Malachi's Promise "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers...." Malachi 4:6

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Beautiful Emma and Her Lovely Waist

I think this "dewy" photo of my grandmother, Emma Bickerstaff, is as perfectly lovely as any I've ever seen. She's beautiful and so is her high-necked "waist" with its abundance of lace down the front and the slightly pouffed half or three-quarter sleeves. I like how she looks straight through the lens of the camera into my eyes. I like the innocence, honesty, and trust I see there.

If you enlarge the photograph you can see an enchanting, delicate pin in the shape of a leaf at her neckline. Her off-center locket adds just a touch of movement - or possibly lack of attention on the part of the photographer or Emma herself.

Emma was born in July, 1893. I've been trying to decide her age when this photo was taken. My first guess was between 14 and 18. I wondered if perhaps it was a birthday photograph.

"Waist" in this circumstance is a "shirtwaist," a particular style of lady's blouse. Waists similar to Emma's were popular from at least 1903 until about 1909 with style variations over the years. Since Emma would have been only 10 in 1903, I'm sure this photo was taken later.

Emma grew up in Steubenville, Ohio, along the Ohio River. I thought perhaps some of the old newspapers might have clothing advertisements depicting clothing of the time. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get to the Ohio Historical Society to look at the Steubenville newspapers; fortunately, Google Newspapers has lots of other newspapers from that time period online. Since Pittsburgh is only about 39 miles from Steubenville (by today's routes) I looked at the Pittsburgh Press thinking the styles might be similar because the cities were so close.

Below are advertisements from June issues of The Pittsburgh Press from, left to right, 1906, 1907, 1908, and 1909. None is exactly like Emma's but I think 1907 is the closest. Perhaps the portrait was taken in 1907 when Emma was 15 or, if the waist wasn't new, perhaps it was taken when she was a year or two older.



If you'd like to see the ads yourself, go to The Pittsburgh Press at Google Newspapers, type in the dates (one at a time), click the arrow to the proper page, enlarge, and view the original advertisements. Here are the dates and page numbers: The Pittsburgh Press, June 29, 1906, p. 8; The Pittsburgh Press, June 30, 1907, p. 3; The Pittsburgh Press, June 28, 1908, p. 3; and The Pittsburgh Press, June 30, 1909, p. 12.


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31 comments:

  1. The photograph was beautifully taken and in your post it is beautifully described. You add a welcome layer of interest and information to what is a fabulous image.

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  2. What a pretty young lady she was - and I love the old newspaper ads :-)

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  3. What a lovely photo. My grandmother (Gertrude O'Rourke 1892-1965) always called blouses a "waist". Now I know where the term came from.

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  4. This is so very well done, Nancy. The descriptiveness of your writing, the superb photograph of your Emma, and the images of the advertisements make this a complete joy to read. Thank you!

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  5. That is such a lovely photograph! I have a picture of my own great grandmother Emma in a very similar shirtwaist! :)

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  6. This is a beautiful photograph and I too enjoyed the adds. I agree, it looks like the one from 1907 the most.

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  7. Her waist looks surprisingly similar to the 1907 ad. I would guess that there were a lot of variations in the style.

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  8. A beautiful woman in a great photo. Those eyes pull you in.

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  9. She is stunning! And it is an amazing blouse.

    Isn't funny how the illustrations in the ads make them look like they had HUGE bust lines?

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  10. Beautiful picture of your grandmother Nancy. I think the 1907 ad. would be close, in the photo she looks 15-16 to me.

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  11. Beautiful photograph and a beautiful woman. I learned about 'waists' recently from reading about the '1911 Triangle factory Shirt Waist factory Fire'. It is worth looking up.

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  12. What a beautiful photo. I love the intricate design on her waist. I was thinking she looked closer to 18, but maybe not...could it be a graduation photo?

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  13. What a lovely and rather romantic photo. The waist is also beautiful. They were certainly not inexpensive for the standards of the day.

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  14. Excellent, informative post, with a superb photo.

    I really enjoyed this one.

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  15. Very pretty - she does look at you from her portrait. Could this be her engagement picture? That was often an occasion for a photograph.

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  16. Besides her great beauty (and stunning choice of clothes) her eyes are very welcoming and warm! Nice story too! Thanks!

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  17. Hi Nancy,

    Your grandmother is so pretty! I know what you mean about the eyes ... I have a photo of my great-great Grandma and had to put it in the bathroom because she freaked me out in my bedroom; it felt like she was watching me all the time. (I know, I'm weird.)

    Thanks for all the info and time that you put into your post, and for letting us know about Google Newspapers. That will be coming in handy for me soon.

