Composer Thomas LaVoy, born 100 years after Nancy Luce’s death in 1890, had never been to Martha’s Vineyard or heard of its chicken lady when he spotted one of Dan Waters’s prints.


Every year at this time, I get to thinking about Nancy Luce.


Bless the poet/with the chickens/Bless the woman wracked/with pain

Muppets, queens, fairies and even a scary skeleton attended a Halloween Festival and Nancy Luce Birthday Party on the grounds of the future Martha’s Vineyard Museum site on Sunday afternoon.

Nancy Luce was born at home in West Tisbury on August 23, 1814. She is remembered as a bit of a loner. But a visit to her gravestone won’t reveal that. Today, her marble gravestone is decorated with chickens of all sizes and colors, although it’s unclear when or why the tradition started.


Ruth Major’s painting of Vineyard icon Nancy Luce.

Viva Nancy Luce! is the theme of a new show opening Sunday, Oct. 12, at Treehouse Studios in West Tisbury, with a reception from 1 to 4 p.m. The exhibit will feature works of art related to the life of Martha’s Vineyard’s eccentric folk hero who became known in the 1800s as the chicken lady.