Below are questions you might want to consider if your book club chooses to read Harriet Hosmer: A Cultural Biography. If your book club is in striking distance of New York City, and you would like me to visit, please contact me.
1) How did Hosmer’s unusual childhood shape her adult life?
2) How did women’s rights advocates use Hosmer symbolically? How did Hosmer court their support? How did she address women’s lives through her sculpture?
3) What are the different reasons Wayman Crow was so supportive of Hosmer? What other powerful men played a role in her career?
4) How did Hosmer shape her own image? Does her attention to her pubic image seem similar to the celebrity culture of today?
5) How does Culkin explain Hosmer’s success? Is that explanation convincing?
6) Culkin titles the introduction “A Woman of Her Time.” What does she mean by that phrase? Do you think it is an accurate depiction of Hosmer?
7) What were some of the reasons Culkin suggests Hosmer struggled in the later half of her career? Is Culkin’s explanation of this struggle satisfactory?
8) What were the different types of relationships Hosmer had with women? How were the boundaries of those relationships sometimes blurry?
9) How would you define a “cultural biography?” Do you this book fits that definition?
10) Does Hosmer’s life challenge your understanding of the lives of women in nineteenth-century America? How might her life cause you to re-evaluate that era?
11) How does Hosmer’s life resonate with the lives of 21st century women? How does it seem foreign?