The effect of “lady photographer”, part 4 of 4

This is the last post in the series about the effect of lady photographer.

“Ober, Lady Photographer.”

Ad for Ober, lady photographer

Boston Post 1892-07-01, p. 6. Credit:

I started this series of posts with ads touting the presence of lady photographers in an establishment, and we’ve seen their portrayal in news stories and in anecdotes, but we haven’t seen how the photographers referred to themselves, until now. Given the generally positive uses of lady photographer it’s not surprising that some photographers used the term as part of their branding. The above ad is by Clara Ober, who used lady photographer quite extensively early in her career, even after she remarries, to Willis Towne. Interestingly, Willis’ first wife, Anna Wing Towne goes into business with another woman, Alma Whitney, and part of their brand is lady photographers, which they even included on their cabinet cards, as you can see here. To read more about Clara, Anna, and Alma, check out Lee’s podcast episode.

Want ads also used lady photographer, both by those seeking a position and those seeking a photographer. Here are a pair of examples using very similar wording, though they are about 13 months and 2500 miles apart.

Want ad by all round lady photographer

The Pittsburgh Press 1912-09-22, p. 29. Source:

Want ad for all round lady photographer

The San Francisco Examiner 1911-07-02, p. 41. Source:

Of course, language usage isn’t nice and neat and simple. Here’s another want ad for a lady photographer, but says it’s only for a “regular working girl”:

Wanted Lady photographer working girl

Chicago Tribune 1918-06-10, p. 22. Source:

Getting back to ads by the photographers themselves, we can see variation in the extent to which they used their name. We saw above that Clara Ober just used her family name, though she also uses “Mrs Ober” and “Mrs Ober Towne” in other ads. Similarly, this studio in Grand Junction, Colorado run by Grace Hayden Starks and her daughter Myrtle for over 3 decades (they also ran a studio in Hillsdale, Michigan before they moved to Colorado), sometimes used just the family name(s) and sometimes “Mrs Starks”:


Starks Hayden studio lady photographers

The Daily Sentinel 1910-06-20, p. 4. Source:


Starks Studio the lady photographers

The Daily Sentinel 1922-02-04, p. 4. Source:

Twelve years apart, and their advertising is very consistent: the lady photographer(s).

Other photographers didn’t include their name at all — just being a lady photographer was apparently a compelling enough message, as in this ad by Jennie Murphy. (“Secure the shadow ere the substance fades” was used as an advertising slogan by photographers at least since the 1840s.)


Lady Photographer ad, no name

The Times-Record 1905-01-05, p. 2. Source:


While there’s lots more that could be done to look at the use of lady photographer, the examples in this series of posts show that the range of uses are mostly positive, and its associations were so positive that some women used lady photographer as part of of their marketing and branding. So starting with A for ads, we’ll end with Z for Miss Myrtle Zener, “the young lady photographer of Kansas City”:


ad for Miss Zener young lady photographer

The Kansas City Globe 1910-11-23, p. 8. Source: