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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

Where can we live but days?

steepholm steepholm
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Before Facebook, there was the Bible Book
I put a few pictures from my great-great-aunt Fanny Jane Butler's Bible book up here some years ago, but they were very blurry. Now I have a slightly more reliable camera (albeit still low quality) I'm putting up a few more. The catalyst for this is someone's writing about Fanny on-line in her capacity as a medical missionary and one of the first (if not the first) qualified female doctors to work in India - where she died, aged 39, having founded a hospital that survives to this day. I keep meaning to blog the little book that her niece Emma Tonge wrote about her, but that will have to wait a bit longer.

These are just a fraction of the total, but they give a flavour. Fanny was born in 1850, and it's anyone's guess as to how old she was when she made this scrapbook, but it seems like the production of a child to me, albeit not a young one, so I'm guessing the early 1860s. The colours have lasted very well, to say nothing of the feathers, flowers, leaves, hair, etc. Indeed, the long golden tresses seem almost too good to be true. Was there some other substance than hair that she might have used at that date?


These are such wonderful things to have in your possession! :o)

Yes, they are! They're a bit on the fragile side, so I don't take them out often.

That last image- with the two girls and the umbrella- looks much later than the 1860s. I'm going by the style, the type of print it is (photogravure?) and the hemlines. The younger girl is wearing trousers- surely unthinkable in the mid-Victorian era. I reckon this was something your great aunt made- or was still making- at the end of her life. If I had had to date that picture blind- without any information- I'd have said circa 1900.

Stylistically I tend to agree. But... she was dead of dysentery by 1889, and for many years before that was too busy working as a missionary and qualifying as a doctor for this kind of work, I'd imagine. I find it hard to believe she was working on it post-1870.

Which leaves three options. 1) this isn't her book at all, and I've been misinformed by familial Chinese whispers. I don't think that's likely because a near-contemporary photograph of her is stuck in the front in a clear memorializing gesture. 2) She began the book but it was finished by someone else. Again I don't think it's likely, not only because of the air of the religious relic that gathered around her possessions after her death but because of the stylistic unity of the thing. 3) The picture does indeed date from the mid-19th, and the clothes have yet to be explained. Possibly the scene is not a European one? The girl and woman's faces could possibly be Asian, I think. And trousers were no more common as street-wear in 1900 than in 1860, after all. An interesting question! Perhaps some sartorial/artistic expert can help out?

OK, I have a theory. These could be collier girls- aka pit brow lasses- who were famous- indeed notorious- for wearing trousers for work. They were about the only mid-Victorian women who did. There are images here. Some of the headgear on display looks a lot like the bonnets your girls are wearing.

Your girls are carrying what look like lunchboxes- and are perhaps on their way to work- which would explain why they're looking so clean and tidy.

That's a very plausible theory! It certainly fits such facts as we have, and the background to the picture (though it's pretty vague) seems right architecturally, to my untutored eye. Also, I think a lot of the material available to young FJB would have been published by companies such as the Religious Tract Society, for whom stories of working-class conversion, perhaps with the aid of an evangelical pit-head preacher, were standard fare.

That is beautiful, and that script!

Yes - scripts, indeed!

Amazing, not least of all the still-intact flower and the delicate knot of hair. What a treasure.

In the Proverb page, are the letters cut out of the page?

I'd have to check, and I'm away at the moment, but I think the letters are coloured/painted rather that cut out.

Edited at 2016-05-07 06:37 am (UTC)

Oh this is lovely. What a wonderful thing to have.

I had hair that colour once. *sigh* I can confirm that the colour of cut hair can last for over 30 years, but beyond that who knows?