American Antiquarian 
Society logoAAS Online 
Exhibitions

A
Woman's Work is Never Done

Performers and Artists

Map Colorer

 

Each volume of the mid-nineteenth century magazine, Yankee Doodle, included a section called "Live Portraits," featuring an illustration and description of various women's jobs. The December 19, 1846, issue focused on "Map Colorers." This work was generally done by girls who had some art training. They also had to be detail oriented and patient enough to finish maps that were quite complicated.

Girls who had a talent and appreciation for art tended to make the best lithographers. However, many men were still employed in the field, and some believed they were more proficient. Lithography companies like Currier & Ives would sometimes send to France for qualified lithographers because there weren't enough in America. The image to the left, called "St. John's P.E. Church, Mt. Morris," is by Fanny Palmer. She studied lithography in London, and was best-known for her architectural drawings. The image to the right, called "Scene in Vermont," is by Catherine Scollay, who was employed by Pendleton's Lithography of Boston. Lithography was a lucrative career for skilled artists such as Palmer and Scollay. Click on images to enlarge.
Girls Making Valentines

This February 13, 1858, illustration called "Girls Making Valentines" comes from Harper's Weekly Magazine.

When Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts, began her valentine-making business, she placed her first advertisement in a local newspaper, The Daily Spy on February 5, 1850.

Esther Howland Advertisement
The Oread Institute, in Worcester, Massachusetts, was an important and popular women's school from 1848 until it closed its doors in 1881. This ca. 1870's photograph is significant not only because it captures the school in its final years, but because it was taken by a woman, Ms. Augustine H. Folsom. Click to enlarge.
Snake Charmer
Lavinia Warren

 

Tightrope Walkers

Performing, whether in the circus or on the stage, was not viewed as a respectable occupation for women. Since it took women out of the home, it was viewed as an occupation that would demoralize them.

The image to the left is of a female snake charmer, who was probably part of a performing group. The center image is of Lavinia Warren, who married Tom Thumb in 1863 and occasionally performed in P. T. Barnum's Circus Act. The image of the tightrope walkers to the right comes from a 1818 circus broadside that advertised tightrope walkers, dancers, and stunts to be performed by both men and women.

 

American Antiquarian 
Society logo

This site and all contents © 2004 American Antiquarian Society

Valid HTML 4.01!