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Honoring Mothers, Motherhood, Maternal Bonds, and the Influence of Mothers in History and Society

Shown from left to right, Three Graces Statues in Lake Geneva, WI, Allerton Park, IL, and the original, at the Louvre, Paris, France.

As we gear up for the upcoming Moms, Mansions, and Mimosas celebration with our partner, Harbor Shores on Mother's Day weekend, we pause to express gratitude to the women and men who came before us in weaving the fabric and make-up of this great country. The idea for a “Mother’s Day” is credited to Anna Jarvis, who on May 10, 1908 held a special ceremony to honor all mother's, including her own at the International Mother's Day Shrine which today stands as a National Historic Landmark in Grafton, West Virginia. Although the modern day version would have upset her by the commercialization of the holiday.

Many individual states celebrated Mother's Day by 1911, but it wasn't until Woodrow Wilson lobbied Congress in 1914 that Mother's Day was officially set on the second Sunday of every May. In his first Mother's Day proclamation, Wilson stated that the holiday offered a chance to, "publicly express our love and reverence for the mothers of our country."

Our Moms, Mansions, and Mimosas celebration is set to honor mothers, motherhood, maternal bonds, and the influence of mothers in history and society such as the donation of Three Graces statue by Lake Geneva resident, Reinette M. McCrea.

The two images above are close to the full scale copy of the original sculpture modeled after a 1559 marble original be German Pilot (1535-1590). Both Three Graces statues are approximately 6 feet high, and are close replicas of the original marble sculpture that stands in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. Original Monument au Coeurd" Henril II - the female figures in the original sculpture balance a bronze urn on their heads that held the heart of King Henri II.

In 1916, Reinette M. McCrea is recorded as donating one of the Three Graces Statues located just across the street from the Geneva Lake shore, at the tip of Flat Iron Park where Wrigley Drive and Center Street intersect. Reinette M. McCrea also owned Blackloft estate with her husband on the Lake Geneva shore path which still stands today. She's the younger sister of Agnes Allerton, owner of the former Lake Geneva Folly estate with her husband, Samuel, and son Robert.

In Greek Mythology The Three Graces personified beauty, charm, and joy. They were known as smiling goddesses whose presence brought joy to the world. Reinette M. McCrea's nephew, Robert Allerton is said to have commissioned a Chicago stonecutter, Charles Laing to create the two Three Graces statues.

Today, the Lake Geneva Beautification Committee accepts donations to maintain and restore Lake Geneva historical sites to include The Three Graces Statue through their Signature Brick Order Form. It's a wonderful way to contribute to supporting its legacy and historical significance.

Reinette M. McCrea was a mother of three, a socialite, founding member of the Geneva Garden Club, and an integral member of the suffragette movement. Reinette donated the fountain as a memorial to her friends and women's right to vote. Inscribed on two sides of the triangular pedestal are the names of ten female friends, all Lake Geneva residents with interesting stories themselves. Names engraved on the pedestal are her sister Agnes Thompson Allerton, Mary Delafield Sturges, Martha T. Rumsey, Mary T. Leiter, Dora T. Bartlett, Ottilie M. Wacker, Emma B. Dunlap, Helen L. Fairbank, Mary H. Strong, and May L. Leland.

The third side of the statue designates,"In Memory of Good Friends." It's recorded that the base of the monument was intended as a fountain "so man and beast (horse) could have a cool drink."

Unfortunately, Reinette died in 1916, four years before the 19th Amendment was certified, and women achieved the right to vote throughout the United States. I believe Reinette and her friends would have been thrilled to know on November 2, 1920 more than 8 million women voted in the Presidential elections for the first time.

It's interesting to note that the outlook for women voting appeared rather bleak, given the outcomes of Southern states, and the position of Tennessee’s state legislators in their 48-48 tie. Tennessee's decision came down to 23-year-old Representative, Harry T. Burn to cast the deciding vote. Although Burn opposed the amendment, it was a note from Harry's mother, Phoebe Ensminger Burn that convinced him to approve the amendment. Mrs. Burn reportedly wrote to her son: “Don’t forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the ‘rat’ in ratification.” "Catt" was the President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

Reinette Thompson McCrea was buried in 1916 at Oak Hill Cemetery in Lake Geneva. Above is the face of her burial ground. I have always been fond of the Three Graces statue that welcomes visitors from the south into Lake Geneva, and I am pleased to have a better understanding of it's significance.


Wisconsin Historical Society, Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, The Three Graces, Lake Geneva, Walworth, WI, #67802.

Pilon, Germain. (1561-1565). The Louvre, Paris, France. Flickr. 9 October 2012 <>. Image courtesy Flickr user rosebennet (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0), Monticello, IL


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