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Gov. Corbett Unveils Portrait of Hannah Callowhill Penn to be Placed in the Governor’s Office

News for Immediate Release

March 19, 2014

Gov. Corbett Unveils Portrait of Hannah Callowhill Penn to be Placed in the Governor’s Office

Portrait Unveiling Coincides with Women’s History Month

Harrisburg – Governor Tom Corbett, along with First Lady Susan Corbett today unveiled a portrait of Hannah Callowhill Penn that will be placed in the Governor’s Office. This is the first time a portrait of a woman will be displayed among the portraits of Pennsylvania’s founders and former governors.

Hannah Callowhill Penn was William Penn’s second wife. She played an instrumental role in the development of Pennsylvania.

Raised to believe that men and women were created equal, Hannah Callowhill Penn governed the Pennsylvania colony for six years after her husband was incapacitated by a stroke in 1712.

After William Penn died, she governed for another eight years in her own name. She governed from England with the help of agents, such as her friend James Logan, who lived in Pennsylvania.

At that time, no other woman in Britain, aside from Queen Mary II and Queen Anne held direct political power of this kind. Although Hannah managed Pennsylvania with the help of her agents, she had the final word on all decisions. 

Sir William Keith served as deputy governor during the period when Hannah governed. His portrait has been hanging in the Governor’s Office since the capitol was dedicated in 1906. Now, Hannah Callowhill Penn will be in the Governor’s Office as well.

“Today, we are correcting history by giving Hannah Penn her proper place within the Governor’s Office, she deserves this honor.” said Gov. Tom Corbett. “Now our daughters and granddaughters will know about Hannah Penn’s legacy and that women were leading the way and making a difference at a time in history when women lacked full rights.”

Currently the Governor’s Office walls are lined with the portraits of every governor and founder from William Penn and Ben Franklin up to Governor Mark Schweiker.

Since the fall of 2012, First Lady Susan Corbett has led a team to examine Hannah Penn’s legacy. The team includes The State Museum of Pennsylvania, The Capitol Preservation Committee, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Pennsbury Manor, the Pennsylvania Commission for Women and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. 

“In researching Hannah Penn’s legacy, it was quickly determined that she deserved her rightful place in the Governor’s Office with all the men who came before and after her,” said First Lady Susan Corbett. “I am proud to see this day become a reality for Hannah Penn and all of the women of Pennsylvania who can learn and be inspired by her hard work, perseverance and dedication.”

Governor and Mrs. Corbett learned of Hannah’s Penn’s legacy through their work with Kim Sajet, former president of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Sajet is now the director of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Hannah Penn’s untold story, until this moment, is one that clearly demonstrates how portrayal can play a part to reframe our understanding of history,” said Sajet. “Telling history through people’s stories and art is exactly at the intersection where the portrait gallery sits; I am proud to be part of this day.”

Penn’s portrait was painted by Philadelphia artist Ellen Cooper and was paid for with private dollars. Great attention was paid to the portrait’s details to ensure it matched the artistry of the time and the other portraits currently hanging in the Governor’s Office.

It’s a great honor to have been asked to paint such an important figure, a woman whose leadership has gone largely unrecognized for centuries.  Using my talent to help bring this significant piece of Pennsylvania history into the light has been the thrill of a lifetime and a unique educational experience,” said artist Ellen Cooper

Hannah Penn’s portrait will be on display for the public in the Governor’s Reception Room until the summer 2014. It will then be placed in the Governor’s Office.

For more information visit

Media contact: Kirsten Page, 717-433-5249



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