FEME SOLE, 2022 (18th-Century Stories)
Medium: Experimental photography collage stitched on canvas
(polaroids, lumen prints, cyanotypes, platinum/palladium, Van Dyke Brown).
Audio narrated by Isabel Steven (2020).
Dimensions: 48" x 36" inches.
"Feme Sole" was the term used by U.S. society to talk about single women in the 18th and 19th centuries. In Elfreth's Alley, many women (widows, runaway wives, spinsters) decided to live by themselves with other women, defying the social, economic, and gender conventions of that time. In 1762, House # 24 (now # 126) was the home of two mantua makers (Mary Smith and Sarah Melton). Like them, several dressmakers or seamstresses lived during this period at Elfreth's Alley.
This piece is a metaphor for the diversity and bravery of 60 women, legal heads of households on Elfreth's Alley, between roughly 1790 to 1813. They represented 20-30% of the street's residents. These women illustrate the opportunities and challenges of life for single women in the Early Republic of Philadelphia.
For more information, listen to the Alley Cast.
Episode 2: Spinsters, Runaway Wives, and Widows.