This home easel would have been used in a Victorian parlor to showcase paintings, drawings, prints, or other framed items. A functional piece of furniture, the easel is also a work of great artistry, elaborately hand-carved with stylized floral motifs.
Kate Baker, the easel’s maker, was born in Wisconsin to a family of radical social progressives in 1855. In 1858, the family moved to Cobden, Illinois, where they helped slaves escape to freedom on the Underground Railroad. As a young woman, Kate studied wood carving in Cincinnati, then relocated to Virginia to teach African Americans wood carving at the Hampton Institute, and afterwards moved to Arizona to teach at the Colorado Indian Reservation. Kate and her husband, George W. Busey, later settled in Urbana, Illinois, where she actively worked for the Women’s Suffrage Movement and for the betterment of educational systems.