• Stay by Me, Roses

    The Life of American Artist Alice Archer Sewall James, 1870-1955

    By Alice Blackmer Skinner

    Stay by Me, Roses opens a window on the life of a unique nineteenth-century woman — Alice Archer Sewall James (1870-1955), a painter, illustrator, and consummate artist. Read more

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Alice Archer Sewall James—known affectionately as “Archie”—lived a life that most women of her time could only dream about. Educated from a young age and encouraged by her family to express herself in all forms of art, she grew into an irrepressible woman who never stopped looking for ways to pass her experience on to others.

This biography traces her life from her childhood in Urbana, Ohio, to teenage years spent traveling in Europe, to her challenging marriage to John H. James, heir to a family fortune built by his entrepreneurial grandfather of the same name. Her father, Swedenborgian minister and educator Frank Sewall, was her greatest fan, supporting her in good times, as she started to build a reputation as a painter and illustrator, and in bad, as poor health forced her to abandon her art and put a strain on her personal relationships. In later years, however—like the roses in the title poem—she reemerged as an artist and as a teacher, inspiring a new generation of painters at Urbana University.

While Archie’s Swedenborgian heritage gave structure and meaning to her life, it was her inner creative drive that truly touched others. Stay by Me, Roses opens a window on the life and times of a unique nineteenth-century woman.

About the Author

Alice Blackmer Skinner had a lifelong interest in women’s studies. She graduated from Radcliffe College with a degree in psychology in 1945; received a master’s degree in social work from the University of Minnesota in 1951, and in 1977 earned a PhD in psychology from Harvard with a study on the life patterns of college-educated women. Among her many volunteer positions, she served as chair of the Radcliffe College Alumnae Association Study Committee on Merger, guiding the merger of Radcliffe College with Harvard University. She was the editor of Rooted in Spirit: A Harvest of Women’s Wisdom and for seventeen years served as the art director for the annual anthology Chrysalis Reader. Alice served on the board of directors at the Swedenborg Foundation for thirty-eight years, including ten years as president of the board. She lived in Tenants Harbor, Maine.


“The desire to create never truly dies. Stay By Me, Roses: The Life of American Artist Alice Archer Sewall James, 1870-1955 chronicles the story of “Grandma Moses of the Midwest,” a woman who while abandoning her dreams of being an artist early in life to be a housewife, later refound her calling. Alice Blackmer Skinner, a research psychologist, tells her story well with attention to history and detail. Stay By Me, Roses is a fine artistic biography, very much recommended read.”

—Library Bookwatch, November 2011

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