Biographical Database of Militant Woman Suffragists, 1913-1920

Biography of Dorothy Loeb, 1887-1971


By Karen Seehausen, independent historian and Thomas Dublin

Dorothy Loeb was born in July 1887 in Bavaria, the daughter of Adolph and Johanna Loeb, two German-Americans traveling abroad at the time. The family returned to Chicago when Dorothy was two and she lived much of her life in that city. Dorothy studied at the Art Institute of Chicago where she was an active member of the student body and her work in diverse media was often included in school and city exhibitions. In 1908, Dorothy was one of five Art Institute students commissioned to create murals for the new Lane Technical High School. Each mural was a depiction of one of the fields of study offered by the school. Although not formally titled, Dorothy's piece, showing figures wielding tools around a smoldering pit, came to be known as "Primitive Forge". The mural was completed in 1909 and in that same year, Dorothy was awarded a scholarship to travel by the Tuesday Art & Travel Club. The prize in the amount of $500.00 was open only to women students from Chicago. With it, Dorothy spent a year in Munich, followed by time in Paris. When she returned to Chicago, she continued classes at the Art Institute and widely exhibited her work through the mid-nineties. Her painting style had been greatly influenced by Matisse and the modernist movement and in 1923, she returned to Paris to study with Fernand Leger.

By 1919 Loeb was living in Greenwich Village. In early March, President Woodrow Wilson was scheduled to appear at the Metropolitan Opera House on Broadway. The National Woman's Party, founded only three years earlier in Chicago, organized a protest opposite the Opera House to demand that the President push for Senate passage of the 19th Amendment. Loeb joined the demonstration. The protest led to six arrests as demonstrators clashed with New York City police. Picketers grew to 200 according to contemporary reports with numerous injuries among the protesters. One newspaper account noted: "Women and girls were bruised and trampled upon, their banners torn into shreds and their clothes and hats crumpled and dishevelled when the militant suffragists attempted to get to President Wilson with their appeals for recognition." Protesters Berta Dell and Minnie Bodenheim, one of the suffragists arrested, also lived in Greenwich Village at the time.

Chicago's Hull-House enjoyed a close relationship with the Art Institute. Hull-House was co-founded in 1889 by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr to provide social services and educational opportunities to immigrants and residents of urban neighborhoods. It also became a center for music, art and theater. Hull-House made gallery space available to the Art Institute for exhibits and recruited Art Institute students for teachers. The Art Institute also attracted students from Hull-House and provided scholarships for its residents. Hull-House welcomed progressive thinking including new movements in art and the wave of modernism that was taking hold in America. Loeb was head of the art department in 1923-24 and returned to serve as co-director of the settlement house from 1941-1943.

Loeb lived for periods her life in the Provincetown, MA artists' colony on Cape Cod. Her work was first exhibited by the Provincetown Art Association in 1923 after her return from Paris.

In the 1930s she was employed by the Works Project Administration (WPA) and was selected for a two-person WPA exhibition at the Federal Art Gallery in Boston in 1939. In 1940, Loeb was again residing in Provincetown and the census noted she was employed as an easel painter "in Government work." More of her work was displayed in the First Balcony Gallery at the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1942 and in Boston galleries.

In addition to the Lane Technical School mural, Loeb created one for the Winnetka, IL home of Lola Maverick Lloyd. Lloyd was a founding member of the National Woman's Party and established the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in 1915 with Jane Addams. Other murals included one for Smyth School, a Chicago public school and for the Hall of Social Sciences at the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago. In 1938, she won first prize in the mural painting category for her design of a mural for the Falmouth Community Center.

Loeb continues to be represented in Provincetown artist retrospectives. A Provincetown gallery sketch in August 2018 noted that Loeb lived in California and Mexico later in life. According to Dorothy's niece, Kathryn Peterson, Loeb lived in a small town in Mexico in the province of Queretero and traveled around the world on tramp steamers and by bus. A small annuity from her family supplemented Loeb's income as an artist. Dorothy Loeb died in Los Angeles in 1971.


Federal manuscript censuses, Chicago, 1910; New York City, 1920; Provincetown, MA, 1940. Accessed via

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"Dorothy Loeb: The Lost 1909 Mural Unveiled in Conjunction with Lane Tech & Chicago Public Schools. November 11-November 12, 2005."

Fleisher, Lisa. "Mural will restore a bit of history". Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois). 11 Nov 2005: p. 2. At

Mary Lackritz Gray, A Guide to Chicago Murals, p. 100, accessed online at

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Glowacki, Peggy. 1 "Bringing Art to Life: The Practice of Art at Hull House", p. 22-23. Pots of Promise: Mexicans and Pottery at Hull-House, 1920-40. Eds. Cheryl R. Ganz and Margaret Strobe. Chicago: University of Illinois Press with the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, 2004.

"'Marked Down' Sale Opens at Hill house Today." Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois). 17 Nov 1923: p. 17.

"In Studio and Gallery". St. Louis Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri). 16 Nov 1924: p. 62.

Driscoll, Edgar J. "This Week in the Art World-Abstract Art Artists Show Paintings in Newbury St." Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts). 19 Dec 1948: p. 12.

Cassell, Sylvia. "Winnetka Home a Monument to Sculptor." Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois). 29 Apr. 1956: p. 216.

"National Register of Historic Places Registration Form": Section 7, p. 5.

"Private View, Reception and Tea Open Architectural Exhibition at Jordan's." The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts). 14 Mar 1938: p. 5.

"P-town for Ehva." The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts). 31 May 2009: p. M10.

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