Enella Benedict (1858 – 1942)



Artist and arts educator

1885B Main Road, Westport Point

Enella is remembered as “Miss Benedict” by local residents “with her old wicker baby carriage in which she carried her easel and paints. How she hated anyone who looked over her shoulder to see the picture she was working on.” (Glenda Broadbent)

“All the fishermen would say It’s going to rain all summer because Miss Benedict is here.” (Priscilla Lawrence)

Enella was among a group of women associated with Chicago’s Hull-House who came to Westport Point during the summers to paint (see article on Jessie Luther). Enella was one of the most influential residents of Hull-House, both artist and arts educator and director of Hull-House Art School. Hull-House supported immigrant families in Chicago by offering “dignity and joy through the arts.” She epitomized the women who led the way at Hull-House: “social activists, often single, were led by educated, often single New Women.”

She dedicated her 50-year career to Hull-House, serving as founder and director of the Hull-House Art School. She was described as the “steward of Hull-House” stories.

Born in Lake Forest IL, she studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and later traveled to Paris. She felt isolated during her time in France — as a woman she was often excluded from the arts community, which was dominated by men. She received less instruction and paid higher tuition than her male counterparts.

Painting by Enella Benedict, possibly showing cottages at Westport Point

Her paintings were exhibited at the 1893 World’s Fair and at several Art Institute of Chicago exhibitions. Working with oils and watercolors, she depicted people around her and scenes of seascapes and landscapes. Among her paintings are several that may show Westport scenes, one of a Westport Point house and one showing Upper Drift Road with the Bell School tower in the background.

Painting by Enella Benedict showing Upper Drift Road and Bell School in background

Enella believed that art could facilitate and enable social change and growth, and that it should be accessible to all and should not be considered a luxury.  Hull-House recently honored her legacy with an exhibition “The Benedict Gallery: Revisiting Hull-House’s Arts Educators.”