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[Two Unidentified Women]

Date ca. 1900
Location New Bedford Massachusetts United States
Dimensions Image: 3 9/16 x 4 9/16 in. (9 x 11.6 cm)
Paper: 3 15/16 x 5 5/8 in. (10 x 14.3 cm)
Mount: 4 1/4 x 6 1/2 in. (10.8 x 16.5 cm)
Print medium Photo-Albumen silver-Cabinet card

Between 1880 and 1900, the population of New Bedford, Massachusetts, increased fourfold, from about 27,000 to just over 100,000, as the city shifted from a dependence on whaling and began to expand its textile mill operation. Many of the new citizens of New Bedford were young women, like those shown here, who operated the mill machinery. These two women may have transcended the working class, though, for they are dressed in highly fashionable if modest later Victorian styles, with elaborate hats and pins, and are posed in a sophisticated and intimate way. The photographer, James E. Reed, was African American and the junior partner in the firm (Phineas C. Headley was a successful white cotton broker), but he was widely respected as a portraitist, having photographed the local gentry as well as visiting dignitaries, including Frederick Douglass.

Credit line

Gift of Daniel Cowin, 1990

Feedback Accession No. 387.1990