No Girls Allowed? Gender in Victorian Photographic Societies, c.1850-1890

Interdit aux filles ? Le genre dans les sociétés photographiques victoriennes (années 1850-années 1890)

Abstracts

Les premières sociétés photographiques de Grande-Bretagne, de France et d’Amérique du Nord se conformaient aux règles et au comportement des autres clubs homosociaux masculins du XIXe siècle, malgré le fait qu’un individu, quel que soit son sexe, n’avait besoin ni de diplôme ni d’apprentissage formel pour devenir photographe. C’est le statut incertain de la photographie à cette époque qui a rendu ses premiers dirigeants soucieux de la définir comme une profession « masculine » (c’est-à-dire qualifiée, scientifique). Comment les femmes pouvaient-elles savoir que la salle de réunion de la société photographique leur était interdite, même si elles étaient membres payants du club ? Les premiers journaux photographiques offrent quelques indices, et la théorie sociologique en fournit d’autres. Cet article soutient que la relative nouveauté de la photographie et son mariage entre l’art et la science en ont fait un mécanisme idéal pour définir la masculinité moderne dans un Occident en voie d’industrialisation. Néanmoins, la société photographique n’a jamais été en mesure de bannir complètement les femmes ou la féminité, comme le montre la vie de nombreuses premières femmes photographes.

Early photographic societies in Britain, France, and North America conformed to the rules and behavior of other male homosocial clubs in the nineteenth century, despite the fact that an individual, of whatever sex, required neither diploma nor formal apprenticeship to become a photographer. It was photography’s unsettled status during the period that made its early leaders anxious to define it as a “masculine” (i.e., skilled, scientific) profession. How did women “know” that the photographic society meeting room was off-limits to them, even when they were paying members of the club? Early photographic journals offer some clues, and sociological theory provides yet more. This article argues that photography’s relative novelty and its marriage of art to science made it an ideal mechanism with which to define modern masculinity in an industrializing West. Nevertheless, the photographic society was never completely able to ban women or femininity, as the lives of many early women photographers show.

Index

Mots-clés

société photographique, sphères séparées, James Glaisher, Julia Margaret Cameron, discours genré

Keywords

photographic society, separate spheres, James Glaisher, Julia Margaret Cameron, gendered speech

Outline

Text

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Presented To Him By The Photographic Society of Great Britain”, The Illustrated London News, vol. 90, 2494, 5 Feb. 1887, p. 146.

Figure 1: “Bust of Mr. James Glaisher, F.R.S.

Delivering a speech to the Photographic Society of London in 1887, long-time president James Glaisher [Figure 1] recalled that in the early days, “a number of ladies were always present, and well I recollect a Mrs. Spottiswoode, a lady of highly cultivated mind, and artistic feeling, used to give valuable criticisms upon the pictures”.1 Glaisher may have felt wistful on this occasion, a banquet during which he accepted a marble bust of himself commissioned by the Photographic Society. Over the course of Glaisher’s thirty-three years in the Society, he had witnessed not only the disappearance of Mrs. Spottiswoode and other early women amateurs, but, concurrently, the rhetorical triumph of a Victorian doctrine of “separate spheres”.2 It had taken thirty years of discursive labor – undertaken by the Photographic Society and other early clubs – to gender photography as “masculine”. Although the masculinity of photographic societies would be challenged in the period after Glaisher’s tenure, notably by new amateur clubs and the leadership of women photographers in the United States, he nevertheless felt moved to lament his colleagues’ seemingly hardened preference for all-male meetings.

Despite photography’s unbounded novelty in the nineteenth century, it followed the pattern of other arts and sciences in the Europe and America during the period – that is, institutionalization by male champions. Early photography’s freedom from academic, professional, or state control, while allowing women to take up the new art in amateur and professional roles, did not prevent a masculine monopoly over its leadership, precisely as was found in state-sponsored painting, geography, or science (e.g., the Royal Society). Why did such a new craft follow the old pattern, even as a leisure pursuit? More broadly, why was it so important for these male champions of photography to have all-male assemblies? This article draws upon early issues of photographic journals and other photo-related publications to shed light on these questions. Using systematic keyword searches within digital runs of nineteenth-century French, British, and American publications, and close readings of the debut volumes of early journals (where photographic society members spelled out their goals and rules), the present writer discerned trends in the gendered language surrounding photographic practice in general and female practitioners in particular.3

The Photographic Society as a Masculine Republic

Several generations of historians have illuminated the troubled doctrine of “separate spheres” that so marked nineteenth-century western Europe and America.4 Anthropologists, too, have grappled with the phenomenon of the sexes’ occupational and recreational segregation, whether it be mutual, partial, or enforced with violence.5 Following anthropological lines of thought, the question at hand may be as follows: In order to become men, why do males banish the presence of women from their rites and rituals? Anthropologists, sociologists, and psychologists have all observed a “tendency of men to feel more at ease in other men’s company”, or in other words, “male homosociability” across cultures globally.6 Men’s and women’s groups form spaces and rituals where the work of gender identification and norming takes place.7 In all-male sub-groups, anthropologist Mary Douglas observed what she termed a “Delilah Complex”, in which residual (primitive) fears of feminine pollution threatened male strength, virility, and superiority.8 The distinguished men of the Victorian photographic societies likely would have scoffed at such a diagnosis, but Douglas insisted that ethnographic study of pollution and taboo around the globe can illuminate behaviors in the so-called civilized world. Notions of purity and pollution aptly apply to early photographic discourse, with its discussions of staining chemicals as well as “pure photography” as something untainted by darkroom or workroom manipulations.

Feminist historians, too, have shown that sex-segregation has not simply been the innocent division of labor (or leisure) in complex societies. It has also allowed patriarchal societies to concentrate resources, honors, and power in the spaces allocated for men.9 Since the end of the eighteenth century, in the context of political and industrial revolutions, making learned and voluntary societies into gentlemen’s private clubs was a key adaptation in that power process. The gendering of certain spaces, in conjunction with the post-revolutionary “sexual contract” between husbands and wives10, and the doctrine of separate spheres, would teach many (never all) women with scientific or artistic talents to keep their productivity “private” and thereby unacknowledged in the historical record.

In tandem with this gendering of learned spaces in the nineteenth century was the continued reinforcement of fine art and science as “masculine”, both in discourse and professional practice (art schools and national institutes, for example, remained closed to women until the 1890s). Scholars have shown the importance of such gendering work taking place in Europe since the Renaissance.11 Nineteenth-century photographic discourse played a powerful role in furthering that work because it combined aspirational tropes of science and fine art. The social ascent of the ‘man of science’ began early during the Industrial Revolution, according to historian Christine MacLeod. Although MacLeod framed her arguments around class and nation rather than gender, her discussion of a “new Prometheus” in industrializing Britain (that is, the figure of the inventor) implied that this modern figure of the innovator would be male.12 Early photographic journals in Britain, France, and the United States revealed male photographers as determined to be included in this ascendant, honorable class of scientists and savants.

In the eyes of some well-meaning European and American observers13, photography – as yet excluded from academic status – seemed friendly to “feminine” talent and industriousness. Some early observers recommended photography to women as a supposed “minor” art, like embroidery or sketching, requiring no “manly” genius, as a wholesome activity they could perform in the home. Later, with the dry plate and roll film technology, amateur photography became an ‘appropriate’ hobby for women and especially mothers.14. This creeping “femininity” (i.e., low status) in the last quarter of the century caused the fraternity of camera enthusiasts and professionals to double down on the medium’s complex, scientific, and artistic nature, supposedly the purview of men.

