Who is this woman?
June 25, 2007 10:01 AM   Subscribe

Who is this woman? A while ago, I saw this image on Shorpy and the woman on the right shaking hands looks very very familiar to me. Please help me track down where I've seen her image before...

At first I thought she might have been a famous woman muckraking reporter, ala Nellie Bly, or perhaps the wife or sister of one of the James family, but no such luck... Any ID help or other leads would be much appreciated!
posted by Chrischris to Society & Culture (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I dont know but she reminds me of Margaret Hamilton, the witch in the Wizard of Oz. Not as a witch, but in the beginning when she appears as a "normal" woman.
posted by vacapinta at 10:05 AM on June 25, 2007

Seconding what vacapinta said.
posted by bondcliff at 10:10 AM on June 25, 2007

Reminds me a bit of a young Eleanor Roosevelt.
posted by malaprohibita at 10:13 AM on June 25, 2007

If it's a recent picture it's most likely Margaret O'Connor in Iron Jawed Angels, which was an HBO movie about women suffragettes. It certainly looks like her!
posted by vernondalhart at 10:13 AM on June 25, 2007

Response by poster: Actually, my wife commented that she looked like Margaret Hamilton, as well. However, IMDB says Hamilton was born in '02 and this image was taken in '09, so she was too young. I also thought it might be Eleanor Roosevelt, but looking at it closely, I have a hard time seeing enough of a resemblance to believe it... Here's an image of Eleanor from 1908.
posted by Chrischris at 10:22 AM on June 25, 2007

Possibly Alice Roosevelt Longworth-Teddy's daughter.
posted by muhonnin at 10:38 AM on June 25, 2007

Ok. I'm thinking Edith Wharton as a possiblity.

Or it might be Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. [wiki]

Now you've gotten me all curious.
posted by frecklefaerie at 10:51 AM on June 25, 2007

Referencing the original image, are you sure it isn't Miss Twombly?
posted by JJ86 at 11:09 AM on June 25, 2007

this image was taken in '09

What else do you know about the image?
posted by jjg at 11:11 AM on June 25, 2007

If it helps any, based on their clothing and hat styles, it appears that the photo was taken between 1895 and 1910, give or take a few years. The two women also appear to be middle-to-upper-class. The car is parked on the right side of the road, so it was probably taken in the US rather than the UK, and what little you can see of the cityscape behind them looks like it could be New York, Philadelphia, or another northeastern city.

So, 1895-1910 + middle/upper-class woman + US + possibly northeastern city = (maybe) suffragettes, or patrons of the suffragette movement, or patrons of the early labor unions. Your mystery woman's companion on the left side of the photo looks a little like Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, who was one of the patrons of the big 1909/1910 shirtwaist strike in NYC.
posted by Asparagirl at 11:21 AM on June 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

On preview (a little late): you're sure the photo was taken in '09? Hmmm, then I would definitely check more into the possible shirtwaist strike connection.

Also, the women in the photo are wearing not only gloves (standard for a lady) but also coats. The strike started in the fall.
posted by Asparagirl at 11:24 AM on June 25, 2007

Well, if you go back to where you found the image at Shorpy, a commenter says that it's someone named Miss Twombly, who seems to be Ruth Twombly Vanderbilt. If you look under the photo it says it's from The George Grantham Bain Collection. If you search The George Grantham Bain Collection using the word Twombly, you will see that it is indeed called "Miss Twombly, whip of Ladies Coach Run", so it seems that she is Ruth Twombly, or Ruth Twombly Vanderbilt.
posted by iconomy at 11:29 AM on June 25, 2007

Ruth Vanderbilt Twombley was Alva Vanderbilt Belmont's niece; Ruth's mother Florence was Alva's husband William's younger sister.

Ding ding ding! Two photo credits for the price of one. :-)
posted by Asparagirl at 11:43 AM on June 25, 2007

For a variety of reasons I interpret the "Miss Twombly" as the woman on the left.

Personally, I don't think that identifying the woman on the right is necessarily possible, even with the sourcing given.
posted by dhartung at 12:23 PM on June 25, 2007

Best answer: dhartung states: For a variety of reasons I interpret the "Miss Twombly" as the woman on the left.

