Birthplace: New York, Ohio, or New Jersey
Details of her early life are uncertain. Her father was a Black American and her mother an Ojibwa Indian who named her Wildfire. Lewis changed her name to Mary Edmonia while studying at Oberlin College. At the school, Lewis was accused of theft and of trying to poison two classmates. Although she was acquitted of both charges, she was not allowed to graduate. In 1863, Lewis moved to Boston and became a sculptor, specializing in abolitionists and Civil War heroes. Forever Free (1867), a marble sculpture now at the Howard University Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, is her most famous work. Lewis reached the peak of her fame when The Death of Cleopatra was presented at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition. It is now in the National Museum of American Art in Washington, DC. The end of her life remains a mystery. Lewis was last reported living in Rome in 1911.
Died: after 1909