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Woman: The World Over

An amazing collection of lantern slides depicting women from nations around the world. At first glance, the women in these portraits seem like other portraits of the time, generally nondescript portraits of people at some random moment in time.  But upon closer inspection, and with the use of an accompanying lecture booklet, a much deeper picture is painted of the lives of these women.

Women: The World Over is a commercially-produced set of slides created by the European firm Riley Brothers in Bradford, England in 1901 that boasts a catalogue of 1,500 slide sets for sale or hire with lecture-format captions. These slides include women of different classes, working in agricultural, service, and industrial settings with lecture notes that refer to problematic social conditions for women, particularly regarding marriage, and changing social norms as the 20th century begins.

These lantern slides are part of the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection, a large collection with a common thread of revealing the often hidden role of women working and being productive throughout history.  The slides  will be a part of the exhibition, 500 Years of Women’s Work: the Lisa Unger Baskin Collection on display from March 5-June 15, 2019 in the Biddle Rare Book Room, Stone Family Gallery, and History of Medicine Room.

Included with the images below are transcriptions from the lecture booklet that accompanies this set of slides and contain views of the time and the author’s opinion.

“Arab women. Here we have some city Arab women coming from the well. These women are always veiled in public, the long black veil extending from their eyes down to their waist, and sometimes to their feet. Between their eyes, and stretching upwards to their foreheads, is a curious brass ornament resembling three stout thimbles, one on top of another. This serves a double purpose­ to act as an ornament, and to still further conceal the features. The rest of the figure is enveloped in a long gown with very wide sleeves. No one can fail to be struck with the upright walk of the women in Egypt, and some say it is due to their habit of carrying heavy weights on their heads, which renders it necessary to walk very erect and firmly.”
“Market Women, Madeira. We are now in sunny Madeira, where a group of market women await our notice. The streets of Funchal are always bright and busy. Sledges laden with sugar cane, barrels of wine or luggage, and drawn by oxen, dispute the road with hammock bearers and porters of all descriptions. But the gaily dressed women and girls who hasten about with heavy loads upon their backs, and with bright coloured handkerchiefs upon their heads, are the most interesting sight. Baskets of fruit and vegetables are their commonest burdens, and very picturesque the groups look, whether they are standing at the street corner discussing the rise and fall in prices, or seated upon the ground as in the present instance, or walking slowly homewards in the cool of the day. They are a pleasant folk, and live a life of comparative freedom and pleasure.”
“Hulling Rice in the Philippines. Here we have come across some Philippine women engaged in hulling rice. There are immense rice fields in all parts of the island which give employment to thousands of people. Rice is their staple food and the home product is not yet sufficient for the home consumption. A family of five persons will consume about 250 lbs. of rice per month. No rice husking or winnowing machines are in use, save small ones for domestic purposes The grain is usually husked in a large hard-wood mortar, where it is beaten with a pestle, several women, and sometimes men working over one mortar.”
“Haymaking in Russian. Then we all know that woman from the earliest recorded times has been employed in harvest operations, and has been at home in the field of peace. This seems fitting work for women, and work which she seems always willing to undertake.
The picture introduces us to a Russian haymaker, whose garment is of the most striking colours, and whose frame is built for hard work. The Russian peasantry of her class are a cheerful and contented folk, courteous to strangers, but not too friendly to soap the water.”

All 48 slides and the accompanying booklet will be published on the Digital Collections website later this year, included in the exhibit mentioned above and will also be traveling to the Grolier Club in New York city in December of 2019.  Keep an eye out for them!

 

Catalog Record: https://search.library.duke.edu/search?id=DUKE008113723

Finding Aid: https://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/findingaids/womantheworldover/

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