Alice Austin’s Different Women

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” – George Orwell

History is memory, a collection of subjective

recollection. History is made up of stories – written, narrated, sung stories, but who creates these stories?  In a heteronormative, patriarchal, socially and racially unequal world only the voices of certain groups are heard, only certain groups speak. And how does time keep all the stories? History, political, social and religious changes alter or forget some story altogether.

The queer narrative is found in the very first civilizations – ancient Africa, the ancient kingdom of Egypt, ancient China, Japan and Greece. However, a more or less objective history of queer people and the beginning of the research can be related to the particularly intensified queer movement in the late 1960s.

In terms of social change, the XIX-XX century is a very important era. There are also interesting materials for queer history in this epoch.

Manhattan, 1896

Finland, 1909

Migrants in quarantine, 1903

World Columbian Exposition, Chicago, New Jersey, 1893

New York Bay, 1886

Staten Island, Ferry, 1890

These pictures were taken in the late nineteenth century by the American photographer, Alice Austin. Alice was born in New York City in 1866 and has been interested in photography since early childhood. Through daily hard work, Alice created up to 8,000 works – Alice’s paintings shattered Victorian, traditional boundaries and made it possible to see the world from a new – different women – perspective, which in the nineteenth century required great courage. Alice was taking pictures with friends and in these pictures a new vision was felt, a new era that would soon replace the Victorian era and traditional views.

Alice Austin with friends

From Alice Austin Archives – “Trudeau and Me” 1891

Staten Island, Coast, Alice Austin Right, Top, 1886

Alice Austin on the left, 1886

Alice Austin on the left, 1891

In 1899, Alice met Brooklyn dancer and kindergarten teacher Gertrude Tate, with whom she spent the remaining 53 years of her life. Before the 1940s, Alice and Gertrude were able to make ends meet in the crisis and war of the 1930s, but in 1945, they lost their homes due to bank debt. Eventually, Gertrude moved to Queens to live with relatives, and Alice went to several shelters. Despite resistance from relatives, Gertrude visited Alice weekly until 1950, when a young historian, Oliver Jensen, discovered some 3,500 pictures of Ellis and with the money raised, Alice was able to move to a private shelter. Shortly afterwards, on June 9, 1952, Alice died at the age of 86. The couple’s wish to be buried together was not granted by Gertrudes family.

Gertrude Tate, 1899

Alice Austin and Gertrude, 1905

Alice Austin and Gertrude Tate, 1944

Alice Austin and Gertrude Tate

Alice Austin in New York, at home, on the porch, 1900

Today, the house where Alice spent his entire life and most of his life with Gertrude has memorial and museum significance, and along with the nearby park, bears the name of Ellie Austin, which you can visit while in New York.

Author: Anamaria

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