Women in Photography

In 1871, 16.7% of all women in Montreal worked in industrial occupations, as did 20.5% of girls under age sixteen, 28% of boys under sixteen, and 45.8% of men.4 Women also worked in significant numbers in sectors other than industry. For example, 6.4% of all women and girls were employed in domestic service (as servants, housekeepers, or cooks), virtually an exclusively female occupation.5 Women worked as prostitutes as well. In 1875, 245 women worked in brothels in Montreal.6 Some women with

4Elizabeth Bloomfield, Canadian Industry in 1871: Canadian Women in Workshops (University of Guelph, 1991), 28 .

5D. Suzanne Cross, "The Neglected Majority: The Changing Role of Women in Nineteenth-Century Montreal," The Canadian City: Essays in Urban and Social History. Gilbert A. Stelter and Alan F.J. Artibise, eds., Ottawa: Carleton University Press, 1984, Table III, 313. First published in Histoire sociale/Social History VI, 3 (November 1973) .

6Micheline Dumont et. al (The Clio Collective), Quebec Women: A History, trans. Roger Gannon and Rosalind Gill (Toronto: The Women's Press, 1987), 170.

access to capital were entrepreneurs who operated small businesses such as boarding houses and grocery stores. Others reported employment as office or store clerks.7 Exact numbers have yet to be recovered. The only professional occupation open to women was teaching. Women made up 68% of teachers in the public system in the province of Quebec in 1856, and 78% in 1878.8 Like teaching and domestic work, social service - caring for the poor, the disabled, the ill, and children - was predominantly the venue of women. This area was staffed for the most part by nuns although some lay women were employed to run Catholic charities. In 1871, 0.9% of women over age twenty in the province of Quebec were nuns.9

Overall, the greatest concentration of female and male employment alike was in industry. In 1871, women and girls constituted 34% of the industrial labour force in Montreal,

7Cross, "Neglected Majority," 319.

8Dumont et. al, Quebec Women, 165. In general between 1853 and 1900, the wages of women teachers, who were clustered for the most part in the primary grades, were 40% that of men, who generally worked with older children or in administration.

9Marta Danylewycz, Taking the Veil (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1987), 17. I have not been able to obtain a specific figure for Montreal alone.

that is, 7,309 of approximately 21,000 workers.10 This compares with Quebec City where 27% of industrial workers were women and Toronto with 25% women.11 The Industrial Schedule of the 1871 census of Canada was the first to report the gender of employees in industrial establishments and is one of the few sources of such information. The Notman studio wages books supply this information as well. Like the wages books, the census does not indicate the specific jobs or the gender breakdown of jobs done by workers in any industry. However, the census does show that among the largest industrial employers, women were for the most part absent from the labour pools of mills, breweries, distilleries, metals fabricating and machinery production, and transportation equipment industries.12 Instead, women's labour is found concentrated elsewhere; women made up 32% of tobacco industry employees, 37.6% in boot and shoe manufacturing, 67.6% in the rubber industry, 69.1% in textiles, and, largest of all, 80.6% of garment industry employees.13 Furthermore, women tended to be clustered

10Bettina Bradbury, Working Families: age, gender, and daily survival in industrializing Montreal (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1993), 29.

^Bloomfield, Canadian Women, 81.

13Cross, "Neglected Majority," 314, 316.

within specific positions in the industries in which they were employed and fully excluded from others.14 The greater proportion of women in the garment industry, for example, sewed garments at home while men worked in the factories where the pieces were cut. A similar pattern will be seen to have been present in the photography industry.

