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Women in old Boston

The folks at the Boston City Archives wonder if you can figure it out - as well as when and where, of course. See it larger.



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    crowded room but a bunch of the ladies are standing far back behind the lady peeling the orange. Flatulence?

    And what's up with the drawn-on faces on a couple of the women? Proto-PhotoShop?


    Sort of. Due to the long exposure time (probably about a quarter to a half a second, at a rough guess, judging by how many people moved and how far), some people moved in just the right way to end up faceless (also, people with bright blue eyes will tend to show up looking like their eyes are totally white on these emulsions).

    Whether the drawing in of details was defacement or repair is something I can't answer, but you see it a lot in older photos, especially in this collection. I suspect defacement, actually, given that photographers throughout the generations have had better tools at our disposal for fixing problems like this than a ballpoint pen on a print.


    My grandmother was the queen of this kind of photo-editing! There is not a single black and white photo from my mother's childhood that has not been "corrected" with a lead pencil. I don't actually think this kind of thing was uncommon for prints back in the day -- it is pretty unnoticeable unless you look closely.

    Creepy faces!

    All the same, this is what would come to be called a "Home Economics" class sampling their cooking.

    The book on the table entitled "Home Comforts" is a big hint.

    Judging from the clothing and hair, I'd say sometime between 1890 and 1905.

    Fannie Farmer or Ellen Swallow Richards involved? In any case, likely at one of the city's high schools in a more affluent area (again, clothes)

    Shoe Boxes - Creepy "Pioneer Women" Hair

    I think the "Home Comforts" item is not a book, but the cover to the adjacent show box. It appears the women are sampling different food items brought to the event in such boxes, rather than cooked on-site as part of a home ec class. The boys are looking hungrily from the other side of the room.

    I love the braided hair on the woman in the bottom left corner! It's just like those creepy "Pioneer Women" in that Texas polygamy cult:
    IMAGE(http://blog.photoshelter.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/mt-old/11-17770763-thumb-522x348.jpg) IMAGE(http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2008/11/25/article-0-00ED004900000578-342_468x341.jpg)

    They did and do

    They're a pain in the ass to shoot, but my God it's a lot of fun once in a while. Even shooting 8x10 paper negatives gets a ton of resolution, though. It's easy to get distracted in some of them looking at all the fine details, missing the actual photograph entirely. Which, for my photos, is often a blessing.

    High school?

    Boys or young men in the background. Books in foreground, so probably a school, although only the girls with long braids look like school girls. Many of these women look a little old for high school, wearing their hair up. They are too well-dressed to be factory workers on break, plus the books suggest otherwise. No one is all that dressed up, just in everyday clothing.

    I was there 1978-1980; I

    I was there 1978-1980; I believe these were last 3 years BLA was housed in that building.

    The slanted part of the ceiling (I believe there is a stairway above) is embedded in my brain. During my years, there was a painting of the school mascot (The Jabberwock) on the slant of the ceiling. The artist was a student named Raymond Wu; he was senior in 1979 or 80; and I think he later went to RISD. I don't recall much of what I learned in the classrooms of BLA, but I have a brain chock full of random facts similar to the above.

    The Answer

    Thanks for playing everyone! This photo shows students at Dorchester High School eating lunch in the cafeteria in 1901.