One of the most important techniques for asserting photography’s seriousness, both as a gentlemanly science and a professional pursuit, was the establishment of strict rules and hierarchies in the early photographic societies. Male enthusiasts together established constitutional republics in miniature, complete with elected governments and detailed statutory rules. A paradox developed in France and Britain wherein voluntary associations like photographic societies vowed not to dabble in politics (in France under Napoleon III, for example, such vows were required for operation), and yet such societies gave their male members practice in procedural republicanism. Republicanism, not democracy: Within these photographic republics, the executives, or council members, alone controlled both the agendas of individual meetings and the broader, longer-term priorities of the society. This rule was enforced in the way speech was controlled at meetings, and in the content of the society’s published journal.

The council of the London Photographic Society for example, composed of a president, three vice-presidents, secretary, treasurer, and nineteen other members, ruled “that no communication shall be read unless previously approved of by the Council”.15 In many of the early societies, there was also a hierarchy of membership, as in the French Photographic Society, which elected membres titulaires (full members), membres correspondants (often members at a distance, but in order to become a membre titulaire one had to first be a membre correspondant), and associés amateurs.16 Like the London Photographic Society, the French council controlled agendas, and a second committee under the council, a comité d’administration, controlled the contents of the society’s Bulletin.

Every type of membership required sponsorship by already-elected members in good standing with the society (usually two).17 Without the concerted campaign of a husband, brother, and/or father who was already a member, then, a European or American woman, without a profession, without scientific notoriety, or her own money, was unlikely to get elected to these national photographic societies, which prided themselves on the eminence of their members.18 One might suppose, too, that a woman who depended on a male relative for a chance of entry might have refused the chance for fear of being looked down upon (or condescended to) by “legitimate” members. There was also a secret “blackballing” system with which members could veto the election of a member-candidate.19 The early societies were thus perfectly designed to keep all but a tiny handful of women out. And for the few female members elected to a society, actually appearing at a regular meeting was exceedingly rare before 1900.

Why Women Were Unwelcome at Photographic Society Meetings

In both the nineteenth and twentieth century, “male-dominated social structures/institutions were implicitly defined as if they were gender neutral”.20 Acker added that the invisibility of gender in organizations requires (and required) “ideological formulations that obscure organizational realities, including the pervasiveness of male power”.21 Unlike the proverbial treehouse, then, the sign for “No Girls Allowed” was not always explicitly nailed to the door. Occasionally, though, a photographic society member or writer would be unable to suppress the sentiment and voiced his hostility. A series of letters appearing in The Photographic News in 1889 does much to reveal gender anxieties just at the “tipping point” in European and American women’s early emancipation movement. A letter to the editor, signed “Perplexed”22 although seemingly friendly toward the idea of women’s participation in photographic societies (i.e., he was exposing the behavior of others), laid out many of the fears that haunted the men in these societies.

Perplexed” wrote of an unnamed photographic society, composed of seventy male members, which had debated the subject of allowing women to become members, with no satisfactory resolution. The author of the letter reproduced the seven objections given by fellow members who had voted against the measure, as follows:

1st. All members are admitted by latchkeys.

2nd. That the rooms are open thus at all hours to members.

3rd. That the dark room is likewise open to all comers.

4th. That smoking is permitted and indulged in by members.

5th. That the privilege existing of allowing members to bring out from their lockers alcoholic refreshments proves another source of objection.

6th. That when lady members were admitted it might by the wives of certain married members be regarded as a club of objectionable character, just below a certain place of entertainment to which women members had free access by latchkeys at all hours.

7th. That jokes of varied kinds would arise, and tend to lower the reputation of the Association as now existing23.

With the risk of the club disintegrating over the matter, “Perplexed” reported that the resolution was shelved by the council. What were the real concerns behind these seven opaque objections? The first three objections (and the sixth objection) point to a problem with the idea of women photographers freely entering and leaving the premises. A woman’s freedom of movement created the possibility of sexual impropriety (an unsupervised darkroom open at all hours).24 The fear of sexual impropriety was also one of the rebuttals against women’s demands for full access to a university education during the same period, which remained an all-male preserve into the twentieth century.25 Perhaps because this provincial photographic society would not have been as elite in its membership as the soon-to-be Royal Photographic Society in London26 (that is, “gentlemanly”), objecting members either did not trust themselves or others in the club to interact with women appropriately.

On the subject of latchkeys, the idea, in itself, of women holding door keys that allowed them to come and go as they pleased rankled their male guardians. An American poem by Harold R. Vynne complained at the end of the century:

Mothers of families would stay out late

And walk queer circles on the parlor floor

When they came home, or noisily berate

Their latchkeys when they wouldn’t open the door.

Mine own sweet wife a fond farewell had said,

And blithely cantered off unto her club,

Leaving poor me to put the babe to bed,

And after that to iron, cook and scrub.27

Vynne’s poem expressed the fear that the freedom given by the latchkey would allow women to neglect their domestic “duties”, in other words the unpaid labor that wives and unmarried daughters provided in exchange for being supported by the man with whom they lived – what we might call the “sexual contract” of nineteenth-century marriage.

Judging from published cartoons, jokes, and stories of the period, if there was one thing that North Atlantic men agreed on, it was their anger at the prospect of having to do such work themselves once female emancipation had arrived (Figure 2).

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The man on the left is the husband, the one on the right is a servant. Usually, female servants did the laundry. Cartoons with similar scenarios also appeared in Britain and France throughout the period.

Courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress.

Figure 2: Lithograph published by Currier & Ives, New York, “The Age of Iron: Man As He Expects To Be” (1869).

The logic of the period, across the North Atlantic, was that as women claimed the “masculine” privileges of public life, men would somehow be forced to take up the domestic slack, which would unman them. This gender anxiety, angry at times, was the flip side of the worshipful praise for the ideal “Angel in the House” as described in Coventry Patmore’s two-volume ode to feminine domesticity.28

Two of the objections aired by “Perplexed” dealt with the desire to smoke and drink alcohol, which during the period were explicitly “masculine” pleasures. As January Arnall noted for the Chicago camera clubs of the period, “It certainly would not have been seemly for an upper or middle-class woman to be in a space with men, booze, and smoke”29. In fact, there were certain regions where the law forbade women from smoking, or barkeeps from serving women30. Just as bourgeois and titled ladies withdrew from the dining room in order to let the men smoke and drink alone (hence the aptly named “drawing room” to which women retired), so the men’s club, whatever type, heightened its “masculinity” in a cloud of smoke and liquor-induced informality (Figure 3).

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Although a public hotel, the picture included the relaxed drinking, smoking, and conversation of a nineteenth-century gentleman’s club. The large painting of mythical nudes on the wall reproduces William A. Bouguereau’s, “Nymphs and Satyr”.

Courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress.

Figure 3: Greyscale rendering of a chromolithograph by H.A. Thomas & Wylie (1890) depicting the bar at the Hoffman House Hotel in New York.

Behind the objectors’ reference to smoking and alcohol was the fear that if women were present, propriety would prevent them from casting their inhibitions aside, which would considerably lessen their enjoyment of the evening.

