PHSNE’s first meeting of the 2022-23 season features Dr. Lee McIntyre speaking about early women photographers in New England on Sunday, September 11 at 7:30 PM EDT via Zoom. Sign up on the PHSNE website to receive meeting information.
For the last 4 years, Dr. McIntyre’s focus has been to research, reconstruct, and resurrect stories about early women artisan photographers, women who earned a living from photography between 1840-1930. Her article about the photographer Miss C. Smith of Lowell, MA appeared in the 2021 issue of The Journal. She shares such stories regularly on her podcast and web site: Photographs, Pistols & Parasols.
Dr. McIntyre is an independent historian currently living in San Jose, CA. Since earning her Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of North Carolina, she has taught everything from linguistics at the university level to English as second language in Japan to practical photography in Germany. Dr. McIntyre is also an award-winning software designer and a coinventor on many U.S. patents. One of her primary passions, though, is bringing the lives of early woman photographers into the spotlight. Nowadays, it’s a well-accepted fact that women ran photography studios as early as the mid- 1800s. However, misconceptions about the lives and careers of these women persist.
For example, there’s a myth that a woman’s path to success was necessarily to run her studio with a man, usually her husband. However, this myth ignores the evidence of women like Miss C. Smith, who never had any business partner, male or female. Of course, there were women photographers who did partner with men, such as Mrs. Clara Ober-Towne, who ran the Towne studio in Boston with her husband (profiled in John Felix’s article in the 2018 issue of The Journal). But for all the married women like Mrs. Ober-Towne, there are also many married women whose successes weren’t dependent on their husbands. When Mrs. Emily Gay’s husband fell ill in 1877 in Fall River, MA, she assumed sole control of the studio, running it for decades without any partner. During the talk, Dr. McIntyre will discuss strategies and sources, such as business directories, census records, and newspaper ads, that she utilizes in her research, as well as some of the challenges she faced.
Dr. McIntyre comments: “Part of my goal is to find evidence for their business acumen, including clever uses of ads to promote their businesses. Plus, when unexpected twists in their private lives crop up, we gain an even fuller picture of their lives. Consider: just as Mrs. Gay is building up her business, her husband turns violent, shooting her brother and kidnapping their youngest child. Not all the stories take such a dramatic turn, of course, but I love it when the research can paint a complete portrait of these early woman photographers.”
The podcast, Photographs, Pistols & Parasols, is available on all the major podcast directories. It’s also available at p3photographers.net, where there are photos and other materials that go with the episodes, and McIntyre’s new blog is on that website as well. People can email Dr. McIntyre with questions related to the history of early women photographers at firstname.lastname@example.org.