This story of the life of Emily Parker Groom was compiled by three sisters,
Elizabeth (Betty) Groom, Mary Poser and Helen Johnston—the daughters of Samuel and
Helen Groom. It was pieced together over a period of more than 20 years. Helen and
Betty started collecting information and photographing all the Emily Groom paintings
they could locate, noting their provenance as best they could and placing them in albums.
Betty began using old family letters, postcards, newspaper clippings and the memories of
many people to write a biography of Emily. Pat Groom Reed (daughter of John and
Bertha Groom), another niece of Emily, shared her memories as she grew up in
Milwaukee and was close to Emily during her early years. Pat Reed’s daughter, Ellen
Hofford, has also contributed her recollections of Genesee and Milwaukee. Nancy
Swenson (daughter of John and Mable Ruka) who lived in Boscobel, WI where Emily
often visited and painted, also contributed to this biography.
Helen visited the Orkney Island of Hoy and saw Melsetter House. Betty spent a
couple of days gathering information on Woodstock, NY. Helen has lived in Milwaukee
all her married life and spent much time tracking down Emily’s paintings to be
photographed. Together Helen and Betty visited museums, starting with the Milwaukee
Art Museum and its archives, and then proceeding to the archives of the Art Institute of
Chicago, the Vanderpoel at the Beverly Art Center in Chicago, and going on to visit a
number of Wisconsin museums that had a connection with Emily.
Later Mary took over the project and brought it into the 21st century and the era
of computers. After a start with a borrowed city computer, she acquired her own, and
with invaluable help from her eldest grandson Christopher Poser, she started to record as
much information as she could find about the many shows in which Emily exhibited and
the many artists also involved in these shows, plus other pertinent information. These
have all been sent to the West Bend Art Museum. Christopher was instrumental in
digitizing and documenting all the photographs of the paintings. Christopher set up a
web site (www.emilygroom.com) giving access to these photographs and other
information. Mary wrote this document using part of what had already been written and
adding much new material. She did a good deal of research on her own in many areas
including the century of history that spanned Emily’s life. In addition she ferreted out a
number of interesting new venues and connections to her aunt.
During this twenty-year period, two other sisters (daughters of Charles and Ann
Denny) Betsy Warner and Nancy Solodar transcribed from the original pen and ink and
beautifully annotated the letters of several of the Denny/Groom families written as they
traveled to Europe and in the United States. These were printed and nicely bound. They
also typed and bound a delightful history of Sarah Dorothea Middlemore and her eight
siblings written by her niece, Rosemary (Middlemore) Hughes Smith which is entitled
Leaping Over Oblivion. All of these helped to broaden and deepen the understanding of
the family, their activities and the times they lived in.
During the same period, the West Bend Art Museum became a major source of
information about Wisconsin art and had acquired paintings, (including two Emily
Grooms) by many Wisconsin artists. In 2001, Emily was included in their show
Women’s Work: Early Wisconsin Women Artists. The museum has recently changed its
name to the Museum of Wisconsin Art and is planning to expand in order to better serve
its purpose as a repository for paintings and information about Wisconsin art.