Sepia Saturday - The Shields Sisters

Originally posted April 10, 2010.

These three young ladies are all sisters. I don't have a date of the photo but judging by the clothing I'm sure it's taken around the turn of the last century. From left to right are Elzena Rachel, Vallie, and Edith. Elzena Rachel would be my great-grandmother. Vallie and Edith would be my great aunties. My mother's middle name was Elzena. She didn't like her middle name and she seemed to get upset if we ever mentioned it. Of course we kids would never pass up a chance to tease mom but she took it well.

Don't you just love those outfits? They all have those cool little pocket books hanging from their belts. Vallie seems to have the slimmest waist, but you really can't tell about the waist lines of the two sitting sisters. I assume Vallie is wearing one of those torturous corsets popular at the time. The pattern of the material that makes up their blouses is so intricate. It looks as though Vallie and Edith's blouses are made of the same material. Most likely their clothing was hand made by themselves. Can you imagine that? I love the material around their necks. I'm not sure what that is called. Maybe someone out there can tell me what they called that piece of clothing.

On the back is written the photographer's name and my mother wrote in the names of the sisters. I'm not sure why there is an X in the middle.

Elzena Rachel lived a short life, from 1880 to 1917. I found her obituary among the family photo albums. Her obituary was beautifully written. Today's obituaries seem brief, sterile and written without emotion.

News Publication unknown:
A large group of friends and aquaintances were grieved to hear of the death of Mrs. Elzena Shields Bither, which occured at Eastern Maine Gen'l Hospital, Bangor, Sunday, May 20th at the age of 37 years, 4 days, after a short painful illness. The deceased had been in poor health the past few months and she had suffered much at times but was very patient through it all. She possessed an unswerving Christian faith and was true to the principles of right, and was a memeber of the Ladies Aid. The funeral took place on Wednesday afternoon, at the Union Church, at Linneus Corner, Rev. Frank Sebean of the Free Baptist Church of Hodgdon officiating. She leaves to morn her demise a husband and three children three sisters and four brothers. The community extended their sympathy to the bereved husband and relatives. The bearers were Joshua Brown, Orin Tracey, Wilbur Estabrook, Robert Hunter. 

This poem was published with the obituary:

Slowly the death light faded
   From our loved ones eyes,
Gently her spirit was wafted,
   To her home beyond the skies.
But we seem to hear her whisper
   I am happy and at rest:
Morn not for me my dear ones,
   But to think its for the best,
To meet me there in Heaven,
   When your work on earth is o'er,
There we'll dwell in peace forever,
   on that ever shining shore.


LMP said…
very nice post;you have a lot of material to work with
I love their clothes and the little purses are wonderful. I've never seen them attached to belts like that. I should know what the collars are called since I sell old linens and lace but it's just one more thing I'll have to research. I'll tell you if I find out.
Wonderful photo!
Kat Mortensen said…
Hey Dougg,

How wonderful that you have that obituary and the poem is truly beautiful. Lovely post.

Vicki Lane said…
Wonderful picture! I love the outfits.
Unknown said…
I loved the photo & outfits..some polka dots there???.I have never before heard the name Elzena...interesting
Poetry24 said…
A truly moving obituary and poem. So nice to have that in the family archive.
Alan Burnett said…
That picture is a classic : and the words add so much to the image. You are right about the obituary : today they seem to be so sterile. But at least we have the web and we can write our own obituaries.
L. D. said…
I really like the three sisters photo. It shows that they were close to each other also. I liked the obit. It is nice to have it with the poem.
Wendy said…
I've never seen collars like that. They look more like bandages than something ornate. (Maybe they were hiding a hickey?? HA) I'm sure they made their own blouses. I have photos where every kid is dressed alike. Was the fabric cheap? Did Mom just not know how much to buy to begin with? What was the thought process?
Unknown said…
It looks like maybe a silk scarf around their necks. Maybe like what we call a Dicky these days. My mom and grandmother made all our clothes in the 1940s and 50s. Even the dresses we wore to dances and big parties. I love that photo of the sisters. Have never seen the little purses however.
Kat Mortensen said…
Wonderful post, Doug! That thought about the waists and corset went through my mind exactly! Oh, and the material too. At first I thought the might be twins, but then I figured it was more likely a surplus of material.

So sad that she died at 37, and left behind three kids. The poem is beautiful!

Thanks for sharing this. I wonder if you might be related to author, Carol Shields?
Bob Scotney said…
Fine post, Doug with a sad connection. I'm not sure that It's good idea of Alan's to write our own obituary. I know of one or two that might just have been 'Should have don better.' I don't think I've seen an obit for anyone in our family. The poem for Elenza is touching. I wonder who wrote it.
21 Wits said…
Out standing post! Thanks for sharing that lovely poem too!
Postcardy said…
Elzena is a name I haven't seen before. The outfits and little purses seem unusual too.

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