This is a photo of my great-grandmother, Elsie Andersen. It was taken in 1905 when Elsie was a young woman of 21, ready to make her mark on the world. I have loved this picture for so long as it represents to me a woman awake. A woman who has come out of hiding, a woman who clearly wastes no time people-pleasing or being less than.
1905 was just after the Victorian era - Clothing styles were detailed with the hour-glass figure considered the feminine insignia. Corsets were generally worn to achieve this figure and later, in the century and into the Edwardian era, "tight lacing" became more common and brought with it the “petticoats and crinolines”.
Grandma was clearly making a statement here. And the way she holds both her stare and her cigarette - there is NOTHING demure about Elsie.
This photo empowers me. Elsie lived during a time that was not-so-kind to women expressing themselves so if she can do it so can I.
Thank you Elsie. Little did you know this one photo, a brief moment captured in time, would have so much influence on your great-granddaughter 100 years later.
Keeping this photo near me for the days I need a reminder what it looks like, and feels like, to be an empowered woman. For the days when the desire for certainty trips me up and what I need the most is to pull back into my center, stare straight into the camera and declare "bring it on".
"If you have never been called a defiant, incorrigible, impossible woman, have faith.............there is still time" ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Grandma did not get the memo. Or more likely she did and laughed about it.
(photo of 1905 fashion from Wikipedia)