One of my big ideas when I started this blog was to launch a crowd sourcing effort; I hoped that people from around the country (and the world!) would send me photos of American older women, ideally ones with stories behind them. While this dream hasn’t been hugely successful, I have had some wonderful contributions by readers who have sent in photos and stories about favorite family members, like this lovely remembrance of Nana MacDonald and these moving Memories of Bessie.
Other friends have kept an eye out for photos in thrift stores. This great example comes from the history librarian at my university, who has built a great fashion history collection over the years. She thought of my blog while rummaging through old photos in a thrift store in Southern California. Here are two families, the Gallups and the “B”s, relaxing at Mission Beach in San Diego. As with other beach photos I’ve seen from the early twentieth century, it’s interesting how few people are dressed for the water. Only the children seem ready to brave the waves.
The two women, Mrs. G. and M.E.B., look closer to forty than fifty. It’s too bad that we can’t see their skirts or their shoes. Mrs. G., in the back, wears all white—a sure sign that this photo was taken in the summer. She has on a plain white cloche hat, shielding her face from the sun, and a v-neck dress with ruffles down the front. M.E.B. has a much fancier hat, trimmed with flowers and a gauzy fabric, but it’s on her lap not on her head. Her dark dress has a gleaming white collar and cuffs. If you click on the photo, you can see interesting horizontal pleating on the bodice. No bobbed hair for her.
But it’s the man in the back, H.G.B., whose clothing interests me the most. All the other adults look quite well dressed—why is he in overalls?