Olive Risley Seward

Olive Risley Seward
Olive Risley Seward, age 25

Olive Risley Seward (July 15, 1844 – November 27, 1908) was the adopted daughter of William Henry Seward, United States Secretary of State under Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson.


Life and career

Olive F. Risley, was born in Fredonia, New York, daughter of the former Harriet C. Crosby and Anson A. Risley, a prominent civil servant who later worked for the Secretary of the Treasury and resided in Washington, D.C.. She became a close companion of William Henry Seward's in the last years of his life, beginning about 1868, following by a few years the deaths of Seward's wife Frances Adeline Miller Seward and daughter Frances Adeline "Fanny" Seward, and shortly after the death of her own mother (in 1866). In order to curtail gossip and family worries about their relationship, Olive was formally adopted by Seward in 1870. She also, in company with her sister Harriet Risley, traveled extensively with Seward through Asia, the Middle East and Europe in 1870-1871, an experience recorded in the book William H. Seward's Travels Around the World, published in 1873, a best-selling work of its day for which Olive Risley Seward was credited as editor. She and Seward's three surviving sons were named joint heirs of the Seward estate.


Sculpture of Olive Risley Seward adjacent to Seward Square as seen from the southeast corner of 6th Street and North Carolina Avenue.

In 1971, sculptor John Cavanaugh chose to create a statue honoring her rather than her accomplished father. A picture of her was not found at the time, so Cavanaugh sculpted his idea of an idealized Victorian lady instead. The statue stands in front of a private residence on North Carolina Avenue and Sixth Street, SE in Washington, D.C.. The subject's head is turned to the left as if gazing toward the nearby Seward Square, named for her adoptive father. Olive died in Washington, D.C., and is buried in Fredonia, NY with her parents.


  • James M. Goode, The Outdoor Sculpture of Washington, D.C. A comprehensive historical guide [1st ed.] Washington, Smithsonian Institution Press [distributed by G. Braziller] 1974. 615 p. illus. 29 cm. ISBN 0-87474-138-6 (hardcover), ISBN 0-87474-149-1 (pbk.)
  • John M. Taylor, William Henry Seward, Lincoln's Right Hand, Harper Collins, 1991. 340 p. illus. 24 cm. ISBN 0-06016-307-0
  • William H. Seward's travels around the world, with two hundred illustrations, edited by Olive Risley Seward, New York, D. Appleton and company, 1873.

External links

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