Miss Alice Hay, Frances Benjamin Johnston collection
Photograph shows three-quarter length portrait of Alice Hay (Mrs. James Wolcott Wadsworth), seated in chair, facing front. She was the daughter of ambassador and statesman John Milton Hay.
Title from negative sleeve.
Forms part of: Frances Benjamin Johnston collection (Library of Congress).
The beginning of the twentieth century was a period of dramatic change for women in the West. In the late Victorian period women were constricted by a patriarchal social structure. But the early twentieth century saw the creation of the Suffragette movement, the catalyst for the rapid social change that occurred over the rest of the century. With career options other than marriage and motherhood opening up to them, women engaged with politics, served in the two world wars, made an impact on the artistic and literary worlds and experienced social and sexual liberation. Between 1880 and 1910, the number of women employed in the United States increased from 2.6 million to 7.8 million. Women's organizations in towns and cities across the U.S. were working to promote suffrage, better schools, the regulation of child labor, women in unions, and liquor prohibition. By emphasizing traditional traits, female social reformers created new spaces for themselves in local and then national government even before they had the right to vote.
Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952) was an American photographer who is best known for her pioneering work in the field of architectural and landscape photography. She was born in Grafton, West Virginia, and after studying art and photography in Paris, she returned to the United States and established herself as a successful photographer. Johnston's work focused primarily on architecture, and she photographed many of the most significant buildings and structures of her time. She also photographed landscapes, gardens, and people, and her work often appeared in magazines such as House Beautiful, Ladies' Home Journal, and Country Life. One of Johnston's most notable projects was her documentation of historic architecture in the American South. In 1933, she was commissioned by the Carnegie Corporation to photograph historic homes and buildings in Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina. This work resulted in a series of photographs that are now housed in the Library of Congress. Throughout her career, Johnston was also an advocate for women in photography, and she worked to promote the work of other women photographers. She was a founding member of the Women's Professional Photographers' Association and the Photo-Secession, a group of photographers who sought to elevate photography as an art form.