In her day, Julia Dorr was a big deal.
Dorr, who was announced Tuesday as the latest subject in the Rutland Sculpture Trail, was a highly regarded poet in the 19th century and popular among many of the other great writers of the era.
“She was a giant,” organizer Steve Costello said. “She was friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and they’d come visit her.”
Dorr, whose family name adorns a road and a bridge in the city where she settled with her husband after leaving Ghent, New York, also founded Rutland Free Library, which is where the sculpture will be located.
Dorr’s career as a published writer began when her husband surreptitiously submitted one of her poems to a literary magazine in 1847. She went on to publish numerous poems, essays and books and to forge friendships with other writers of her era.
“Anybody who studied literature at any level understands that over decades there’s a weeding process where academics decide who was important and who wasn’t,” Rutland Free Library director Randal Smathers said. “In that process, Julia Dorr has fallen behind. It’s important to recognize that process was carried out by men.”
Smathers said the library has a collection of Dorr’s work.
“I’ve read a bunch of it,” he said. “She’s really very good. I’m not enough of an expert to say she deserved more from history. I do think her peers, were they alive, would be distraught … I think they liked her a lot more than that, and they’d be glad she’s remembered.”
Local consultant Joan Gamble, retired city schools superintendent Mary Moran and retiring Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell are funding the sculpture. It will be designed by Amanda Sisk and carved by Evan Morse — the duo responsible for the Ann Story sculpture on West Street
This will be the ninth stop on the Sculpture Trail — five are in place and four are in development, with the sculpture of Alcoholics Anonymous founder Bill Wilson expected to be installed and unveiled next month. Costello said he does not see the project wrapping up anytime soon.
“We said we wanted to get to 10, but we have clearly raised out sights,” he said. “The initial sculptures have made an impact and it’s been, not easy, but easier than I thought to raise money for these projects. … We’ve still got a long list of 12 to 15 subject matters.”