Deep Diving with Gertrude Belle-Oudry, part 2 of 5

Before Elizabeth and Richard there were Gertrude and Edouard.

Day 1, continued

I’m back from my break.

Time to check out‘s directories.

OK, in 1911, Edouard/Edward (he uses both inconsistently and so will I) is listed in Oakland and Berkeley.

Ooops! Found another EWAP: Gertrude Cockcroft in Berkeley. Gotta keep my eyes closed, unless that’s Getrude Belle-Outry under her maiden name. Whew! We have already found Gertrude C., in 1916 in Alameda, so she’s not “our” Gertrude. (Well “ours” for now — when we do Gertrude C. then she will be “our Gertrude”.)

Taking a quick look at the directories on Ancestry: 1300+ hits for “Belle-Oudry” in the U.S.— too many. Let’s try adding the keyword “photographer”: 31 hits. That’s more like it.

  • Edward: 1895-1922, with gaps, and we know he dies in 1923
  • Emma: 1902 only. Same studio address and same home address as Edward
  • Gertrude (M): 1917-1933, with gaps. We also had her in the photog listings in 1916. Not in the people listing?

In the 1902 people listing, there’s “Belle-Oudry Photographie Parisienne” (which is what the lawsuit comes up later is about). BUT, there are two more EWAPs new to us:

  • Miss M. L. Bisbee (in the Palmquist book she’s Mary L Bisbee)
  • Mrs. E. Swaney (in the Palmquist books she’s Emma L Swaney)

In the 1895 people listings, Edward and Emma are under “Oudry”, not Belle-Oudry. Edward is a photog in San Francisco and Emma has no occupation. In 1896, Edward is a photog for G[eorge] H. Knight in San Francisco.

Oops again! Found another new to us EWAP:

  • Miss Fannie Matson (in bold in 1896 San Francisco photogs) (in the Palmquist book she’s: Fannie L. Matson)

1900 has the first listing of Edward on his own as a photog in Oakland

1916 Both Edward and Gertrude are listed in the Berkeley people; only Edward is in the Oakland people. That answers the question from the first look at the directories: It looks like they are living in Berkeley, and Edward works in Oakland.

On Ancestry there is a Person page for Gertrude. However, it seems problematic since it has 2 dates for her marriage to Edward, and their son is born 5 years before their marriage – not impossible but unlikely. There is one on FamilySearch, too with a different birth date, and just 1 marriage, better date for son. I will have to sort all that out.

I found the 1914 voter registration: she is listed as a “h w” = housewife, registered Progressive (the party founded by Teddy Roosevelt); Edward is registered Socialist. Their addresses are slightly different, but one could be typo.

Ah, I’ve found Gertrude in the California death index (via Ancestry), so I’m making progress.

  • b. 1878 Sept 4 New York
  • d. 1953 Jan 14 Alameda (County), CA

And now with the death date, I find an obituary on It says that she was “one of Berkeley’s first women photographers” and that she and Edward opened their first studio in Berkeley “almost 50 years ago” [i.e. c. 1904], and that “later” they had another one in Oakland [but we know that Edward is photog in Oakland in 1900, so the obit isn’t quite right]. AHA! Most of Palmquist’s details are from this obit!

Mystery solved!

I find an article about a big tiff between Gertrude and Edward in August of 1900. There’s a bunch of “she said, he said”, enough to scandalize the readers. But better for us is that the article has a picture of her:

1900 Gertrude Belle Oudry
The San Francisco Call 1900-08-10, p. 9. Source:

The article also gives more information, including Gertrude’s maiden name (Davis) and their marriage date (January of 1900, just over 6 months from this separation). And while the article says she was Florence Mignon Davis, I think that was made up, since mignonne means “cute” (female) in French. (Even though the spelling is different, it sounds like the  English spelling mignon. French spelling is just as bad as English spelling.)

