Isabel Weld Perkins Anderson (1876-1948)

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Isabel Weld Perkins Anderson (1876-1948) wrote two books of poetry, nonfiction books, travelogues, and many children’s stories: over 35 total books. Her poetry books are I Hear a Call: Poems and The Whole World Over: War Verses. Her poems in The Whole World Over were written in hopes of providing “some new understanding… concerning other countries and their way of life” in the midst of world violence. She credited Esther Willard Bates and Eleanor Pomeroy with helping to prepare her collections of poems. Anderson often wrote from very unique perspectives in her poetry, such as a war prisoner, a refugee, Rama, Nix’s mate, and a criminal about to be executed. She truly tried to understand other perspectives and cultures in her writing, even praising different gods in different poems. Her writing was quite delicate and reflective, as well as unexpected. Some of Perkins Anderson's other books include: The Spell of Japan (1914), Zigzagging the South Seas (1918), The Spell of the Hawaiian Islands and the Philippines(1919), Topsy Turvy and the Gold Star (1920), and Circling Africa (1929). She also published a memoir, Presidents and Pies: Life in Washington 1897-1919 (1920).

A Boston-born heiress, Perkins met the equally pedigreed career diplomat Larz Anderson III in Rome while on a world tour. After their marriage the two spent their time between palatial homes in Boston and Washington. They spent three years (1902-1905) building a 50-room Italianate palace at 2118 Massachusetts Ave. NW in the Dupont Circle neighborhood, with the intention that the house and all its furnishings be bequeathed to the Society of the Cincinnati for a headquarters and museum.

In their time they were the wealthiest residents of DC. Long after the practice had been abandoned by the elite, the Andersons maintained liveried footmen in powdered wigs at formal dinner parties into the 1940s. They collected art throughout their world travels. Their house, where Perkins Anderson wintered until her death in 1948, is famous for its opulent ballroom, elaborate frescoes and the use of 18 different colors of marble to decorate the interiors.

Anderson was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, serving as Librarian General from 1923-1926, National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, National League of American Pen Women, Boston Authors Club, and the Sulgrave Club (the last of which she helped found). She and her husband spent a lot of time and money supporting charities such as the Red Cross. Anderson worked in France and Belgium to heal those injured from WWI, and also helped those afflicted by an influenza epidemic in Washington DC. She won awards such as the American Red Cross Service Medal, the French Croix de Guerre, and the Belgian Medal of Elisabeth for her service. She also received honorary doctorates from George Washington University and Boston University. Perkins Anderson is interred in Washington National Cathedral. AND DC Writers’ Homes:

Written by Monica Root December 2013; edited by Kim Roberts January 2016.

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