Elizabeth Weeks Barrett and PHOIS Yearbook 1922

As you may have heard, in the fall, we will be covering the life and work of Poughkeepsie born artist, Thomas Weeks Barrett Jr.. His art was heavily inspired by his hometown’s architecture and its politics. We will have Local History Discussion and a special art exhibit, both located here at Adriance Memorial Library. While digging through the Barrett art collection I came across an interesting bit of artwork hiding in plain sight within the Poughkeepsie High School Yearbook (PHOIS) of 1922. Much of the artwork and designs in that book were created by another Barrett, Thomas’s sister, Elizabeth Weeks Barrett.

Better Barrett was born January 3, 1904 into an upper-middle class family at #55 Noxon Street. Her father Thomas Sr. was a successful banker and her mother, Katherine Stougtenburgh was from an old prominent family. She and her older brother Thomas would spend time between their home here and various family properties in the countryside, whether in Hyde Park or further south in what is now considered the Town of Poughkeepsie (it was all empty farm land before 1940). Thomas was already showing signs of interest in creating art at a young age, which undoubtedly inspired Betty to do the same.  Thomas was enrolled in classes at the Boston Fine Arts Museum School of Art while Betty was heading off to high school.

While at Poughkeepsie High School, she was stated as being a “regular gypsy” as she was always dressed in fabulous colors and attire. She even made her own clothes, as well as clothing for members of her family. We can see in the images on the right a beautiful lace dress with hand stitched beading throughout. This was recently discovered in one of the boxes of our new collection and no doubt was a prized part of Elizabeth’s work as it has managed to survive this long. She stayed busy with plenty of activities throughout her time at PHS. She was a member of the drama club, the athletics club, and she served as the reporter for her class.

She wrote in her diary during her senior year, how excited she was to be doing all of these things but then suddenly, the staff for PHOIS, the school’s yearbook, decided to give her a position. “Miss Van Zandt wants her name reserved for the Art Editor” she went on to write, “Imagine! Me! Art Editor! Lordy, I hope she doesn’t regret it.” She went on to say how many pieces of art they wanted to include in the book, “about fifteen, count ‘em, plates to draw, if I’m not a corpse before commencement time it will be funny.” You can see some of her work in the images on the right. She showed interest in the local art community when her brother formed the Dutchess County Arts Association and helped sell “Victory Calendars” that the DCAA produced during the war.

She ended up entering the same field as her father and worked for the Poughkeepsie Trust Co. bank most of her life. Even with several mentions of love interests within her diaries, she never married (the same is true of her brother, Tom). She continued to live in the family home until 1974, when she sadly was killed when a fire broke out in her bedroom. She bequeathed the house to the DCAA and it remained that way until recently when it was sold earlier last year.


Elizabeth Barrett Diaries – Thomas Weeks Barrett Jr. Collection – LH Collections

PHOIS Yearbook – 1922

Poughkeepsie Journal – 9 Jun 1974


1 – youngbetty – A portrait of young Elizabeth Barrett. – Thomas Weeks Barrett Jr. Collection – LH Collections

2 – Barrettfamily – A group photo of the Barrett Family, Tom Sr., Katherine, Tom Jr., and Betty. – Thomas Weeks Barrett Jr. Collection – LH Collections

3 – dress1 – A photograph of Betty’s dress – Thomas Weeks Barrett Jr. Collection – LH Collections

4  –  dress2 –  A close up of the beadwork on Betty’s dress – Thomas Weeks Barrett Jr. Collection – LH Collections

5 – yearbook2 – Image of one of Betty’s drawings for the 1922 yearbook. LH Collection

6 – yearbook3 – Image of one of Betty’s drawings for the 1922 yearbook. LH Collection

7 – yearbook4 – Image of one of Betty’s drawings for the 1922 yearbook. LH Collection