II-71018 | Mrs. Coghlin and horse, Montreal, QC, 1883

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Mrs. Coghlin and horse, Montreal, QC, 1883
Wm. Notman & Son
1883, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  female (19035) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878) , Transportation (2517)
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Keys to History

Modesty required adolescent and adult women to keep their legs covered-and together. Horseback riding posed a unique problem, since straddling the animal's back would require a woman to lift her skirts, reveal her ankles and calves, and risk having her skirt fly up in the air. Horse-drawn carriages enabled women to avoid this situation when they wanted to move about in cities and towns, but for those needing to travel trails, or for women living and working on farms, prohibitions like these were enormously inconvenient and sometimes ignored.

For "respectable" girls and women, riding sidesaddle was the only option. The invention of a pommel around which the rider hooked her right leg, and a second pommel that stabilized her left leg made riding sidesaddle much easier, and enabled upper-class women to join men in sporting activities like the fox hunt.

For further reading and a detailed drawing of a sidesaddle, click here.

Source : Straitlaced: Restrictions on Women [Web tour], by Elise Chenier, McGill University (see Links)

  • What

    This equestrian portrait suggests that Mrs. Coghlin was an avid rider.

  • Where

    This photograph was taken in the yard behind the Notman studio. Posing on a horse was not at all unusual.

  • When

    This portrait was taken in 1883, when horse-drawn carriages were still the primary mode of ground transportation.

  • Who

    Mrs. Coghlin was most likely a resident of Montreal.