Nellie Verne Walker


"As children, we knew of the unusual career of our aunt, Nellie Verne Walker, because our mother spoke often of Nellie's work in Chicago. We were in awe of this tiny lady, especially since no one else we knew had an aunt who was a sculptor."
— Genevieve Lewis Szaton, 1985

Nellie Verne Walker's sculptures can be viewed throughout the Midwest. Her life began in 1874 in Red Oak, Iowa where she learned stone carving at her father's monument works. At the age of 17, she created her first limestone sculpture, a bust of Lincoln, which was displayed at the 1893 Columbian Exposition and is now in the museum in Moulton, Iowa. She studied and taught at the Chicago Art Institute. In 1913, she completed the statue of Chief Keokuk that overlooks the Mississippi River in Keokuk, Iowa. On display in the Iowa State Capitol is a bas relief in bronze that she created in honor of the Pioneer Suffragists of Iowa; among those taking part in the 1936 formal dedication ceremony were Governor Clyde Herring, Secretary of State Ola Babcock Miller, and Carrie Chapman Catt. Walker's work has been characterized as "pure, strong, and for the most part classically beautiful." She has many monuments, busts and bas reliefs to her credit and was honored as a life member of the National Sculpture Society. This diminutive woman, known as "the lady who lived on ladders," died in 1973, leaving a legacy of art for all to enjoy. Walker was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1987.