The sixth and seventh objections implied that the presence of women would sully the tone and reputation of the photographic society. If respectable women stayed at home, so went the logic of the objection, then women who went out at night, and in particular, women unaccompanied by a husband or a father, must be tarts. In a published response, American photographer Catharine Weed Barnes asked if these gentlemen “consider a photographic club a place which cannot be frequented by ladies without loss of self-respect or the respect of others”?31 The objecting faction rather cowardly implied that it was members’ wives, not necessarily themselves, who objected to meetings being open to women. Respectable wives, one is to suppose, would suspect the meeting of being nothing more than an excuse for carousing, resembling an unnamed “place of entertainment” (music hall? brothel?) in the objection.

Beyond the unflattering characterization of women in such a scenario (cast either as tarts or as sexual police), the fear of puerile snickering voiced in the final objection reported by “Perplexed” might strike us today as simply pathetic, rather than as proof of intent to suppress women photographers. But however petty these objections were, and indeed “Perplexed” was arguing they were petty, they voiced deep-seated insecurities that were not unique to one particular English photo club. The effect of these objections—most often unspoken—was to keep women out of photographic society meeting rooms, even when the society constitution said “ladies were eligible” for membership.32

Following “Perplexed,” another anonymous reader wrote to The Photographic News in disgust:

Sir, Being a member of the same Association as ‘Perplexed’...I think it very bad taste on his part to drag this matter into public; I am sure the members have had enough of this in their own debates. Many of the oldest and most interested members of the Association referred to strongly object to this scheme being introduced, and yet its promoter has not the good sense to let the matter drop, but continues to bring it forward, which, I fear, will lead ultimately to the injury, if not dissolution, of the Association.33

Perhaps the reason why the issue was so contentious in this particular photographic society was because many new amateur clubs arose in the 1880s that women were joining with greater confidence that in the past.34 But this “perplexing” controversy was not quite over. A third correspondent, writing under the pseudonym “Nemo”35, concluded:

I hold that a body of gentlemen associated for any purpose whatever have a perfect right to decline to admit ladies without being morally compelled to give any reason for such a declension at all. It is absurd to suppose the contrary.36

With that, the matter was dropped from the pages of the Photographic News. If there were any women photographers who had followed the kerfuffle and wrote to the editor with their opinions, their letters were not published.

Although much conspired to discourage women from joining early photographic societies, and discouraged women members from attending meetings in person, there were certain society events that the male leadership warmly encouraged women to attend as guests. Society councils and ordinary members desired the presence of wives and daughters at annual celebrations and dinners, to which women added sparkle in their finery for the evening. Audiences at annual soirées were routinely addressed as “Ladies and Gentlemen”, the women in the audience more often being guests of members rather than members themselves.

The presence of lady guests became so customary, that when they were missing, the leadership voiced its regret. The president of the Union Nationale des Sociétés Photographiques de France, Jules Janssen, spoke for the group at a branch banquet in Nancy:

We are sorry that a recent bereavement deprives us of the presence of Mme Riston; her presence encouraged the other ladies, and we will return to a tradition that, for my part, I hope will continue: the presence of our dear companions at our banquets.37

The duty of mourning, even late in the century, was one of the many family obligations that made participation in photographic societies more difficult for women in France and elsewhere. Nevertheless, societies in Britain, France, and the United States agreed that members’ wives adorned their social occasions.

Other times when women found welcome at the photographic society was as audience members during lantern lectures (i.e., Victorian slideshow technology) or during special outings. A contingent of the South London Photographic Society, for example, reported on a photographic picnic in the countryside, undertaken in April of 1860. Unlike such excursions after 1890 when women amateurs, encouraged by Kodak advertisements, joined men as members on an equal basis to photograph the picturesque outdoors38, in 1860 it was understood that women friends served a strictly ornamental purpose. The reporter depicted the female excursionists as totally uninterested in photography, even exasperated by it, “and their pretty lips pouted at the idea of photography in connection with a pic-nic”.39 Like the rustics whom the party encountered on the excursion, the women’s only contribution to the camera work during the trip was to spoil exposed plates by walking in front of the lens at the wrong moment.

The rhetorical impact of such a tale affirmed the gendering of photography as “masculine” (e.g., serious, technical, requiring physical stamina), and sent the message to female readers (for there were a good number)40 that their interest in photography might be “unfeminine” in comparison to the “ladies” who supposedly disdained the camera. “Masculine” institutions “encouraged a more passive, ‘feminine’ role as consumers of the products of photography” for women.41 By and large, photographic societies welcomed women in three types of scenarios: as beauty objects to be admired on social occasions – sessions of real scientific discussion were purged of women and femininity; in statu pupillari at open lectures or exhibitions – a role that mirrored the pupil-master dynamic of the ideal Victorian marriage; and as paying clients of the photographers’ service – as studio customers, the target market for manufactured albums, jewelry, and trinkets advertised in the photographic magazines of the period. More broadly speaking, most men expected women to be the consumers rather than producers of photographic knowledge or photographs themselves.

The Silence of Early Women Photographers

Literature from the second half of the nineteenth century and gender analysis in the social sciences shed light on the reasons why early women members either did not attend photography club meetings or attended in silence. French gender historian Judith Stone summarized the “gendered republic” as one where women “would provide an ever-present generative support system for man’s heroic activities” in social or political life, the equivalent of the Angel of the House in Victorian England or the True Woman in the United States.42 Femininity, as defined during the period, demanded self-effacement from women, not insistent voices prepared for the rough-and-tumble world of scientific debate. Even for women gutsy enough to assert themselves as camera devotees by joining early photographic societies, the printed evidence indicates they did not participate in the discussions at monthly meetings.

What happened on the rare occasion when an early woman photographer dared to speak at a photographic society meeting? If the meeting notes in early photographic journals are an indication, such a thing never occurred before 1890 in the metropoles, despite the existence of successful amateur and professional women workers in Europe, Britain, and America. One occurrence in 1869, however, provides an intriguing counter-example. Whether by writing a request from her home on the Isle of Wight, or through the good offices of friends, or both, Julia Margaret Cameron managed to get on the agenda of a London Photographic Society meeting, of which she was a paying member, in May of 1869. Knowing beforehand of Mrs. Cameron’s visit, the chairman at the meeting, James Glaisher, “remarked that he had often regretted that ladies so seldom attended the meetings of the Society. He was glad to see that two ladies were present; and one of them, Mrs. Cameron, wished to say a few words to members.”43 Cameron’s presentation, soliciting advice from fellow members concerning the appearance of cracks in her glass negatives, surely had an extraordinary effect on the room. Never before, and never again until the 1890s (and then rarely) had a female member of the Society held the floor during a meeting.44

Cameron’s appearance seemed to justify the perennial epithet – “eccentric” – that writers used for her then and even now.45 What made Cameron eccentric was her refusal to acquiesce to the “masculine” gendering of the photographic society, or the medium writ large. During her short career as a photographic artist, Cameron regularly submitted her pictures for display at European exhibitions, brushing off fellow photographers’ negative criticism by saying that it “would have dispirited me very much had I not valued that criticism at its worth”.46 Cameron paid more attention to her reception by art critics, which was more positive. For a technical problem, however, she knew the photographic society was the perfect place to turn, and at least seven men at the springtime meeting offered Cameron diagnoses of her problem, as recorded in the Society’s journal. They ascribed the cracks to her collodion mixture, her varnish, the moist climate at Freshwater (her home on the Isle of Wight), and other possible factors. Chairman Glaisher, diligently moving the agenda along, thanked Cameron, and then introduced the next speaker, Captain E. D. Lyon, who would read a paper on “Photography in India”.47 Lyon’s subject would have interested Cameron, who was born in India, and whose last photographs would be made a few years later in Ceylon.