In April 1871 in Montreal, just ninety-four people were employed in photography studios: seventy-six men and thirteen women, as well as four boys and one girl under age sixteen. (See Appendix C.) In short, 14.9% of the photography labour force was female, less than half that of the overall employment rate of women in industry reported in Montreal that year. Women and girls were employed at four of the twelve studios. Over half of the entire photography labour force in Montreal was employed at Notman's. Of the fifty-one employees, there were forty-five men, five women, no boys, and one girl. These numbers translate into an 11% female employment rate, one-third that of industry in general. The highest rate of women's employment was at J.G. Parks's studio where three out of eight employees, or 37.5%, were women. At Alexander Henderson's, one of the three employees (33%) was a woman and at James Inglis's four of eighteen employees (22%) were women. Every studio but one

14Bradbury, Working Families, 30.

with more than two employees had a woman on staff in April 1871.

The problem is how to identify and classify the jobs performed by the women and men employed in photography production in Montreal and at Notman's studio specifically. The 1871 census summarized occupations in the census report in five categories: Agricultural, Domestic, Industrial, Professional, and Commercial (as well as a sixth, "Not Classified" category). Photography galleries were included in the Industrial category. Census organizers in Canada, as well as the United States and England, faced difficulties in attempting to classify occupations during the industrializing period when modes of production were in transition, new labour functions emerging, and old ones disappearing. The sixth "Not Classified" category is a trace of the problem. The work done by photography workers, for example, had emerged only in the mid-1850s with the collodion/albumen process and consumer demand for photographic prints.

Facing the same difficulties, Bettina Bradbury has reclassified the occupations reported in the census according to two criteria: relationship to capital and skill levels.15 Nine major categories are set out: "Proprietors and Other Representing them or living off Capital;" "Professionals;" "Commercial Employees - Those Working for Commercial Capitalists;" "State Employees/Public Service;" "Private Service/Other Service;" "Crafts/Skilled Workers;" "Injured Trades;" "Semi-Skilled;" and, "Unskilled." One might expect photography studio workers, at least those involved in the skilled labour area of the manufacturing of the photographic negatives and prints, from photographers to print mounters, to be included in the "Crafts/Skilled Workers" category. Artisan, bookbinder, cabinetmaker, engraver and lithographer, goldsmith, printer, painter, roofer, and sculptor are a few examples of the occupations included in this listing. Painters were among those employed in photography studio art departments to hand colour prints and touch up negatives. However, the two other job descriptions that are reported in the census by Notman employees, "photographer" and "clerk" (a title used in a variety of businesses that does not seem to denote a specific function or skill) are included in a different category, "Commercial Employees - Those Working for

15Bettina Bradbury, "The Working Class Family Economy, Montreal, 1861-1881" (Ph.D. disseration, Concordia University, 1984), Table B.l, 492-495.

Commercial Capitalists."16 Photographers and clerks share their category with, among others, accountants, bookkeepers, chemists, florists, salespersons, ushers, and "work in shop." Including photographers and clerks in the same category implies similar levels of skill; it does not mean, however, that both men and women were hired in each position or that the positions offered equal pay and opportunities for advancement.

An 1875 photograph of the Notman Studio Exterior is a deliberate public record and display of the Notman studio's business site (Figure 20). Two well-dressed men, patrons perhaps, are entering the establishment. Many figures are pictured working in the windows above, half of whom are women. One woman is visible at work on the second storey, while at the windows along the upper storey two women appear to be examining pressed prints; another is looking out through a window between two banks of developing prints. Women at work is an integral part of the public image ieA contradiction in Bradbury's organization emerges here as photography studio proprietors are classified in the sub category of "Production" rather than "Commercial" proprietors. Given that the photography business was both a manufacturing and commercial enterprise, the photographic proprietor could properly be included in both categories just as photography employees were both skilled workers and. commercial employees.

manufactured by the studio. Their presence is clearly and deliberately on display.

