Violet Oakley was one of the USA's great women artists of the early 20th century. She was born into an artistic family and showed talent early.
She attended the Art Students League in New York City in 1892, before going to London and Paris for two years of further study.
In 1896, her family moved to Philadelphia, where she enrolled in Howard Pyle's illustration class at Drexel Institute. She became a successful freelance illustrator, creating covers for magazines such as Woman's Home Companion, Colliers, St. Nicholas, Century Magazine, and others. She also developed a reputation as a designer of stained glass. She shared residences and studios with fellow artists Jessie Wilcox Smith and Elizabeth Shippen Green. In 1902, she won a commission to paint 14 large murals for the Governor of Pennsylvania's Reception Room in the Capitol. It was a breakthrough for her to enter the specialized -- and largely masculine -- field of mural painting and the largest public commission given to an American woman up to that time. In 1911, she was commissioned to complete a project of 26 murals for the Pennsylvania Senate and Supreme Court chambers. Violet Oakley was a dedicated feminist and supporter of women's suffrage. As a pacifist, she became a self-appointed ambassador to the League of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, where she lived for three years and painted the first delegates of the League. She also published several illustrated books in support of world peace, disarmament, and human rights.