II-77923.1 | Miss Guilmartin, Montreal, QC, 1885

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Miss Guilmartin, Montreal, QC, 1885
Wm. Notman & Son
1885, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
17 x 12 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  female (19035) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

The English and the French considered themselves distinct races, each thinking their own characteristics and traits to be superior to those of the other. But as northern Europeans, they also believed themselves to be members of the small family of "superior" races. Amerindians, the Irish, southern Europeans, Asians and Blacks were all considered inferior human beings.

Taboos against socializing with people from other racial groups did not stop Mary, an Irish immigrant, from marrying Shamrach Minkins, Montreal's famous refugee from American slavery. In fact, interracial marriages were not entirely unknown, especially in the poor and working-class urban districts. Nevertheless, taboos against miscegenation were so deeply ingrained that most Canadians were unlikely to entertain the idea of marrying outside their own group. If they did, their family and even the community might intervene to force an end to the relationship.

  • What

    As in portrait paintings, setting was important in formal photographic compositions. Although the books seen here were Notman's, they suggest Miss Guilmartin was an educated woman.

  • Where

    This image was produced in the Notman studio, but Miss Guilmartin was probably visiting from out of town, perhaps even the United States. The Guilmartin name does not appear in the Montreal directory at this time.

  • When

    This 1885 portrait was Miss Guilmartin's second by Notman. She visited his studio in 1877, as well.

  • Who

    This is one of a few portraits William Notman took of a person of African descent, making it especially important to the historical record.