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As It Was: Anna and Ida Hargrove Record Ashland, Ore., in Pictures

In the Victorian era, few women owned their own businesses, let alone became photographers, even amateur ones.  In Ashland, Ore., sisters Anna and Ida Hargrove did both.
They owned a fashionable millinery shop that was popular with Ashland’s more well-to-do residents. Their profits built a house and allowed them to indulge in their hobby of photography.

With the introduction of glass plate negatives in the 1850s, photography became more popular and available to hobbyists such as the Hargrove sisters.  By the turn of the century, the sisters had produced more than 250 negatives featuring Ashland and its residents in a variety of creative poses. 

Instead of the formal dress often associated with the Victorian era, many of their photos depicted women in casual, everyday activities, relaxing and enjoying themselves.  One photograph featured Anna and three women who worked in the millinery shop playfully peeking out from behind the dressing room curtains – fully clothed, of course.

Anna eventually married, and Ida lived in the original house on Pioneer Street until 1942.  It has been restored as the DeLaunay House bed and breakfast. 

The Southern Oregon Historical Society has collected and preserved the sisters’ photographs.

Sources: "A Circle of Friends." Southern Oregon Heritage, vol. 2, no. 3, 1997, p. 13.

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.