The caption of the image states: "Miss Twombly, whip of Ladies' Coach Run, and two other ladies beside coach on street." April 26, 1909.

A whip is a coachman or woman. From the strange garb of the woman on the right with a riding jacket, odd skirt, and leather gloves, I would have to say she is dressed more as a coachman than anyone else. Therefore I would conclude she is most likely Miss Twombly. It's elementary, my dear Watson.
posted by JJ86 at 2:35 PM on June 25, 2007

Best answer: Yes, I agree. Her clothing makes her the whip. She's wearing some kind of riding clothes of the era - a plain blouse and a plain, fitted, business-like jacket. She also has some kind of stiff apron or protective garb tied over her skirts, and she is not wearing white gloves or a fur stole or a fancy coat like the other women - she's in working clothes.
posted by iconomy at 4:07 PM on June 25, 2007

Persuasive points conceded.
posted by dhartung at 4:32 PM on June 25, 2007

I think you are interpreting the word whip wrongly here. A whip in this case is likely either a (fox) huntsmans assistant (unlikely to be a woman in that day in the US) or an old fashioned term for the person in an organisation who organises meetings, venues etc. Sort of a secretary, sort of an assistant to the chief.

She is definitely not dressed to go riding aside in that hat!
posted by fshgrl at 6:24 PM on June 25, 2007

Best answer: On seconds thoughts (and magnifying the photo) she is wearing a driving apron so yes it must be referring to her as the whip in a driving sense. The Vanderbilts raised driving horses. What confuses me is that the "coach" in the background appears to be a motor car so what she has done with her four in hand is a ?
posted by fshgrl at 6:40 PM on June 25, 2007

Response by poster: After doing a few searches (NYT historical article database), it appears that those who believe the woman in question is indeed Miss Twombly are correct. Here is my reasoning:

1. The "Ladies Coach Run" was indeed a horse-driving organization (which held annual runs on the Upper West Side of NYC) rather than (as I had previously suspected) some sort of "horseless carriage" enthusiasts organization. There is reference to Miss Twombly taking lessons in 1905 to become more adept at handling horses.

2. Which leads me to agree with fshgrl that the woman in question-- wearing riding garb (a canvas or leather apron, tight-fitting jacket and sturdy gloves)--is Ruth Vanderbilt Twombley, who, while out for a run in her coach (not pictured) has stopped to socialize with a pair of her aquaintances (and their driver, who is somewhat obscured by the woman on the left's large hat). The contrast between the horseless carriage and the elaborate dress of its occupants with the rather utilitarian--yet fashionably sporting--garb of the horsewoman Miss Twombly would not have been lost on readers of the social pages of the Times.

Many thanks to all of you who so assiduously worked on this mystery--I'm grateful for your assistance. Though I am now fairly sure who is pictured (excepting the two anonymous women), I will have to puzzle out exactly why she seems so familiar (perhaps it is the striking resemblance she has to Margaret Hamilton in profile). Anyways, thanks again...
posted by Chrischris at 7:47 PM on June 25, 2007

She looks a LOT like Mrs. I.N. Phelps Stokes, as depicted in the 1897 painting of Mr. and Mrs. Stokes by John Singer Sargent.

Twombly's were wealthy east coast folks, as were the Stokes. Mrs. Edith Minturn Stokes was the great aunt and namesake of Edie Sedgewick and was known for being quite outdoorsy and modern, so if this is her, it makes sense that she is dressed much less ostentatiously than the other women.

I'm also confused by mystery woman's attire, she is dressed in carriage riding skirt and gloves. Perhaps the ladies were all meeting for an event and mystery woman drove herself to the destination in her own carriage?

I think the "whip" of the ladies' coach run is the gentleman helping the lady out of the automobile.
posted by pluckysparrow at 8:08 PM on June 25, 2007

er, pluckysparrow, why would a man be a whip of the Ladies Coach Run? Besides, he's clearly associated with the car, not a carriage. A "whip" is a driver of coaches, carriages, or buggies.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:48 PM on June 25, 2007

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