As we turn the page on the calendar, who could better represent both Black History Month and Women’s History Month than Christiana Carteaux Bannister.
Abolitionist, entrepreneur, and patron of the arts, Christiana Bannister was born in Rhode Island’s South County sometime between 1820 and 1822. Bannister met her husband, noted American artist Edward Bannister, in Boston where she worked as a hairdresser; the two were active in the Boston Underground assisting runaway slaves.
I have written about this remarkable woman before, but this time we want to feature this portrait from the RISD Museum collection. Seen here is a detail from the oil-on-panel painting executed by her husband, artist Edward Mitchell Bannister circa 1860. (We just wrote about him as well; he is more known for his landscapes.) From the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame:
After the Civil War, the Bannisters moved to Providence where Christiana opened another salon and became a patron of the arts. She was deeply involved in improving the lives of African-American women and founded the Home for Aged and Colored Women at 45 East Transit Street, a facility that evolved into today’s Bannister Nursing Care Center on Dodge Street in Providence. Christiana Bannister’s significance is that she rose above the constraints that her era placed upon women and minorities and moved with facility and effectiveness among all levels of society from runaway slaves to Providence’s artistic community. She was a remarkable civic leader and humanitarian. Christiana died in 1902 and was buried in her husband’s plot in the North Burial Ground.
What a couple.