Unidentified Young Woman

Isn’t she lovely? She’s so elegant in the feathered hat and fur muff.

Based on her clothing, I’m guessing the portrait was taken in the 1890s/1900s. I found her in the Flickr collection of the Texas State Library and Archives, she’s one of the 94 “unidentified portraits” in the Samuel Bell Maxey Collection. He was an attorney and served as a general in the Confederate Army before being elected as a U.S. Senator from Texas in 1875. There are 1,200 photographs taken between 1870 and 1920 in the Maxey Collection at TSLAC.

She’s described only as “Unidentified Young Woman.” Not knowing her name or her history gives her an air of mystery. It also makes it easier for me to imagine her as a character in my work-in-progress. She’s wearing black to attend the funeral of her brother-in-law who died fighting alongside Teddy Roosevelt in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, 1898.

Having a photo of an actual person makes it easier for me to imagine her hopes, her fears and her accomplishments. The character who was previously merely a name in the text is now a fancy, but modest lady who wears feathered hats and sparkly necklaces. That is, when she’s not building metal detectors and searching for shipwrecks….

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