Yesterday’s Ladies

© Spiral Light Photography

“Beauty is like remembrance, cast

 From Time long past.”    

 Percy Shelley  (1803-1822)

The sign in the antique shop said “If you don’t like your relatives, pick new ones.” It was sitting next to a box of old photographs, depicting portraits of people from a time long past. I rummaged through them, and pulled out a few that caught my eye. Three ladies posing for portraits, and a group of women toasting each other on what looks like a hiking trip intrigued me. I have no idea who these women were, what their social status was, or what year these photographs were taken, but I liked the idea of imagining lives for them. Although they would have been subjected to the social conventions of the day, I like to think that these ladies of mine were somewhat bold, perhaps brazen, and maybe a little bit ahead of their time. Here are their “stories”…

Meet Anna McDermott. She is the second wife of Dr. Henry McDermott. The doctor’s first wife died of influenza, and Anna wasted no time in making sure she was first in line to offer comfort and support to the poor widower.  With her charms and cunning personality, she was able to persuade the good doctor that he should re-marry, and that she was the perfect woman for the job. Now that her prominent position in the community has been established, she goes to great lengths to laud it over the wives with husbands of lesser stature.  They however are not fooled. Everyone knows that Anna was caught at the age of sixteen skinny-dipping in her neighbours’ pond.  Hoping to revamp her somewhat tarnished image,  each year she has a vanity portrait taken, which she proudly displays over the mantel in her formal sitting room. She’s still not fooling anyone!
Lillian Montgomery is a nineteen year old shop girl. While working at the General Store, she daydreams of moving to the big city to attend university, and explore all that life has to offer. However, Lillian’s mother insists that she settle down and find a good husband before she gets too old. Heaven forbid she becomes a spinster at twenty-one!  It was through her mother’s prodding that this portrait was taken. Now Mrs. Montgomery will be able to proudly display her daughter for the ladies who attend her afternoon teas, and perhaps convince them to have their sons come calling. Lillian dreads the idea!
Rose DuPont is the town gossip. She is also an old school friend of Lillian Montgomery. Working as a maid for the McDermott household, she keeps her ears open for any tidbit about the good doctor’s wife and her scheming ways. On her shopping trips to the General Store, she relays the information back to Lillian and whoever else may be within earshot. Rose and Lillian like to have a good giggle over the goings-on at the McDermott household, and together plot their escape from their predetermined futures.  This portrait was taken of Rose at the insistence of Lillian’s mother, that she too may find a suitable husband, and one that will help her with her loose tongue!
Girls Weekend
Girls Weekend 1931. Meet Agnes, Mary, Ruby, Pearl, and Sarah; hiking by the sea in northern California. Scandalous at the time, each summer they would leave their husbands to tend to the children while they took off on a wild, girls only weekend. They always made sure to pack a few bottles of champagne to toast their brief freedom from diapers and dinner parties.


“Anna” photographed by G.T. Cummings 60 Pentonville Road, year unknown.

“Lillian” and “Rose” photographed at H.T. Reed & Co. 16 Tottenham Court Road London, year unknown

“Girls Weekend” photographer unknown























4 thoughts on “Yesterday’s Ladies

  1. Haha, love it! I especially like Miss DuPont… she looks like she soooo can’t be bothered with the whole rigmarole! She actually looks like one of the girls I teach, who would also suit a similar story in years to come I think!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this! I found a photo of a lady from the mid 19th century at a thrift shop. “Carrie” is now part of my family as well. I’m glad I’m not alone in this.


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