Cameron’s brief appearance that evening in the London Society’s rooms on Conduit Street provokes several questions. What did the masculine gathering make of this middle-aged woman who dared to think she might contribute to the production of new knowledge – the lofty purpose of Victorian Britain’s galaxy of learned societies? Who was the second woman with Cameron mentioned by Glaisher, and did Cameron’s boldness give the mystery woman more confidence to speak on other occasions? The Society’s monthly journal does not provide an answer. Having managed to get on the meeting’s agenda, and perhaps knowing that Captain Lyon’s five albums of negatives from southern India would be shown, Cameron felt it worth her while to travel to London from her home, a distance of about one hundred miles, requiring transport by horse, train, and a boat. Cameron’s sister, Sara Prinsep, lived in Kensington so she may have visited or stayed with Sara on this occasion. If Cameron attended another Society meeting, her presence was not recorded.

Judging from the years that immediately followed the 1869 incident, Mrs. Cameron’s visit could not be said to have inaugurated a woman’s caucus in the Society, Glaisher’s passing encouragement notwithstanding. If photography and, more explicitly, photographic societies were to be construction sites for nineteenth-century masculinity – a technologically adept masculinity that could unify a modest range of social classes (business owners, experimental scientists, aristocratic dilettantes, military men), while providing an arena for civilized debate, then “femininity”, it seems, had no place in these meeting rooms. Until the arrival of the more confident New Woman in the 1890s, Cameron (herself uninterested in the woman’s rights movement taking place in England or the fight for suffrage) was the exception that proved the rule. The photographic society continued as a masculine space.

A more practical obstacle blocking women photographers was what sociologist Joan Acker has termed “the time patterns of men”. Acker discussed gender expectations within trade unions as recently as 1999:

Meetings that occur after work when many women need to be at home cooking and caring for children, expectations that union activists will be available to go to weekend workshops far from home, and negotiation sessions that last long into the night are all problematic practices for women with families.48

Admittedly, the class makeup of early photographic societies was different from that of trade unions, but the difficulties of women alluded to were similar, so Acker’s description is thought-provoking. Victorian women’s domestic duties did not leave them free to commit to participating in organizations whose meetings were scheduled for men’s convenience at night – a time of day that respectable women on either side of the Atlantic did not go out in alone, even if they were free.

Even middle-class women who commanded the labor of servants (in terms of cooking, for example) nevertheless had childcare, sick-nurse duties, and obligations toward extended family that made participation impractical. As with trade unions during the period, the photographic society “was constructed on the presumption that members were nonmothers”.49 But even in cases where servants freed women from evening tasks, their families likely would have been shocked if they went out alone at night. As we will see below, the idea of women participating in recreational associations, especially at night, provoked the disapproval of observers and family, so that, unless the meeting was devoted to service for others (e.g., children, the poor, the Church), single and married women were supposed to feel guilty for such indulgences. So, although North Atlantic women’s growing desire for inclusion ensured that a certain number of “Miss” and “Mrs.” appeared on the rolls of photo club membership from the 1860s to the 1890s, being members did not empower women to participate in regular monthly meetings until after 1890.50

Photography in the Private (Unpublicized) Sphere

The picture of early photographic societies that emerges, then, is one characterized by exclusion, condescension, or chauvinism if not misogyny. But if we turn our eyes from the printed narrative, the story gets more complicated than that. Margot Horwitz has explained that nearly a century before women’s liberation in the mid-twentieth century, “some husbands were understanding of their wives’ need for self-expression”.51 Away from the public proceedings of the chartered societies, in the intimacy of the home studio and darkroom, many a young woman received her first lessons in photography from fathers, uncles, or husbands who loved them, and who had every confidence in their abilities. The English Anna Atkins (1799-1871) and the American Emma Sewall (1836-1919) both had fathers who were scientists, who encouraged their daughters to learn photography with them.52 Contemporaries Julia Margaret Cameron and Clementina Hawarden both had husbands who either encouraged their wives or blessed their activities with benign neglect. Cameron praised her husband, Charles, in her autobiography:

My Husband from first to last has watched every picture with delight & it is my daily habit to run to him…with every glass upon which a fresh glory is…newly stamped & to listen to his enthusiastic applause. This habit of running into the dining room with my wet pictures has stained such an immense quantity of Table linen with Nitrate of Silver indelible Stains that I should have been banished from any less indulgent household.53

Charles Cameron patiently posed for his artist-wife on several occasions, even playing King Lear in one of Cameron’s literary compositions (Figure 4).

Image 10000000000003AB0000046716EE3B35.jpg

Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York).

Figure 4: Julia M. Cameron, “King Lear Allotting His Kingdom to His Three Daughters” (1872).

Across the Atlantic, Staten Island photographer Alice Austen (1866-1952) likewise benefited from a supportive family. Austen learned the art of photography from two generous uncles who provided her with her first camera, instruction, and even built her a darkroom at the family home, Clear Comfort. For Austen, who never married, support from extended family allowed her to wave off the disapproval of others in their social circle.54 The young men of Staten Island (frustrated suitors?) referred to Austen and her female friends as “the Darned Club,” but such teasing did not deter the photographer or her models.55

A French contemporary of Austen, Jenny de Vasson (1872-1920), had an artistic father and encouragement from a family friend, the painter Bernard Naudin.56 A sort of provincial Lartigue57, de Vasson photographed family, friends, farmers, and even soldiers departing for the front in 1914. Her biographers likened her also to the German portraitist August Sander, saying that although she was never recognized as a photographer during her short lifetime, she possessed “a talent infinitely superior to many professionals” of her day.58 There were also occasions on both sides of the Atlantic when a wife, having taken up the camera profession or the hobby, taught the husband the secrets of the darkroom, rather than the other way around.59 The exchange of photographic knowledge did not flow only one way.

While at the institutional level, photographic societies ignored female potential so as to strengthen their “masculine” identity, at the personal level men and women sometimes worked together, whether in business in the family-owned studio, or for pleasure. Unfortunately, the sisters and wives who restricted their work and their opinions to the private sphere forfeited their places in the historical record. Women’s compliance with the taboo against female publicity—a taboo that most women were repeatedly warned against at home, school, and church—led both to their future invisibility, and to a tenacious imbalance in the historiography of the medium. Future historians of photography could help correct this imbalance by revealing in greater detail how family members learned and practiced early photography together.

1 Anon., “Testimonial Banquet to the President”, Journal of the Photographic Society of London (henceforth JSPL), vol. 11. 5, new series, Feb. 25

2 Three analyses of the 19th c. doctrine of separate spheres and its limits include Leonore Davidoff, “Adam Spoke First and Named the Orders of the

3 This article is adapted from the author’s book, The Gender of Photography: How Masculine and Feminine Values Shaped the History of

4 The Doctrine of Separate Spheres perhaps got its name in Victorian England but equally flourished in France and the United States, as it related to

5 Classic texts include Margaret Mead, Male and Female: A study of the sexes in a changing world, New York, Morrow Quill Paperbacks, 1949; Henrietta L

6 David Collinson and Jess Hearn, “Naming Men as Men: Implications for Work, Organization and Management”, Gender, Work and Organization, vol. 1, no1

7 Cynthia F. Epstein, “Similarity and Difference: The Sociology of Gender Distinctions”, in Janet S. Chafetz (dir.), Handbook of the Sociology of

8 Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollutionand Taboo, New York, Routledge, 1995 [1966], p. 155.