    I am your newest follower, Have a wonderful week, and thank you so much for stopping by to say hello.

    Take care,

    Kathy

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  18. Thank you for suggesting we blow it up and look at the pretty little leaf pin. Such a nice bonus to all the other pretty things in the photo.
    Barbara

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  19. I just joined North Hills Genealogical Society and they had a link to Butler (PA) Genealogical Society.

    http://www.bcgs.us/

    May be of interest if you have not seen this link.

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  20. Thank you, all, for coming to visit and making such kind and thoughtful comments. It really makes blogging more fun to read your responses to posts.

    Claudia, I don't ever remember my grandmother referring to blouses as waists but there were other "old" words she used. Old habits die hard (as I'm finding out myself just now). Thanks, too, for the link to the Butler County Gen. Society. I'll take a look.

    Tattered and Lost, I know what you mean about the ads making the women look like they had huge busts. And wide shoulders, tiny heads, and the tiniest of waists - at least some years looked that way. Beyond corsets and shoulder pads (if they used them), I hope the ladies of the time didn't try too hard to imitate the illustrations! The things they would have put their bodies through if they did....

    Betsy, maybe you will share your grandmother in a future Sepia Saturday?

    Howard, thanks for the suggestion for more reading. I looked at the library for a book of that title and they didn't have it. I'll do a google search and see what I can come up with. I'm sure it will be an interesting read.

    Today's Gift, it's possible that it's a graduation photo except that I don't know if she graduated from high school.... She could be 18 wearing a slightly older waist. Wish I knew for sure.

    Christine, I hadn't thought about the relative expense of waists. Maybe I'll do a little research into that. I did see ads for new cars (at about $3,000) and furniture, etc., but no information about incomes. Thanks for the idea.

    MuseSwings, I have a photo of her wearing a traveling suit in the style of her wedding year and she looks older than in this photo. But then I don't know how long her engagement was....

    Kathy (from Oregon Gifts...), that's funny about your grandmother's photo. Some photographs were taken so well and are so good that it's almost like having the person there. Yes, I think I'd move my grandmother out of my bedroom, too. (And I definitely WOULD move my grandfather!) Thanks for following.

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  21. Nancy, you left a comment on my blog and I want to reply to you, but I can't find any way to contact you. Please email me at becky.jamison5@gmail.com. I do have more information to share regarding the Phelps name in Kirtland, OH and what I know about my ancestors there.

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  22. Your grandmother certainly was very beautiful, she has such a dreamy look. As you say, she does look through the lens and directly at the viewer. I found all your information on her blouse and jewellery very interesting.

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  23. My great-grandmother Emma was from the same time period. I have a photo of her in a white high-collar blouse and locket just like this!

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  24. I have a very poor photo of my grandmother with a very slim waist. It had to be cinched in but latter in life they couldn't have found that dress to fit. Rotund was the word for her figure.

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  25. a great photograph of a lovely young lady. i am only glad though that women have embraced more natural curves since those days. this fixation with a tiny waist... i remember my grandma wearing corsets to achieve that figure as seen in those ads. not healthy!!
    :/~
    HUGZ

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  26. Nancy,
    From the number of comments on this post, it is obvious that you hit "pay dirt". The picture is one of the most beautifully-preserved pictures I have ever seen. And I do love how you tied it to the newspapers of the time. Great post!

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  27. Love this. She looks very charming. Has an expression of curiosity and sweetness. I graduated from high school in 1983 and the style of my blouse was a throwback to this one...

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  28. What a beautiful picture! Thank you for giving me a link to your post - looking through the ads for that time period is a very good idea! I love how you incorporated that into your post.

    Jennifer

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  29. What A Bonny Lass! & Thanks For The Link To Google Newspapers, I didnt know about it.A Useful Tool.

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  30. Has anyone here heard of a Nellie Bickerstaff of Mineral Ridge. I steamed some old wallpaper from my kitchen wall when I came across some old writing. It said "hung by Nellie Bickerstaff, December 14,1959". It is still there, I haven't painted over it yet.

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  31. Jim, there are several Nellie Bickerstaffs in our family and I believe at all the Bickerstaffs in Mineral Ridge are in some way related. I would love to have a photograph of the writing if you would be willing to take a photo and send it. It would also help to know the address of the house. You can use the contact tab on the left side of this blog or email me at my ancestors and me @ gmail . com (minus the spaces). Thanks for trying to find a relative of Nellie. (And I hope you've signed up to receive comments because I don't have any other way of contacting you.)

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I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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