I have a photograph to share with you today that I hope you will see as beautiful. Some may see this woman as old, worn out and wrinkled. But I love photos of old people. You can see lines on their faces and hands that show they have lived life – sometimes it is harsh, sometimes kinder, but I always try to guess what their life was like.
To date this photo, we need to find out more about the man who took it. J. M. Gregory, of Louisville, Kentucky (another reason I favor this photo!), first appears in the Louisville city directories in 1870-1872, at a studio at 78 West Main Street. In 1873 and 74, he appears at 114 Market Street. After a pause of several years he is in the city directory for 1880-81 at 104 Fourth Street, then 1882-83 at 613 W. Market. In 1886, he again shows up at 810 W. Market – which is the address on this photo – and remains there through 1893. Afterwards there is no information about him in the Louisville city directories. Therefore, this photo was taken between 1886-1893.
This woman has the white hair that comes with great age. Isn’t it amazing that she has lived such a long life, particularly during this time period? From the perils of childbirth to the many illnesses that today could be cured, even in the 1880’s to 90’s something that seems trivial today could be deadly. She looks rather sad, but that was not unusual in the day. Her hands are those of someone who has worked all their life – washing clothes, weeding the garden, cooking meals, sewing – all those usual chores that come with being a wife and mother. Her clothes are not fancy, but look sturdy and useful. No jewelry, not even a wedding ring. At this point in her life she was someone’s wife, mother, grandmother, even possibly great-grandmother. Perhaps she had this photo made at the wishes of her family – to have a remembrance to cherish.