9 On the gendering of prestigious professions, see for example the work of Juliette Rennes, Le Mérite et la nature. Une controverse républicaine. L’

10 I borrow the term “sexual contract” from Carole Pateman (The Sexual Contract, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1988) but whereas she created

11 Christine Battersby, Gender and Genius: Towards a Feminist Aesthetics, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1990. Londa Schiebinger, The Mind Has

12 Christine MacLeod, Heroes of Invention: Technology, Liberalism, and British Identity, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2010, chapter two, “The

13 For example, Jabez Hughes, “Photography as an Industrial Occupation for Women”, originally published in Victoria Magazine and reproduced in the

14 The marketing link between amateur photography and mothers recording their children’s milestones is discussed in Nancy M. West, Kodak and the Lens

15 Rule 17 in the “Rules of the Photographic Society,” printed in JPSL, vol. 1, n°1, March 3, 1853, p. 4-5.

16 Article 7 in the “Statuts de la Société Française de Photographie” (French Photographic Society), Bulletin de la Société Française de Photographie

17 See the “Laws of the Society,” JPSL, vol. 15, no. 233, 16 May 1872, p. 151-152. The French Photographic Society created similar rules. See articles

18 In the British Isles, aristocratic women who enjoyed comfortable incomes and plentiful leisure were some of the earliest female members of the

19 The black-balling system originated with the Photographic Society of London in 1853, wherein rule no. 12 stated, “Members shall be balloted for

20 Janet S. Chafetz, op. cit., p. 4.

21 Joan Acker, “Gender and Organizations,” in Janet S. Chafetz, op. cit., p. 178.

22 Bernard and Pauline Heathcote deduced the identity of “Perplexed” as Henry Blandy, president of the Nottinghamshire Amateur Photographic

23 Anon., “Women at Photographic Meetings,” Photographic News (henceforth PN), vol. 33, no. 1618, Sept. 6, 1889, p. 590.

24 For example, the Toronto Camera Club, established in 1888, denied women members the use of its rooms during the evenings, except on the first and

25 Patricia Marks, Bicycles, Bangs, and Bloomers: The New Woman in the Popular Press, Lexington, University of Kentucky Press, 1990, p. 109. Rita

26 The Photographic Society of London changed its name to the Photographic Society of Great Britain in 1874, and in 1894 it became the Royal

27 Poem printed in Patricia Marks, op. cit., p. 117.

28 Coventry Patmore, The Angel in the House, vols. 1 and 2, London, Macmillan and Co., 1863.

29 January P. Arnall, “‘Adventures Into Camera-Land’: Women, Image-Making, and the Social Environment of Chicago Camera Clubs at the Turn of the

30 Ethel Powers objected to the ban on women smoking in New York in The Evening World (24 Jan. 1908), a page in the digital collection, Click

31 Catharine Weed Barnes, “Why Ladies Should Be Admitted to Membership in Photographic Societies” (1889), in Peter E. Palmquist (dir.), Camera Fiends

32 Laura R. Prieto saw a similar phenomenon in nineteenth-century American artists’ associations. Organizations like the Rhode Island Art Association

33 Anon., in “Correspondence”, PN, vol. 33, no1619, Sept. 13, 1889, p. 607.

34 For example, the Edinburgh Photographic Club (est. 1881), the Baltimore Camera Club (est. 1884), and the Société Photographique de Lyon (1890s – it

35 Nemo” is Latin for “nobody,” and the name of the hero (Captain Nemo) in Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), first

36 Nemo” in “Correspondence”, PN, vol. 33, no1620, Sept. 20, 1889, p. 623.

37 Speech delivered by Janssen at the banquet following the meeting of the Union Nationale des Sociétés Photographiques at Nancy, BSFP, t. 14, 2nd

38 On the “Kodak girl” and Kodak advertising aimed at girls and mothers, see Theresa L. Kay, Selling and Image: Interpreting Gender in Eastman Kodak

39 A. H. W., “Our Photographic Pic-Nic, and How We Fared”, British Journal of Photography, vol. 7, no116, April 16, 1860, p. 113-114.

40 Photographic journals were key sources of instruction for women and girls during the early decades of photography, when joining a photographic

41 Diana Pedersen and Martha Phemister, “Women and Photography in Ontario”, artcited, p. 88.

42 Judith F. Stone, “The Republican Brotherhood: Gender and Ideology”, in Elinor A. Accampo, Rachel G. Fuchs, and Mary Lynn Stewart (eds.), Gender and

43 Transactions of the Photographic Society of London’s ordinary meeting held on May 11, 1869, JPSL, vol. 14, no205, May 15, 1869, p. 34. Cameron’s

44 A claim made based on the published reports of meetings in the Society’s journal. It is certainly possible that, for whatever reason, the Society

45 Kristen A. Hoving, “‘Flashing thro’ the Gloom’: Julia Margaret Cameron’s ‘Eccentricity’”, History of Photography, vol. 27, no1, 2003, p. 45-59.

46 Julia Margaret Cameron, “Annals of My Glass House”, in Beaumont Newhall (ed.), Photography, Essays and Images: Illustrated Readings in the History

47 JPSL, vol. 14, no205, May 15, 1869, p. 34.

48 Joan Acker, “Gender and Organizations” in Janet S. Chafetz, op. cit., p. 181.

49 Sonya O. Rose, Limited Livelihoods: Gender and Class in Nineteenth-Century England, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1992, p. 16.

50 In particular, see the Miss/Mrs.-peppered membership lists of the London Amateur Photographic Association, whose news the JPSL reportedduring the

51 Margot F. Horwitz, A Female Focus: Great Women Photographers, New York, Franklin Watts, 1996, p. 26.

52 Sewall’s biographer concluded that her husband “supported and encouraged her in her artistic and intellectual endeavors.  Whether he understood her

53 Quoted in Colin Ford, Julia Margaret Cameron: A Critical Biography, Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003, p. 42.

54 Alice (Born Elizabeth Alice Munn) and her mother were abandoned by her father, but the two women apparently lived happily in the maternal

55 A description of an Austen photograph (“The Darned Club”, 1891) depicting Alice and three female friends, explains the title of the picture. In the

https://statenisland.pastperfectonline.com/photo/FA52326B-1C56-484F-8F3A-342422011487.

56 Christian Caujolle, Yvon Le Marlec, Gilles Wolkowitsch, and Jean-Marc Zaorski.  Jenny de Vasson : une femme photographe au début du siècle, Paris

57 Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) was a talented French amateur photographer born a generation after Jenny de Vasson. Both artists came from

58 Christian Caujolle et al, op. cit., p. 6.

59 For example, Dolly B. Andruss (1825-1904), a daguerreotypist in New York and Illinois in the 1850s and 60s, taught her husband, William. See

Bibliography

Photography Journals:

British Journal of Photography

Bulletin de la Société Française de Photographie

Journal of the Photographic Society of London

Photographic News

Photographic Times and American Photographer

Books and Articles:

Marianne G Ainley. (ed.), Despite the Odds: Essays on Canadian Women and Science, Montréal, Véhicule Press, 1990

January P. Arnall, “‘Adventures Into Camera-Land’: Women, Image-Making, and the Social Environment of Chicago Camera Clubs at the Turn of the Century”, Ph.D. dissertation, Claremont (California) Claremont University, 2009

Janet S. Chafetz (ed.), Handbook of the Sociology of Gender,New York, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 1999