A description of Notman's establishment in the 18 65 publication Montreal Business Sketches reports that employed on the second floor at the front of the building were many engaged in printing, mounting, re-touching and pressing photographs In the flat above, printing by the solar camera is conducted...On the same flat are rooms for keeping stock, for preparing paper, and for packing portraits going a distance.17

In 18 63, Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote of a tour he had made of one of North America's largest photography establishments, E. and H.T. Anthony's of New York. Both the Montreal Business Sketches' account and Holmes's description of the factory-line nature of photograph production are noteworthy for their matter-of-fact attitude towards the mix of genders working the production lines. For example, in Anthony's upper rooms there was a row of young women before certain broad, shallow pans filled with the glairy albumen...The one next us [sic] takes a large sheet of photographic paper...and floats it evenly on the surface of the albumen. Presently she lifts it very carefully by the turned-up corners and hangs it bias, as a seamstress might say, that is, cornerwise, on a string, to dry. This "albumenized" paper is sold most extensively to photographers, who find it cheaper to buy than to prepare it.18

17Montreal Business Sketches (Montreal: Canada

Railway Advertising Co., 1865), 26.

1801iver Wendell Holmes, "Doings of the Sunbeam," The Atlantic Monthly 12 (July 1863), 1.

In another building, workers were printing pictures from negatives, along with manufacturing photographic albums, cases for portraits, and parts of cameras:

Each single process in the manufacture of elaborate products of skill oftentimes seems and is very simple. The workmen in large establishments, where labor is greatly subdivided, become wonderfully adroit in doing a fraction of something A young person who mounts photographs on cards all day long confessed to having never, or almost never, seen a negative developed, though standing at the time within a few feet of the dark closet where the process was going on all day long. One forlorn individual will perhaps pass his days in the single work of cleaning the glass plates for negatives. Almost at his elbow is a toning bath, but he would think it a good joke, if you asked him whether a picture had lain long enough in the solution of gold or hyposulphite.19

Two engravings illustrating different parts of the Anthony operation, the case covering and finishing room and the case gilding room, show women and men working alongside one another, although the vast majority of workers are women (Figures 21 and 22). Although a small minority in Montreal in comparison to women's overall participation in the industrial labour force, women working in the photography industry were not unusual; their presence certainly did not elicit comment in these descriptions. However, their comparatively low numbers does provoke the question of why women did not participate in larger numbers in this new

field of production and employment that was not encumbered by an established male claim.

In 1839, Daguerre had encouraged the inclusion of women in photography:

By this process, without any idea of drawing, without any knowledge of chemistry and physics, it will be possible to take in a few minutes the most detailed views, the most picturesque scenery, for the manipulation is simple and does not demand any special knowledge, only care and a little practice is necessary in order to succeed perfectly

...the leisured class will find it a most attractive occupation, and although the result is obtained by chemical means, the little work it entails will greatly please ladies.20

Nevertheless, professional women photographers, let alone assistants or apprentices, were rare in the 1860s and 187 0s.21 None of the staff photographers hired by Notman

20Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, "Daguerreotype," (1839) in Classic Essays on Photography, ed. Alan Trachtenberg (New Haven, Connecticut: Leete's Island Books, 1980), 12-13.

21The best known and most successful woman among Notman's contemporaries in Lower Canada was Élise L'Heureux Livernois of Quebec City who opened a daguerreotype studio in spring of 1857. Her husband, Jules-Isaï Benoit Livernois, opened a photography studio in 1860 which she continued to operate following his death in 1865. See Michel Lessard, Les Livernois, Photographes (Québec: Musée du Québec, 1987).

Laura Jones notes in Rediscovery: Canadian Women Photographers 1841-1941 (London, Ont.: London Regional Art Gallery, 1983), 5, that fourteen women were working as professional photographers in Quebec and Ontario by the 1860s.

were women, and not one of the owners of photographic establishments in Montreal at the time of the census in April 1871 was a woman.22 (See Appendix B.)

In an important essay on the relationship of women and photography in Ontario prior to 1929, Diana Pedersen and Martha Phemister have demonstrated that women's serious involvement with the new technology in its earliest decades was tempered by its close association with science even though part of its great appeal as a middle-class amusement was its place within the scientific wonders that captured nineteenth-century leisured imaginations.23 Photography required chemical expertise beyond that to which women were educated. (The many incidents of darkroom fires and explosions, however, attest that not every man was sufficiently schooled in the science of the medium either.)

