Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Early Real Photo WORKING WOMEN Postcards
Although their career options were limited, many women worked in turn-of-the-century America. Here we display a number of real photo postcards showing working women in different settings. Of course, teaching was open to women and we will focus on the American classroom in a separate post. Above, a group of women who seem to be in a factory with flags hanging in the background. Occupational photo postcards may not include identified locations. If they are unused, they have no postmark to guide us. And folks sent these images of themselves to friends and relatives in envelopes to protect them...without adding the location because the recipient would already know it. The same problem was caused when real photo postcards were kept in the family album...everyone knew who the picture showed and where it was taken. Many of us have the same issue with a box of unidentifed old family photos!
Above is a group of people at work wearing aprons...perhaps bakers?
Here is a nurse at work. Nursing was an occupation that attracted women then as it does now and there are many fine real photo postcards of women graduating from nursing programs and in hospitals. The message on the back of this postcard is from the woman in bed, who tells her siblings, "a picture 2 weeks after my operation...am not at all well now." This postcard was mailed from Wisconsin in 1916.
Here are some telephone operators on a real photo postcard postmarked 1910. The sign says Telephone Pay Station with the bell logo inscribed Long Distance Telephone. The pale patch at the bottom of the photo is called "silvering" - at the height of American's love affair with pre-digital cameras, the Kodak film industry was one of the world's biggest consumers of silver.
These women are shown in a millinery shop. In an era when fancy hats were a part of every woman's wardrobe, milliners flourished.
This woman is shown behind the counter at a post office, with a sign above her station that reads Gen'l Delivery and Stamps. On the left are the post office boxes. The AZO stampbox on this unused photo postcard dates the image 1904-1918. Stampboxes can be very helpful in dating images that are not otherwise identified. Playle's has a comprehensive guide to stampboxes on the internet. If you collect real photo postcards, you will find their guide invaluable.
Although there is no identifying information on this postcard, the seller described it as "restaurant workers" which seems likely. It bears the same AZO stampbox on the back, dating it 1904-1918.
Women living in rural areas worked hard; their day was long and the work physically wearing. Here is a woman shown with her family on the farm. There are also real photo postcards of women feeding chickens, gathering crops, shelling peas and more.
I saved this photograph of a secretary until last for several reasons. First, it is a beautiful photograph. Second, the entry of women into office work signalled a shift in women's work as it put them in daily contact with male employers. An entire collection could be made of postcards that focus on early 1900s office romances between bosses and their secretaries. Also, there is a message written on the back by the young woman above that says, "This is where I spend all of my weary hours now..." signed Joyce. Having been a secretary for a number of years, I can feel Joyce's pain.
PRICE ESTIMATES: Real photo postcards vary in price depending on the quality and rarity of the image. Identified locations are more expensive than images without identification. Family photo postcards are generally less expensive than business-based occupational images, even if the family is busy working. Expect to pay about $12 and up for working women postcards. This estimate is for postcards in Excellent condition and it is only an estimate.