I previously dubbed Lucille Baldwin Brown the loveliest librarian ever. Vivian Gordon Harsh, the woman above, is proving that librarians are their own category of beautiful. Harsh was the first African American librarian to work at the Chicago Public Library. She began her career at the Chicago Public Library in 1924. She studied library science at Simmons College and the University of Chicago.
Credit: The Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature is housed at the Chicago Public Library Woodson Regional Branch
Submitted by Terah Edun
This is Mary F. Clifford, a student at Storer College in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia (1906). I think, although I’m not sure, that this is the daughter of J.R. Clifford, West Virginia’s first African American attorney, and original member of the Niagara Movement.
According to this source, Clifford’s daughter Mary delivered the credo at the Harper’s Ferry meeting of the Niagara Movement in 1906. The name and location are right, so it’s possible that the Mary Clifford in the photograph is Clifford’s daughter. Either way, her outfit is lovely.
Submitted by Molly Dolan, Digital Initiatives and Scholarly Communications Librarian at West Virginia University Libraries (Morgantown, West Virginia)
Maybe the most stylish librarian ever - check out that fascinator! Lucille Baldwin Brown was the first Black public county librarian in Tallahassee, Florida. This photograph is part of the collection at the State Library and Archives of Florida.
This amazing photograph is of USO performers for African American servicemen in World War II. The photograph was taken in Pensacola, Florida and is part of the State Library and Archives of Florida.
This family portrait was taken in 1900 in Gainesville, Florida. It’s part of a collection at the State Library and Archives of Florida.
This is a photo of my lovely great-aunt, Helen Seate Cooke. It’s hard to tell when it was taken - she looks young, but she always looked young. :) The flowers in her hair and smile make her seem all the more adorable and youthful. I think this photo was taken in Nottoway County, Virginia, where she spent time teaching. This is my favorite photo of her.
Submitted by Benae Mosby (Washington, D.C.)
This fabulous woman is my paternal grandmother, Minerva Turner (1924- 1992). She owned her own hair salon/”wig clinic” in Chicago in the ’60s, and this hair piece is one of her many amazing creations. I’m pretty sure she made the coat as well. She was fiercely Independent - much to the dismay of two of her husbands, both of whom wound up divorcing her and taking the kids. My mother told me that my father, also deceased, told her that it was because they wanted a wife that would stay at home, but she refused to give up her dream of being a self-supporting business owner. He followed in her footsteps and became a hairstylist. I’ve also been told that on a major shopping trip to New York after her business took off, she was denied entry into the high-end shops because they didn’t “serve her kind.” She had a hard life, but she never gave up on her dream, her style, or her hard partying ways. I am so incredibly proud of her.
Submitted by Ariel Wolf (New York, NY)
This is a photo of my grandmother, Louise Seate Bowie, with her husband Clyde Bowie. They are pictured after an outing in Byrd Park in Richmond, Virginia (ca. 1940s). This is one of few photos I’ve seen of the two of them together, and I know few details about their relationship. I like to imagine that they are genuinely in love, and that she’s smiling because he whispered a joke in her ear just before the photo was taken.
It’s likely that the clothes are store-bought because my family has always loved the shopping experience.
Submitted by Benae Mosby (Washington, D.C.)
This photograph is titled “Elks Fashion Show, 1956” but it’s odd to me that all the women are in bathing suits. I haven’t seen too many fashion shows in which bathing suits are the primary or exclusive garment featured. My guess is that this was really a local beauty pageant.
Source: H. Councill Trenholm State Technical College archive in Alabama.
A portrait of an African American woman in Victorian fashion. My guess is that this photograph was taken sometime in the 1860s when necklines rose and the bustle was more noticeable. Fashion historians have also observed that skirt fronts flattened out (also drawing more attention to the bustle) from the 1850s to the 1860s.
There’s no information about the woman but from the photograph, we can speculate that she’s quite privileged relative to other African American women in this period (the Civil War era). Her dress and fan (a symbol of leisure) as well as the fact of the portrait itself are all indications that she was well-off - again, in relation to most other African American women.
Addendum: OF ANOTHER FASHION readers demonstrate, once again, the brilliance of social media and collaborative knowledge production. Thank you all for pointing me to the Harper Collection at Florida Memory Project where this photograph (and so many more) are archived. In addition to learning about the photographer, Alvan S. Harper, I learned that the photograph was taken after the 1880s and the dresses and accessories were likely borrowed from Harper’s studio.
This woman - displaying swagger before it became a trendy term! - is a model in a fashion show at the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) in Tallahassee (ca 1985).
Credit: State Library and Archives of Florida; The Deborah Thomas Collection