Girls in White Dresses

My paternal grandmother displayed family photos throughout her house: in built-in bookcases in the den and living room, on walls, and on dressers; photos of parents and siblings, children and grandchildren; formal photos and candid shots. I especially loved looking at the photos of my dad as a youth and those that captured my other ancestors.

On a wall, between two windows that looked out on the shady front yard, hung a frame matted for 10 or 12 photos. There were photos of my cousin, of my aunt when she was young, and I think one of me and my sister as babies sitting with our grandparents on my grandmother’s lion print couch. But my favorite was this family picture:


The woman seated is Eleanor Frieda Charlotte (Eigenmann) DuPre, my great-grandmother. The baby on her lap is my grandmother, Bertha (Bettye) Elizabeth DuPre. The other children are my grandmother’s siblings: William Clarkson DuPre, Sarah Frances DuPre, Margaret Wilhelmina DuPre, and Eleanor Elizabeth DuPre.

This photo was taken around 1920 (my grandmother was born in October of 1919 and a 6th sibling, Frederick Augustus DuPre, was born in November of 1921). It was most likely taken in a studio in Abbeville, South Carolina, where the family lived. The town was a rail transportation center at the time, which allowed for economic activity locally. Eleanor’s husband, William Shillito DuPre, was a yardmaster in Abbeville.

There is so much I love about this photo. I love the calm, serene look on Eleanor’s face and the way she looks directly into the camera. I love that they are all wearing white. Most of all I love the bows in the sisters’ hair. I love the personalities that you can see in the children’s expressions, perceptions reinforced by family stories about each person. I love being able to see my father’s cousin in the face of her mother. I love seeing my grandmother as a baby. I love remembering admiring it when it hung on my grandmother’s wall.

I also love that similar photos were taken over the years. Here are two examples:


The chair, the posing, and the size of the picture are the same for each photo, suggesting that they returned to the same studio each time.

My grandmother passed away in 2007, and my dad, being the oldest, got a lot of family history related items including these photos. He has scanned many of these photos which makes them easy to share. A copy of the first photo hangs in my dining room, along with photos of other ancestors. (The same photo is also the header for this blog.)

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