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Nadia Williams
March 14, 1979
to CEW

For Doreen Burke, 
Metrop. Mus. of Art
April 18, 1979

Re-edited with additions
March 10, 1980
by NW, for Brown at the Archives of American Art


Esther Mabel Baldwin was born Dec 11, 1867 at the home of her parents Charles A. Baldwin and Esther Allen Cole Baldwin at 411 Broadway, South Boston.

When she was five, the family bought the Captain Potter estate in Winchester on Wedge Pond, one of two houses overlooking the pond. Her mother became very sick in November 1873, six months after they moved to Winchester and died the following year (1874). In the meanwhile, her father's sister Caroline Baldwin (Aunt Carrie) came to stay with the family through the sickness, and stayed on as housekeeper and surrogate mother the rest of her life. The father, Charles was only thirty-five at the time of his wife's death, and his sister Caroline was thirty. 

In her teens, Esther studied painting with her cousin Adelaide (several years older) under Adelaide's father, Joseph Foxcroft Cole in his Boylston Street studio. J. Foxcroft Cole (Uncle Jo to Esther) was one of the three founders of the Boston Museum School (founded 1870 - others were Wm. Morris Hunt and Frederick Porter Vinton). He was more respected for his landscapes than his portraits.  1 

In 1888 (when Esther was twenty), she and Adelaide spent a winter in Greenwich Village in a studio of their own. This was the year of the great blizzard.

Then in 1891 she went to Paris with members of a French Club she had been attending in Boston, about seven young ladies and their chaperones. Each lived with a French family. Esther's sister Jessie accompanied her (as chaperone)- They lived in a cold unheated space with their French family in Paris and while Esther studied in a Paris atelier, Jessie had little to do, hated it, caught tb and went home. Aunt Carrie came to take her 1892.

On return to Boston, Esther asked her father for a studio of her own in the city. She was 24 and ready to start her career in art. He acquiesced. He had the year before become the administrator of J. Foxcroft's Cole estate (who died 1892) and the Cole young people were living alone in their father's studio. Esther's studio was nearby. Her annual expenses, she notes, were $150 for studio
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