII

The Woman’s Building at the Chicago Exposition of 1893


Great interest attached to the fact that Congress authorized a “Board of Lady Managers” and gave them a Woman’s Building. The erection of this novel structure was entrusted to Miss Sophia Hayden, architect, of Boston.

It is considered noteworthy that the female sex, celebrated for its love of ornament, placed in Jackson Park the plainest of its buildings. The type is called Italian Renaissance, and the ungainly central feature is a skylight which, however, produced an interior effect of uncommon beauty and utility.

The grand hall of this edifice was a popular meeting-place, and the whole fabric was thronged with prominent people. The loggias were attractive and impressive, and commanded fine views. There were cafes at each end of the roof, covered with Oriental awnings.

The statuary on the building was modeled by Miss Alice Rideout, of California, and represented Sacrifice, Charity, Virtue and Wisdom. One of the paintings herein exhibited was the work of the lamented Marie Bashkirtseff; and the wife of MacMonnies, who made the chief fountain, was one of the principal interior decorators.

The last nail was a golden one, presented to Mrs. Potter Palmer, President of the Board of Lady Managers, by the ladies of Montana, and it was driven in May, with a hammer presented by the ladies of Nebraska. The golden nail, when drawn, served as the principal piece of a brooch, which became the property of Mrs. Palmer, who had wielded the hammer.

Dimensions of the Woman’s Building, one hundred and ninety-nine by three hundred and eighty-eight feet, sixty feet or two stories high.

Cost, $138,000.

This look at Stained glass windows will hopefully inspire you to look more closely at some of the treasures in your community, or if you are in Chicago, to visit the Navy Pier and see some remarkable examples of artistic craftsmanship in that City at the Smith Museum of Stained Glass.

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