The women who took and collected photos of their friends and families from the 1800s
I buy old photos. Ideally albums of old photos. And I trace the people, their stories the places they have been. Most of the albums I buy seem to have been arranged by women, who want to celebrate their families and pass on memories. Sometimes they’re used as postcards that give me snippets of information of family members who moved away, and how families are doing and whilst reports and statistics records names and dates and numbers; these women are family historians. When the photos get separated from those families, many of them have names, dates and places on the back; that enable me to follow trails back to living family members.
And the stories! I’ve found women who lived and loved in times when women had little say into their own lives. I’ve discovered women who moved abroad in order to work in professions they loved but couldn’t access in their own societies; women who loved proudly and fiercely and overcame difficulties with little to no support or financial independence.
In history we often learn about the triumphs of men, and the husbands of women in spite of their own brilliance. Identities are erased and untraceable as women pass from possession of father to husband through the act of marriage, or other labels we place on them that define them by their relationships to men or boys. We know they’re there; they’ve always been there; fighting without credit, teaching without recognition and accomplishments invalid without a man’s name or stamp of approval.
I see their albums. Their families. Their lives. I hear their whispers that they dare not speak too loudly in fear of noticed and erased. History is a lot less black and white than you’d imagine through those photographs. Lives lived in colour.
Because my own research has been made so much harder by the denial of women as individual human beings, despite their accomplishments, contributions or thoughts. Some photos are taken by women photographers in the 1880s, but there’s little online about their lives either. One set of photographs is the family and friends of a husband and wife who were both known artists; her work paid the bills to enable him to develop his name as an artist, and yet I find so little about her life or her work despite her famous husband and friends.
Women. Friends and families between 1880 - 1900
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