On Land and On Sea: A Century of Women in the Rosenfeld Collection at Mystic Seaport

How does one perceive achievement?

Serena Williams is perhaps the greatest athlete of her time. Maybe, of all time. But can we compare the strength of her game with that of someone who played the game 90 years ago?  Suzanne Lenglen was the Serena or Steffi Graff, Billy Jean King or Margaret Court of her time.  Suzanne’s  accomplishments are legendary and she did it in long dresses and without a decent pair of tennis shoes.

While we recently considered electing the first woman president, we are reminded that not quite 100 years ago women were not allowed to vote. Suffragists marched and lobbied and fought for that right, while other women of that generation fought for equal opportunities in the workplace.

Libraries are filled with history books but sometimes a simple, elegant photograph can deliver you to another time, another world and with a greater understanding of the lives of those who inhabited this place before us.  Do we really wonder whether their lives were so different? Women across the world lived lives of adventure and discovery. Did those who raised our grandparents and their grandparents dream of a life so different than the one we live today?

The daughter of today believes she can do, be anything. Go anywhere. Achieve what has yet to be achieved. But the world open to her has, to a very great extent, been shoved open by the unconquerable spirit of those who, decades ago, longed for the same opportunities.

For an intimate glimpse of women’s lives over the past 100 years, visit the new exhibit, “On Land and on Sea: A Century of Women in the Rosenfeld Collection”, at Mystic Seaport and see how a photograph can tell a fascinating story.

  • Models in Rain Gear, 1954. The photograph was part of an advertising job for the outboard engine manufacturer Evinrude done in Freeport, Long Island. (Mystic Seaport Rosenfeld Collection 1984.187.143353F)

  • Models on boat Sea Gull. The boat was a Robinson Cruiser and the image was made during the 1929 Motor Boat Show in New York City. (Mystic Seaport Rosenfeld Collection 1984.347.33774)

  • ETROLLE, 1916. This photo was published in the “Fitting Out” issue of The Rudder in March 1921. (Mystic Seaport Rosenfeld Collection 1984.347.36263)

  • Misses Beiderhase and Milholland, 1912. Shot in New York City, May 4, 1912. Image of two women suffragists wearing banners. The woman on the left standing, is Josephine Beiderhase. The woman on the right seated on a horse carrying an American flag is Inez Milholland. (Mystic Seaport Rosenfeld Collection ANN.1984.1876818)

  • Bathing Girl, 1921. Identifying the time period by the style of her bathing suit, this woman is ready to cast off the lines at the Detroit Yacht Club.