I-43757.1 | Miss F. Prior, posed for a composite, Montreal, QC, 1870

Miss F. Prior, posed for a composite, Montreal, QC, 1870
William Notman (1826-1891)
1870, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
17.8 x 12.7 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  female (19035) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

Miss Prior posed for a composite photograph of a skating carnival in 1870. Her daring portrayal was entitled "Girl of the Period." In 1868 an article with this title authored by Eliza Lynn Linton lamented the lack of moral qualities in modern English girls. The author expresses her culture's fear of female emancipation and sexual anxieties. Mrs. Lynn Linton found the "girl" unfeminine and railed against her slang, her love of fun and luxury, her bold, determined manner and her mannish or excessively fashionable dress, accompanied by dyed or artificial hair and a painted face. Worst yet, in Victorian parlance, she was "fast" with men.

Four young women at the carnival chose this character and perhaps enjoyed acting a bit "faster" than normally permitted:
"Among those who fully sustained their characters may be mentioned Miss Mathewson as "A Girl of the Period" . . . A gentleman in his nightgown and nightcap with lighted candle in hand, in search apparently for his bedroom, caused considerable fright to the females at first, but their shyness wore off, and the Girl of the Period, true to her character, became quite confidential."

Montreal Star, 3 March 1870.

Eliza Lynn Linton, "The Girl of the Period," Saturday Review, 14 March 1868. [on line].
http://digital.lib.umn.edu/cgi-bin/Ebind2html/vic_lintgirl?seq=1 (pages accessed May 8, 2003)

  • What

    The "Girl of the Period" costumes generally featured a heavy chignon with large braid, a small hat with exaggerated trim (note the stuffed squirrel), a dark-coloured dress with an apron and mannish accessories like an eyeglass and cane.

  • Where

    Miss Prior appears to be skating, but is in fact posed in an elaborate set-up in the Notman studio.

  • When

    In 1870 a large skating carnival was held at the Victoria Rink to entertain Prince Arthur who was in Montreal for a royal visit.

  • Who

    The "Girl of the Period" character came from an article in the Saturday Review that described fashionable, emancipated young women in very negative terms.