An especially significant nineteenth-century Canadian photographer, Hannah Maynard, was active in Victoria between 1862 and 1912. See Petra Rigby Watson, The Photographs of Hannah Maynard (Vancouver: Charles H. Scott Gallery, 1992).

See also Naomi Rosenblum, A History of Women Photographers (New York: Abbeville Press Publishers, 1994).

"Elizabeth Bloomfield and G.T. Bloomfield, Canind71 (database) (University of Guelph, 1990).

23Diana Pedersen and Martha Phemister, "Women and Photography in Ontario, 1839-1929: A Case Study of the Interaction of Gender and Technology," in Despite the Odds: Essays on Canadian Women and Science, ed. Marianne Gosztonyi Ainley (Montreal: Véhicule Press, 1990), 91.

Photography industry trade journals were at best ambivalent about women working in the photography industry.

In 1870, the Photographic News of London found photography to be a suitable site of employment for women but in a limited capacity; women's employment in the negative and print production areas, such as in the studio and the printing room, was actively discouraged:

There are, perhaps, few industries better suited to the power of women than photography, and a few in which they are more generally employed - at least, in such branches as they have been found on trials to succeed. Most of the duties require taste and skill rather than strength, and might be supposed to be pre-eminently fitted to the feminine capacity. In mounting, tinting and retouching it is certain that they succeed; and in those duties -such as printing or operating, in which care, judgment and knowledge are required - the success has been much more qualified I have heard of cases in which female labour in printing has been tried and abandoned. The reasons alleged have been that there is a general lack of care and precision, a singular want of uniformity in the results, involving the necessity of condemning as waste much of the work produced. It is alleged that it is very difficult to induce girls or women to feel the necessity of working with precision to a certain even standard of excellence Women have not succeeded as printers. I fear that the cause once pointed out by the Editor of this journal must always, in greater or lesser degree, militate against the success of female labour in any industry requiring the skill which can only be attained by close application and experience. A girl rarely regards any industrial occupation upon which she enters as her business for life. Marriage, as a rule, is her final aim. ...24

24 [No title], The Photographic News (London) (4 April 1870), 417, in David Lee, "The Victorian Studio: 2," The British Journal of Photography 133 (14 February 1986), 188.

By 1873, Jabez Hughes confirmed in an article titled "Photography as an Industrial Occupation for Women," published in both the London Photographic News and Anthony's Photographic Bulletin in the United States that women's full participation in the new industry had been circumscribed for reasons other than poor application and conscientiousness, however, when he expressed the general notion that "though it is admitted that women can do everything photographic, yet there are certain portions where ill-smelling chemicals and dress-disfiguring solutions are used, that are better conducted by the rougher sex."25 That being said, Hughes's purpose in writing his article was to argue that photography is a field exactly suited to even the conventional notions of women's capacity, and further, that it is a field unsurrounded with traditional rules, with apprenticeship, with vested rights, and it is one in which there is no sexual hostility to their employment. It is a business easily learnt, moderately well paid, and affording scope for all gradations of skill and ability.26

That is, photography was "a very proper and legitimate field" in which women could earn a living.27 Jabez Hughes

25Jabez Hughes, "Photography as an Industrial Occupation for Women," (1873) Camera Fiends & Kodak Girls: 50 Selections By and About Women in Photography, 1840 to 1930, ed. Peter E. Palmquist (New York: Midmarch Arts Press, 1989), 32.

estimated that approximately one-third of photographic assistants, as he labelled their positions, were women. He believed that one-half of the photographic labour force should be female but attributed the lower numbers to the want of better women - women with more brains, more carefully directed energies... The many women who excel in it show that it is adapted to their capacity, and, speaking from a very extended experience, the main reason that more are not employed is because we cannot obtain them in sufficient numbers possessing the requisite business capacity to exactly understand their position, and act accordingly.28

Hughes's analysis, frustratingly vague, suggests that women's participation was in fact circumscribed by set expectations of women's intelligence and place.

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