David Collinson and Jess Hearn, “Naming Men as Men: Implications for Work, Organization and Management”, Gender, Work and Organization, Vol. 1, no1, Jan. 1994, p. 2-22

Christian Caujolle, Yvon Le Marlec, Gilles Wolkowitsch, and Jean-Marc Zaorski. Jenny de Vasson : une femme photographe au début du siècle,Paris, Éditions Herscher, 1982

Margaret Denny, “From Commerce to Art: American Women Photographers 1850-1900”, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2010

Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo, New York, Routledge, 1995 [1966]

Bernard V. Heathcote and Pauline F. Heathcote, “The Feminine Influence: Aspects of the Role of Women in the Evolution of Photography in the British Isles”, History of Photography, Vol. 12, no3, July-Sept. 1988, p. 259-273

Margot F. Horwitz, A Female Focus: Great Women Photographers,New York, Franklin Watts, 1996

Jabez Hughes, “Photography as an Industrial Occupation for Women”, British Journal of Photography, Vol. 20, May 9, 1873, p. 222-223

Henrietta L. Moore, Feminism and Anthropology, Minneapolis, University ofMinnesota Press, 1988

Peter E. Palmquist (ed.), Camera Fiends & Kodak Girls. Volume 1: 50 Selections by and about Women in Photography, 1840-1930, New York, Midmarch Arts Press, 1989

Peter E. Palmquist. (ed.), Camera Fiends & Kodak Girls. Volume 2: 60 Selections by and about Women in Photography, 1855-1965, New York, Midmarch Arts Press, 1995

Carole Pateman, The Sexual Contract, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1988

Laura R. Prieto, At Home in the Studio: The Professionalization of Women Artists in America, Cambridge (Massachusetts), Harvard University Press, 2001

Abbie Sewall, Message Through Time: The Photographs of Emma D. Sewall 1836-1919, Gardiner (ME), The Harpswell Press, 1989

Robert Shoemaker and Mary Vincent (eds.) Gender and History in Western Europe, London, Arnold, 1998

Joseph A. Vandello and Jennifer K. Bosson. “Hard Won and Easily Lost: A Review and Synthesis of Theory and Research on Precarious Manhood”, Psychology of Men and Masculinity, Vol. 14, no2, 2012, p. 101-113

R.D. Wood Julia Margaret Cameron’s Copyrighted Photographs, Self-published PDF, May 1996, Nos70-72 in Wood’s compilation. Available at http://www.midley.co.uk/cameron/cameron.pdf.

Notes

1 Anon., “Testimonial Banquet to the President”, Journal of the Photographic Society of London (henceforth JSPL), vol. 11. 5, new series, Feb. 25, 1887, p. 79. Mrs. Spottiswoode was an amateur photographer based in India, where her husband was an army captain.  She was also a member of the Amateur Photographic Association, and the couple knew Julia Margaret Cameron, who made their photographic portrait.  See R.D. Wood, Julia Margaret Cameron’s Copyrighted Photographs, self-published PDF, May 1996, image nos70-72 in Wood’s compilation, available at http://www.midley.co.uk/cameron/cameron.pdf.

2 Three analyses of the 19th c. doctrine of separate spheres and its limits include Leonore Davidoff, “Adam Spoke First and Named the Orders of the World: Masculine and Feminine Domains in History and Sociology”, Catherine Hall, “The Early Formation of Victorian Domestic Ideology” and Amanda Vickery, “Golden Age to Separate Spheres? A Review of the Categories and Chronology of English Women’s History”, in Robert Shoemaker and Mary Vincent (dir.), Gender and History in Western Europe, London, Arnold, 1998.

3 This article is adapted from the author’s book, The Gender of Photography: How Masculine and Feminine Values Shaped the History of Nineteenth-Century Photography, London, Routledge, 2020.

4 The Doctrine of Separate Spheres perhaps got its name in Victorian England but equally flourished in France and the United States, as it related to the Cult of Domesticity, the Cult of True Womanhood, and, especially in France, difference vs. equality feminism. For an overview, see Christopher Wells, “Separate Spheres”, in Elizabeth Kowaleski-Wallace (dir.), Encyclopedia of Feminist Literary Theory, New York, Routledge, 2009, p. 519; Amanda Vickery, “Golden Age to Separate Spheres? A Review of the Categories and Chronology of English Women’s History”, The Historical Journal, vol. 36, no2, p. 383-414; and Christine Bard, Les Femmes dans la société française au XXe siècle, Paris, Armand Colin, 2001.

5 Classic texts include Margaret Mead, Male and Female: A study of the sexes in a changing world, New York, Morrow Quill Paperbacks, 1949; Henrietta L. Moore, Feminism and Anthropology, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1988; and Sherry Ortner, Making Gender: The Politics and Erotics of Culture, Boston, Beacon Press Books, 1996.

6 David Collinson and Jess Hearn, “Naming Men as Men: Implications for Work, Organization and Management”, Gender, Work and Organization, vol. 1, no1, Jan. 1994, p. 15.

7 Cynthia F. Epstein, “Similarity and Difference: The Sociology of Gender Distinctions”, in Janet S. Chafetz (dir.), Handbook of the Sociology of Gender, New York, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 1999, p. 45-61. Joseph A. Vandello and Jennifer K. Bosson, “Hard Won and Easily Lost: A Review and Synthesis of Theory and Research on Precarious Manhood”, Psychology of Men and Masculinity, vol. 14, no2, 2012, p. 101-113.

8 Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo, New York, Routledge, 1995 [1966], p. 155.

9 On the gendering of prestigious professions, see for example the work of Juliette Rennes, Le Mérite et la nature. Une controverse républicaine. L’Accès des femmes aux professions de prestige (1880-1940),Paris, Fayard, 2007) and for Victorian Britain, Martha Vicinus (dir.), A Widening Sphere: Changing Roles of Victorian Women, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1977.

10 I borrow the term “sexual contract” from Carole Pateman (The Sexual Contract, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1988) but whereas she created the phrase to discuss the history of contract theory, I will use here it to describe the implicit agreement inherent to nineteenth-century North Atlantic marriage.

11 Christine Battersby, Gender and Genius: Towards a Feminist Aesthetics, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1990. Londa Schiebinger, The Mind Has No Sex?: Women in the Origins of Modern Science, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1991. Feminist art historians have studied how female artists worked around the institutional and gender-based obstacles in their way. See Gabriel P. Weisberg and Jane R. Becker (eds.), Overcoming All Obstacles: The Women of the Académie Julian, New York, Dahesh Museum, 1999, Tamar Garb, The Body in Time: Figures of Femininity in Late Nineteenth-Century France, Seattle, University of Washington Press, 2008, and Charlotte Foucher Zarmanian, Créatrices en 1900: Femmes artistes en France dans les milieux symbolistes, Paris, Mare & Martin, 2015. For Britain see Deborah Cherry, Beyond the Frame: Feminism and Visual Culture, Britain 1850-1900, London, Routledge, 2000. For the United States see Laura R. Prieto, At Home in the Studio: The Professionalization of Women Artists in America, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2001.

12 Christine MacLeod, Heroes of Invention: Technology, Liberalism, and British Identity, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2010, chapter two, “The New Prometheus”, p. 27.

13 For example, Jabez Hughes, “Photography as an Industrial Occupation for Women”, originally published in Victoria Magazine and reproduced in the British Journal of Photography, vol. 20, May 9, 1873, p. 222-223; Anon., “Des Dames photographes”, Revue photographique, no13, 5 nov. 1856, p. 196; and Anon., “Woman’s Work in Photography”, The Photographic Times and American Photographer, vol. 17, no. 287, March 18, 1887, p. 127-128.

