Maria Longworth & George Ward Nichols
Maria Longworth, granddaughter of one of Cincinnati's wealthiest philanthropists, developed her love of art at an early age.
At 22, she married George Ward Nichols, a civil war veteran and writer on music and art. He had been hired by her family to catalog their collection of artwork.
Shortly after their marriage, Maria and George joined with the famous musical conductor Theodore Thomas to start a series of choral, classical music festivals. Maria was 25 when they made the overture to Thomas; she proposed to hold a celebration like the huge choral events she had seen in Europe. In their agreement, George Ward Nichols and other businessmen would see to the financial side of the festival while Thomas would organize the program.
After the May Festival's successful debut in 1873 in Saengerfest Halle, the only building in town that was large enough to hold the choruses, orchestra and visitors, Maria turned her attention to her art career painting porcelain. In 1879, she decided to start her own pottery -- Rookwood Pottery -- which occupied an old schoolhouse purchased by her father. Maria Longworth Nichols held the distinction of being the first woman to ever found a musical festival.
In addition to helping found the May Festival, George Ward Nichols established the Cincinnati College of Music, of which he was president when he died of tuberculosis in 1885.