Doing Good by Stealth: The Philanthropy and Service of Annie Burr Lewis
Opens online later this autumn
Curated by Susan Odell Walker, Head of Public Services
“A doer of good by stealth, she was active in innumerable good causes and it is with wistful melancholy that her friends now contemplate a Farmington bereft of her quiet and queenly radiance.” (S.C. Roberts, 16 May 1959)
The many tributes that poured in following the death of Annie Burr Auchincloss Lewis (1902-1959) at the age of 56 characterize her as quiet, interested, generous, wise, calm, devoted, modest, tasteful, beauty-loving (especially in flowers and nature), unselfish, gentle, gracious, thoughtful, tactful, courageous, and more. They outline the course of her life and the contributions she made to the many causes in which she became involved. Wilmarth S. Lewis, Annie Burr’s husband, wrote in his dedication of the Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence a year following her death, “That she was balanced and generous was immediately obvious to all who met her, but her modesty concealed great knowledge and insight. These became evident when one went to her for help and advice, although she gave them so quietly that one might not realize how much she had given.” Her loss was keenly felt throughout the universe of causes to which she had devoted her time, energy, and expertise.
This exhibition seeks to explore the impact Annie Burr Lewis had during her lifetime and the legacy of her service and contributions of money, time, expertise, and the benefit of her network of social connections to organizations involved in education, historic preservation, and nursing, at Yale, Farmington, and beyond. Her personal interests and interpersonal connections influenced her choices of what to support. Her privileged upbringing positioned her to take a leading role in philanthropic endeavors. That she followed the path laid out for her by family and societal tradition may not be remarkable. But the direction that path took, the financial autonomy she enjoyed, and the lasting contribution to her world and the communities of today make her otherwise typical journey uniquely hers.