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Women Of The Old East End

February 20, 2018
by the gentle author

From Philip Mernick‘s fine collection of cartes de visite by nineteenth century East End photographers, gathered over the past twenty years, we select portraits of women arranged chronologically to show the evolving styles of dress and changing roles of female existence





c. 1870


c. 1870












c. 1890



c. 1900

c. 1910

c. 1910  Theatrical performer by William Whiffin

c. 1940 Driver

Photographs reproduced courtesy of Philip Mernick

You may also like to take a look at

Portraits from Philip Mernick’s Collection

Thomas Barnes, Photographer

7 Responses leave one →
  1. Vicky permalink
    February 20, 2018

    The evolution of the female smile. It began to appear about 1870, before then being very much frowned upon. By 1940 it had fully developed.

  2. February 20, 2018

    Wonderfull,what a differance it makes when things are in a collection and relate to one another. I spend time at Dimbola lodge,the former home of Julia Margaret Cameron now a study centre and museum, we are so lucky to be able to see the past through photography.

  3. February 20, 2018

    The history-of-costume mavens applaud!
    And my waistline and midriff ache, just looking at these constrained women.
    Oh, just imagine how good it must have felt to get out of these corsets at the end of the day!?

    All of that aside…….what amazing FACES. I wanted to know each and every story.
    Thanks for shining a light.

  4. Gary Arber permalink
    February 20, 2018

    These ladies would have been the “posh” ones, the upper class people mainly lived in the large houses along Bow Road and Tredegar Square. The ordinary East Enders could not afford the luxury of photography, after the rent man had taken his money they had little left to live on.

  5. Sue permalink
    February 20, 2018

    Wow, there is some serious corsetry going on there!

  6. February 22, 2018

    I don’t really have a favourite but a few of them do remind me of the famous East End drag queen Dockyard Doris.

  7. Marcia Howard permalink
    April 2, 2018

    A formidable looking group of women, wearing some wonderful fashions made from some pretty sumptuous materials

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