The items in this online exhibition evoke the stories of American women through the ages.
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Daguerreotype of a woman breast-feeding, ca. 1850

Photo by Kevin Grady/Radcliffe Institute

Photo by Kevin Grady/Radcliffe Institute


Daguerreotypes, one of the earliest forms of photography, were popular in the United States until the mid-1850s. This image of a breast-feeding woman dates to about 1850. Although the sitter and the photographer are unknown, one can surmise that this intimate portrait was taken by the latter of his wife and child. As the Harvard historian Jill Lepore speculated in a New Yorker article, “No one put this picture on the cover of a magazine. Instead, someone who adored this woman and this child kept it close, inside a pocket, secret and beloved.”
Picture Collection, Schlesinger Library

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Learn more:

Read Harvard professor and historian Jill Lepore’s New Yorker article featuring another of the Schlesinger Library’s daguerreotypes of a woman breastfeeding her baby.

Jessica Brilli