A quick search on comes up with an anecdote in 1913 about Gertrude being rescued by the fire department when she accidentally gets locked in the studio at night and her husband Edward doesn’t have the key and the janitor can’t be found. One article uses the same photo of her as in that 1900 article! There are miscellaneous details, like she is making “post-impressionist enlargements” and that she is “perhaps a more earnest devotee to the art than her husband”, and for the titillation factor, there is a “flutter of lingerie” as she goes down the ladder. But they’re still together in 1913 (and if her obit is right, even in 1904).

But wait!

A 1901 article (by default puts the “most relevant” article first, which is why I saw the 1913 article before this one), has the headline “Wife and Model Asks for Divorce”, with pictures of Gertrude (a different one) and Edouard:

1901 Gertrude and Edouard Belle-Oudry
The San Francisco Examiner 1901-02-21, p. 3. Source:

This article has more salacious details than the one when they separated the previous year: supposedly he took nude photos of her. (You’ll be disappointed if you follow that link hoping to find those photos — he destroyed the plates to placate her, or so the story goes. That link is to a citation of a paper I wrote with a friend, Chris Barker, back in 1993 analyzing how and when we can understand the adjective nude before the noun photos as modifying a different noun/pronoun her.) Note that both of those articles are in San Francisco newspapers, not the Oakland ones (though they have the story, too). Apparently they (especially Edward), are well enough known to make the San Francisco papers, at least for a human interest story.

OK, I have to follow up on the divorce with a more constrained search. All right, they do get divorced, but immediately after they reconcile and they remarry a few months later, in July. So a fun story with a happy ending!

Having found these stories, I’m glad I went ahead and did the deep dive, at Lee’s encouragement, despite being initially discouraged by Peter Palmquist seemingly being so far ahead of us.

If this approach seems a bit scattered, it’s because it is. Usually I’m a bit more organized, starting with the Census data (which I haven’t gotten to yet), and then work on the newspapers. However, here, as in some other cases, there’s some puzzling or otherwise interesting aspect that I want to pursue, and so I cast about trying to get a handle on that. Eventually, though, it comes together.

More systematically…

Time to set to sort the results chronologically… Here are some findings:

  • 1892 Edward has a want ad as a photog just returned from Paris.
  • 1898 May: Edward claims to be French portrait painter. [He was actually born in California.] He also claims to have been the chief “operator” (=photographer) at Disderi‘s gallery in Paris. (As a side note, Disderi’s wife Geneviève Élisabeth was one of the first women photographers in Europe and ran her own studios for many years after they separated)
  • 1898 June: Edward opens his own photography gallery in Oakland.
  • 1900 An article about their wedding says Gertrude is a talented musician, not a photographer (which means she probably learns photography from Edward after they are married)
  • 1901 The first notice of a problem with other photogs using “Photographie Parisienne” (which was in one of the first articles I had found before doing this deep dive)
  • 1901 They close for 3 days after President McKinley’s death
  • 1901 Edward is accused of publishing a photo of a San Francisco socialite without permission. He says he never even took a photo of her.

OK, done with for Oudry through the beginning of 1900 (their wedding).

OK, done with for Emma Belle Oudry. She is Edward’s mother, and I don’t think she was really a photographer, since she is never mentioned as one. The only newspaper mentions of her are real estate dealings.

Just when I thought I was done for the day…

Searching for “Mrs. Belle Oudry” I find … another divorce between Gertrude and Edward! They separate in May of 1919, after she accuses him of chasing their son (also Edward) around the yard with a gun. (The first divorce also involved allegations of abuse, but on both sides.). The story doesn’t surface until November when she files for divorce, which is granted in March 1920. No photos, this time, though. But I guess they set an example for Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton: 2 marriages, 2 divorces.

Edward dies 3 years later, in 1923, and has an unnamed widow. I’m sure she is actually Gertrude.

Now I’m done with the “Belle Oudry” in 1920-1952 (Gertrude dies in January of 1953), and there isn’t really much about Gertrude except for the divorce.

So what does Gertrude do after that second divorce? Stay tuned for more deep diving with Gertrude!

Posted in EWAP