14 The marketing link between amateur photography and mothers recording their children’s milestones is discussed in Nancy M. West, Kodak and the Lens of Nostalgia, Charlottesville, University of Virginia Press, 2000. The “dry plate” process used pre-made glass plates coated with gelatine starting in the early 1870s, enabling photographers to store negatives until they were ready to develop them, an improved convenience from the previous “wet plate” collodion process. Roll film (originally rolls of sensitized paper) lightened the load and added to the convenience of amateur photography beginning in the 1880s.

15 Rule 17 in the “Rules of the Photographic Society,” printed in JPSL, vol. 1, n°1, March 3, 1853, p. 4-5.

16 Article 7 in the “Statuts de la Société Française de Photographie” (French Photographic Society), Bulletin de la Société Française de Photographie (henceforth BSFP), t. 1, 1855, p. 6.

17 See the “Laws of the Society,” JPSL, vol. 15, no. 233, 16 May 1872, p. 151-152. The French Photographic Society created similar rules. See articles 7-13 of the French Society’s statutes (there were a total of sixty separate articles in the statutes, covering over ten pages of rules):  BSFP, t. 1, 1855, p. 5-17.  

18 In the British Isles, aristocratic women who enjoyed comfortable incomes and plentiful leisure were some of the earliest female members of the metropolitan photographic societies, such as Viscountesses Jocelyn and Hawarden in the London Photographic Society. Annual membership dues for the London Photographic Society and the Manchester Photographic Society was one guinea (£1-1s-0d); dues for the Société Française de Photographie was 80 francs, and the Société Photographique de Lille (est. 1891) was a comparable bargain at 18 francs.

19 The black-balling system originated with the Photographic Society of London in 1853, wherein rule no. 12 stated, “Members shall be balloted for, and that one black ball in five shall exclude.” See JPSL, vol. 1, no1, 1853, p. 4. Many early societies adopted the measure, such as the Manchester Photographic Society, which prescribed black balling in its original rule no9 (1855).

20 Janet S. Chafetz, op. cit., p. 4.

21 Joan Acker, “Gender and Organizations,” in Janet S. Chafetz, op. cit., p. 178.

22 Bernard and Pauline Heathcote deduced the identity of “Perplexed” as Henry Blandy, president of the Nottinghamshire Amateur Photographic Association (NAPA). They reported that shortly after this correspondence, Blandy resigned from the presidency and helped found the Nottinghamshire Camera Club, in which four women were elected to serve as executive committee members, probably a first in the United Kingdom. Eventually, NAPA reversed its no-women policy, and the two societies amalgamated in 1891, including women members. Bernard V. and Pauline F. Heathcote, “The Feminine Influence: Aspects of the Role of Women in the Evolution of Photography in the British Isles” History of Photography, vol. 12, no3, July-Sept. 1988, p. 269-270.

23 Anon., “Women at Photographic Meetings,” Photographic News (henceforth PN), vol. 33, no. 1618, Sept. 6, 1889, p. 590.

24 For example, the Toronto Camera Club, established in 1888, denied women members the use of its rooms during the evenings, except on the first and third Mondays of each month (presumably when chaperones would be employed to supervise members). Diana Pedersen and Martha Phemister, “Women and Photography in Ontario, 1839-1929: A Case Study of the Interaction of Gender and Technology”, in Marianne G. Ainley (ed.), Despite the Odds: Essays on Canadian Women and Science, Montréal, Véhicule Press, 1990, p. 107.

25 Patricia Marks, Bicycles, Bangs, and Bloomers: The New Woman in the Popular Press, Lexington, University of Kentucky Press, 1990, p. 109. Rita McWilliams-Tullberg traced the long defeat of nineteenth-century women’s campaign for full university membership in “Women and Degrees at Cambridge University, 1862-1897” in Martha Vicinus (ed.), A Widening Sphere: Changing Roles of Victorian Women, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1977, p. 117-145.

26 The Photographic Society of London changed its name to the Photographic Society of Great Britain in 1874, and in 1894 it became the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain. The society, though, had enjoyed royal patronage and support from its beginnings.

27 Poem printed in Patricia Marks, op. cit., p. 117.

28 Coventry Patmore, The Angel in the House, vols. 1 and 2, London, Macmillan and Co., 1863.

29 January P. Arnall, “‘Adventures Into Camera-Land’: Women, Image-Making, and the Social Environment of Chicago Camera Clubs at the Turn of the Century,” Ph.D. diss., Claremont, Claremont University, 2009, p. 55.

30 Ethel Powers objected to the ban on women smoking in New York in The Evening World (24 Jan. 1908), a page in the digital collection, Click Americana, available at: http://clickamericana.com/eras/1900s/public-smoking-by-women-banned-1908.  

31 Catharine Weed Barnes, “Why Ladies Should Be Admitted to Membership in Photographic Societies” (1889), in Peter E. Palmquist (dir.), Camera Fiends & Kodak Girls, vol. 2: 60 Selections by and about Women in Photography, 1855-1965, New York, Midmarch Arts Press, 1995, p. 41.

32 Laura R. Prieto saw a similar phenomenon in nineteenth-century American artists’ associations. Organizations like the Rhode Island Art Association, for example, “did not formally forbid women, but it had no women members and its constitution used masculine pronouns to describe associates.” Laura R. Prieto, At Home in the Studio: The Professionalization of Women Artists in America, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2001, p. 42.

33 Anon., in “Correspondence”, PN, vol. 33, no1619, Sept. 13, 1889, p. 607.

34 For example, the Edinburgh Photographic Club (est. 1881), the Baltimore Camera Club (est. 1884), and the Société Photographique de Lyon (1890s – it split from the Photo-Club de Lyon).

35 Nemo” is Latin for “nobody,” and the name of the hero (Captain Nemo) in Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), first translated into English in 1873.

36 Nemo” in “Correspondence”, PN, vol. 33, no1620, Sept. 20, 1889, p. 623.

37 Speech delivered by Janssen at the banquet following the meeting of the Union Nationale des Sociétés Photographiques at Nancy, BSFP, t. 14, 2nd serie, May 27-30, 1898, p. 485.

38 On the “Kodak girl” and Kodak advertising aimed at girls and mothers, see Theresa L. Kay, Selling and Image: Interpreting Gender in Eastman Kodak Advertising, 1900-1915, master’s thesis, Laramie, University of Wyoming, 2001, directed by John D. Dorst, and Nancy M. West, Kodak and the Lens of Nostalgia, Charlottesville, University of Virginia Press, 2000.

39 A. H. W., “Our Photographic Pic-Nic, and How We Fared”, British Journal of Photography, vol. 7, no116, April 16, 1860, p. 113-114.

40 Photographic journals were key sources of instruction for women and girls during the early decades of photography, when joining a photographic society was difficult, and attending society meetings even more so. See for example a detailed explanation of the wet collodion, dry collodion, and waxed paper processes in “Photography for Ladies” in The Liverpool Photographic Journal, vol. 2, no17, May 12, 1855, p. 63-68. Another way we know that part of the audience for the photographic press was female was because some of the correspondents who wrote to the editors were women.  See for example “A Lady Amateur” and “Emily” in British Journal of Photography, vol. 7, no109 (Jan. 1, 1860), 15, and no110 (Jan. 15, 1860), 14; “Sarah C. M.” in PN, vol. 1, no4, Oct. 1, 1858, p. 44; and “Lydia” in JPSL, vol. 2, no32 (July 21, 1855), 206.  Many correspondents hoping for answers to their questions signed with only their initials or with pseudonyms, such as “An Inquirer”, “An Amateur” or “A Subscriber”, some of whom may have been women.

