Grandma Moses


Grandma Moses

(Sept. 7, 1860 – Dec. 13,1961) 

Reading Grade Level:

1st – 2nd

3rd – 4th

5th & up

Anna Mary Robertson Moses, or as most knew her, Grandma Moses was a self-taught artist and writer. What makes her so special is that she did not start professionally painting until she was 78 years old! She was born in the year of 1860 which was over 150 years ago. She was raised with four sisters and five brothers in the state of New York. She first learned about painting as a child in school. She used grape and lemon juice to paint with color. She also used other materials to paint including sawdust, grass, and flour. When she was 12 years old, she left her home to work for a family with a lot of money doing chores and farm work. As a job, she would continue to sew, cook and clean homes for different families for about 15 years. At the age of 27, she married Thomas Moses and moved to Virginia. Together, they worked and lived on 4 different farms. To make some extra money, Grandma Moses made homemade potato chips and butter. Eventually, she and her husband saved enough money to buy their own farm.

Together she and her husband moved back to the state of New York continuing to work on a farm. At the age of 67, Thomas Moses passed away from a heart attack. Because running a farm is such a big job, Grandma Moses was not able to do it alone so her son, Forrest, helped her out. Eventually, she decided she was too old to work on the farm so she moved in with her daughter. One of her favorite things to do was decorate fabric with different colored thread. This is called embroidery and is similar to sewing. When she developed arthritis at the age of 76, it made it very hard for her to continue to sew and embroider. When someone has arthritis, it causes pain and stiffness in different parts of their body. In the case of Grandma Moses, she had arthritis in her hands, so she could no longer sew. Her sister was the one who suggested she start to paint to make it easier on her hands.

Grandma Moses began to paint pictures that showed country life including things such as farms, tractors, and everyday people. She said she wanted to paint what she saw in her time so that people will know how they used to live. When she first began to paint, her paintings would sell between $3 and $5 but as she began to become more well known, they would sell anywhere between $8000 and $10,000. One day an art collector saw her paintings in a drug store window. He loved them so much he bought them all, plus ten more. He would sell these paintings for around $4 each. By the next year, she had become even more well known and her work was being sold for thousands of dollars.

America quickly fell in love with Grandma Moses and her artwork. Her fame allowed her to have very special experiences such as meeting the president and having a children’s book written after her. The mayor of New York declared her 100th birthday “Grandma Moses Day.” She passed away at the old age of 101. Her work will forever remind people of the old farm life that America was built on.

(Take a look at some of Grandma Moses’ paintings!)

Reflection Question

Grandma moses painted her everyday life. If you were to make a painting about your daily life what would it look like?