Gloria Brame, Ph.D.

The Rise of Victorian Feminism: 1905 photo

Filed By Gloria Brame, Ph.D. | November 26, 2010 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Entertainment, Gay Icons and History, Politics, The Movement
Tags: sexual politics, women's history, women's rights, women's studies, women's suffrage

The title of this French photo is "La Triomphe de la Femme" ("triumph of woman"). Dig that Victorian bodysuit, symbolizing nudity while protecting a lady's modesty. She looks like she means business but his little smirk bothers me. Wish I knew whether this was intended to celebrate the rise of womanhood or whether it was some patriarch's idea of a joke.

Historians, any thoughts?

triomphe-de-la-femme-05.jpg

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Although I'm not certain about the intention of this particular photographer or the models, the dating of the image would place them in the Edwardian Era, not the Victorian.

Edwardian England (1901-1910) was marked by significant shifts in politics as sections of society which had been largely excluded from wielding power in the past, such as common labourers and women, became increasingly politicised.

(Hattersley, Roy, 2004. The Edwardians. London: Little, Brown. ISBN 0 316 72537 4.) From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edwardian_era

I'm certainly not a historian, but a bit of googling suggests that this is a photograph of Clara Ward and Rigo Jancsi.
http://servatius.blogspot.com/2010_10_01_archive.html

Clara Ward was an American heiress to an industrial fortune who had married an impoverished Belgium prince. She thus became the Princesse de Caraman-Chimay. However, she became bored with her life in Chimay, and began an affair (later eloping) with a Hungarian, possibly Gypsy, violinist.
http://www.suite101.com/content/clara-ward-chimay---gilded-age-princess-a205972

Facing straitened finances, she used her beauty to establish a stage career at the Folies Bergère and possibly the Moulin Rouge. Typically she appeared in skin-tight garments, and later began a photographic career along those lines.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clara_Ward,_Princesse_de_Caraman-Chimay

I am not sure what to make of this particular photograph. The fellow on the ground apparently is the Hungarian violinist she eloped with, Rigo Jancsi.

It may be 1905 but I see just a hint of nipples and was reminded of Angelina Jolie recently de-emphasizing her nipples at the request of the studio. It is nice to have photographic proof of a more liberal period of history.