41 Diana Pedersen and Martha Phemister, “Women and Photography in Ontario”, artcited, p. 88.

42 Judith F. Stone, “The Republican Brotherhood: Gender and Ideology”, in Elinor A. Accampo, Rachel G. Fuchs, and Mary Lynn Stewart (eds.), Gender and the Politics of Social Reform in France, 1870-1914, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995, p. 33-34.

43 Transactions of the Photographic Society of London’s ordinary meeting held on May 11, 1869, JPSL, vol. 14, no205, May 15, 1869, p. 34. Cameron’s presentation was summarized in one paragraph, while the other members’ discussion of her specimens (their opinions) was more fully reported.

44 A claim made based on the published reports of meetings in the Society’s journal. It is certainly possible that, for whatever reason, the Society secretary neglected to record, or the journal editor neglected to publish, other episodes involving female members. I find this possibility to be unlikely under Glaisher’s liberal tenure, though certainly omittance could have occurred before his presidency. A piece of evidence to make us wonder about this possibility can be found in The Photographic News under the editorship of William Crookes.  During a dispute he had with the Photographic Society council over whether he ought to be permitted to report on Society meetings in the News, Crookes published a bitter account of a Society meeting in 1858, during which a vocal complaint against the “dictatorial” council provoked “cheers and hisses”.  If Crookes’ report was based in reality, what other Society dramas were missing from the record of the Photographic Journal?  See PN, vol. 1, no14, 10 Dec. 1858, p. 157. A few years before Cameron’s visit, a new Society member, Madame Brunner of Sunderland, exhibited specimens of her colored photographs on ivory at a Society meeting, but it is unclear from the short report whether a) she was present, or b) if she participated in discussion about them. Transactions of the Ordinary General Meeting of the Photographic Society of London, JPSL, vol. 9, no143, March 15, 1864, p. 3.

45 Kristen A. Hoving, “‘Flashing thro’ the Gloom’: Julia Margaret Cameron’s ‘Eccentricity’”, History of Photography, vol. 27, no1, 2003, p. 45-59. Bill Jay described Cameron as eccentric four separate times in “Julia Margaret Cameron: An Appraisal,” http://www.billjayonphotography.com/J.M.Cameron-an%20appraisal.pdf.

46 Julia Margaret Cameron, “Annals of My Glass House”, in Beaumont Newhall (ed.), Photography, Essays and Images: Illustrated Readings in the History of Photography, New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1980, p. 136.

47 JPSL, vol. 14, no205, May 15, 1869, p. 34.

48 Joan Acker, “Gender and Organizations” in Janet S. Chafetz, op. cit., p. 181.

49 Sonya O. Rose, Limited Livelihoods: Gender and Class in Nineteenth-Century England, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1992, p. 16.

50 In particular, see the Miss/Mrs.-peppered membership lists of the London Amateur Photographic Association, whose news the JPSL reported during the period. A trickle of French women amateurs entered the country’s regional societies in the 1890s, such as in Lyon, Caen, Le Havre, and the national society in Paris. The list of French Photographic Society members in 1898 included a Mlle L. de Lambertye, Mlle Pellechet, Mme Raffard, and Mme Vauzanges. See the list in the BSFP, t. 14, new series, Jan. 1898, p. 7-23.

51 Margot F. Horwitz, A Female Focus: Great Women Photographers, New York, Franklin Watts, 1996, p. 26.

52 Sewall’s biographer concluded that her husband “supported and encouraged her in her artistic and intellectual endeavors.  Whether he understood her or not, he apparently accepted the fact that her needs transcended those of being a wife and mother and that she would always hold part of herself in reserve”. Abbie Sewall, Message Through Time: The Photographs of Emma D. Sewall 1836-1919, Gardiner, The Harpswell Press, 1989, p. 6.

53 Quoted in Colin Ford, Julia Margaret Cameron: A Critical Biography, Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003, p. 42.

54 Alice (Born Elizabeth Alice Munn) and her mother were abandoned by her father, but the two women apparently lived happily in the maternal grandparents’ stately home with several other relatives. Austen photographed social life on Staten Island, as well as the rougher streets of New York’s Lower East Side, living contentedly on income from her inheritance. In 1929, however, the Wall Street Crash destroyed the family’s wealth, and Alice ended up destitute. Luckily, she was able to transmit her photograph collection to a staff member of the Staten Island Historical Society, which today holds seven thousand original items from her collection. Alice Austen House, “Her Life,” available online here: http://aliceausten.org/her-life/.

55 A description of an Austen photograph (“The Darned Club”, 1891) depicting Alice and three female friends, explains the title of the picture. In the collection of the Staten Island Historical Society, available online here:

https://statenisland.pastperfectonline.com/photo/FA52326B-1C56-484F-8F3A-342422011487.

56 Christian Caujolle, Yvon Le Marlec, Gilles Wolkowitsch, and Jean-Marc Zaorski.  Jenny de Vasson : une femme photographe au début du siècle, Paris, Éditions Herscher, 1982, p. 11.

57 Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) was a talented French amateur photographer born a generation after Jenny de Vasson. Both artists came from well-to-do families, and used their cameras to document their family, friends, surroundings, and travels. Whereas Lartigue came to the attention of John Szarkowski, curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, who then organized a major exhibition of Lartigue’s early photographs in 1963, Jenny de Vasson died in obscurity, though preserved from total oblivion when the discovery of her surviving œuvre in 1980 led to several exhibitions in the French provinces.

58 Christian Caujolle et al, op. cit., p. 6.

59 For example, Dolly B. Andruss (1825-1904), a daguerreotypist in New York and Illinois in the 1850s and 60s, taught her husband, William. See Margaret H. Denny, From Commerce to Art: American Women Photographers 1850-1900, Ph.D. diss., University of Illinois at Chicago, 2010, p. 58-65.

Illustrations

Presented To Him By The Photographic Society of Great Britain”, The Illustrated London News, vol. 90, 2494, 5 Feb. 1887, p. 146.

The man on the left is the husband, the one on the right is a servant. Usually, female servants did the laundry. Cartoons with similar scenarios also appeared in Britain and France throughout the period.

Courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress.

Although a public hotel, the picture included the relaxed drinking, smoking, and conversation of a nineteenth-century gentleman’s club. The large painting of mythical nudes on the wall reproduces William A. Bouguereau’s, “Nymphs and Satyr”.

Courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress.

Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York).

References

Electronic reference

Nicole Hudgins, « No Girls Allowed? Gender in Victorian Photographic Societies, c.1850-1890 », Revue d’histoire culturelle [Online],  | 2021, Online since 05 octobre 2021, connection on 28 novembre 2021. URL : http://revues.mshparisnord.fr/rhc/index.php?id=693

Author

Nicole Hudgins

Dr. Hudgins is a Professor of History and Interdisciplinary Studies at the University of Baltimore. She researches several facets of early photography, including its use in war, family representation, and gender, most recently in The Gender of Photography: How Masculine and Feminine Values Shaped the History of Nineteenth-Century Photography (New York, Routledge, 2020).