But it’s not (exactly) what you think.
No, “Belle Oudry is not a lady” in this ad is not insulting a Ms Belle-Oudry. Rather, it is Edouard Belle-Oudry proclaiming, by implication, that he is a man, not a woman named Belle Oudry.
Alameda Daily Argus, 1901-10-25, p. 4. Source: Newspapers.com
This is not a one-off ad. Edouard publishes a series of ads in the Personals section of local newspapers saying simply “Belle-Oudry is not a lady”: the first one is in January of 1900 and they continue until 1905, and then they resume briefly in 1922 (he dies in 1923).
I have to say that I was doubly disappointed by these ads. On a personal level, I just did all that work showing how lady photographer was a positive term, and here comes Edouard implying that a lady photographer was not such a good thing. Hmph! But then in addition, his wife Gertrude becomes a photographer, as you may remember. What’s up with that?!?
Now, we might speculate whether there is anything significant about the timing of those ads. Recall that Gertrude was apparently not a photographer when they get married in 1900, but she is a photographer in 1906. So from 1900 to 1906, “Belle-Oudry” is not a lady photographer. But, since Gertrude is learning photography with the aim of opening a second studio, Edouard better rethink his ad campaign, since Gertrude would certainly count as being a lady. No more “not a lady” ads by the time she opens her studio.
However, Gertrude and Edouard have a (second) bitter divorce in 1920, and so he can return to his ad campaign, which could now be given a second interpretation. That’s a shame.
This is the last of the Belle-Oudry related posts that I have, at least for now. But you never know what might turn up.