Little is known about Sarah M. Woodruff’s personal story. Her artwork, however, remains as a lasting legacy to her life and advocacy for the arts.
Born about 1860, Sarah’s parents, Samuel and Eliza Woodruff, lived in what today is known as The Cashier’s House on State Street in Erie, Pennsylvania. Samuel Woodruff, a native of eastern Pennsylvania, moved to Girard, Pennsylvania in 1844 and married Eliza in 1847. An attorney, Woodruff was elected District Attorney and later President judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit. In 1872, the Woodruff family moved to Erie and eventually purchased the house at 417 State Street, the old Cashier’s House. The Cashier’s House was the original home of the chief executive officer of the Erie branch of the Bank of the United States that closed in 1841, Samuel Woodruff bought the home in 1872. The house was known as “the Woodruff House” for many years.
A cultured woman, Sarah Woodruff was an early proponent of the Arts Club which would eventually become the Erie Art Museum, now located in the properties surrounding the house, including the Greek revival Customs House next door. An artist and painter, her name appears in the business listings of artists in the 1904 city directory, so it is likely she sold her works. The Woodruff family maintained the house until 1913, At that time, she moved in with her married sister on West 4th Street in Erie.
Sarah Woodruff contracted pneumonia and died at Hamot Hospital on December 8, 1924. She was 64 years of age. She is buried in the Woodruff family plot in Girard, Pennsylvania.
Her artwork, much of it in the collection of the Erie County Historical Society/Hagen History Center, remains her legacy today. Several of those works are shown here.