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Saturday, January 25, 2014

Ida Martin Visits City Hall

Congratulations to Judith Serling-Sturm, CBAS board member, for the installation of her book Ida Martin in the office of Cincinnati Vice Mayor David Mann. Judith was alerted through the Pendleton Art Center that "Cincinnati-inspired" artwork was being sought to rotate in and out of city offices. What a perfect opportunity to place her recently completed piece.
Judith Serling-Sturm's Ida Martin

Before Nicholas Longworth planted his vineyards on the hillside of Mt. Adams and before it became the home of the first professionally outfitted observatory in the country, local history claims Ida Martin was this area's earliest resident. She worked as a laundress, taking care of the needs of residents stationed at Fort Washington, built in 1789 at the base of the hill. It has also been reported that Ida had an unusual house—a very old sycamore tree! In fact, Mt. Adams was called Mt. Ida until former US President John Quincy Adams visited the observatory in 1843.

Judith thoughtfully constructed her book of water-colored sheets of paper interleafed with hanging pieces of "boy and girl" fabric scraps. As Judith says, Ida was a "woman who spent much of her time with her hands in a bucket of suds." The pages are joined with a blanket stitch and attached to the hollow of a large piece of tree bark. An accompanying 4-stanza poem by Judith runs through the book and takes its spark from the children's rhyme, "There was an old woman who lived in a shoe."

There once was a woman
Who lived in a tree
High on a hilltop
In Cincinnati.

A laundress by trade,
She washed all the clothes
Of all the brave soldiers
In the fortress below. 

She stripped off their topcoats,
Removed pantaloons,
And she scrubbed dirt and blood
And she tended their wounds.

Now homes crowd the hilltop
The fort—history,
And more word of the laundress
Remains mystery.

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