As the first woman artist to receive a major public art commission in America, Violet Oakley combined her artistic talents with her commitment to pacifism and feminism. Considered an important American Renaissance artist, Oakley is best known for her murals and stained glass projects. Oakley was born June 10, 1874 and raised in Bergen Heights, NJ. She began her art studies by the age of 18 and attended the Art Students League, the Academie Montparnasse in Paris, Charles Lasar’s summer school in Rye, England and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. . She also studied with Howard Pyle at Drexel Institute, which awarded her an honorary Doctorate of Laws Degree in 1948. Oakley began her career as a magazine and book illustrator. Her most significant project, which took 25 years to complete, was for the State Capitol building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. For that commission, Oakley painted 43 murals, decorating the Governors Grand Reception Room, the Senate Chamber and the Supreme Court Room. Oakley maintained a studio in Philadelphia's center city for about a 6 years before moving to the Red Rose estate in Villanova, Pennsylvania with her mother, the illustrators Jessie Willcox Smith and Elizabeth Shippen Green, Green’s parents, and a mutual friend, Henrietta Cozens, in 1902. Pyle nicknamed them the “Red Rose girls.” In 1906, the group relocated to the West Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia calling their home and studio “Cogslea.” Oakley’s student at the Pennsylvania Academy, Edith Emerson, became her apprentice and moved into Cogslea in 1918. She lived there with Oakley until the artist’s death on February 25, 1961. The following year, Emerson founded the Violet Oakley Memorial Foundation at Cogslea.