I-3235.1 | Misses Creighton, Montreal, QC, 1862

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Misses Creighton, Montreal, QC, 1862
William Notman (1826-1891)
1862, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
8 x 5 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  female (19035) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

William Notman followed tradition when he photographed these sisters with a book. Young ladies were painted or photographed with flowers to show they were delicate or a book to show that they were refined. Usually ladies' books were small and included moral lessons. An 1842 embroidery guide, The Ladies' Hand-Book, summarizes the importance of women in the family:

"If it be true that home scenes are rendered happy or miserable in proportion to the good or evil influence exercised over them by women, as sister, wife or mother, it will be admitted as a fact of utmost importance that everything should be done to improve the taste, cultivate the understanding, and elevate the character of those high priestesses of our domestic sanctuaries."

The Ladies' Hand-Book of Fancy Needlework & Embroidery Containing Plain and Ample Directions, Whereby to Become a Perfect Mistress of These Delightful Arts (London: H. G. Clarke and Co., 1842).

  • What

    William Notman's photographs provide a wealth of information regarding the expectations of Canadian society in the second half of the 19th century.

  • Where

    Books offering advice were considered suitable gifts for young ladies and were often presented by parents, brothers, teachers or even fiancés.

  • When

    Nineteenth-century publishers recognized that there was a growing market for publications that offered middle-class women advice.

  • Who

    Such books were often authored by anonymous "ladies" and implied that there was much to be learned about good taste.