This past month, I have learned a great deal about Gertrude Käsebier’s story. It is a narrative reflected and magnified in her photography. She lived during the women’s suffrage movement, a struggle that seemed to resonate within her personal experience.
John W. Stanton, her father, was a self-made man (owned and operated a saw mill operation) who prospered during the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush of 1859. He became the first elected major of Golden, the capital of the Colorado Territory. Gertrude’s life changed dramatically with her father’s sudden death in 1864. She was only twelve when her mother, Muncy Boone Stanton, was forced to move the family to Brooklyn, New York. Imagine the difficult transition! Without any social networks available, Muncy opened a boarding house to support the family.
Very little else is known of Gertrude’s early years. She received an education from Bethlehem Female Seminary, an institution founded in 1742 by followers of John Amos Comenius, the 17th century Moravian bishop. Comenius, who held firm to humanistic ideals, is recognized as a significant contributor to modern education. The college still thrives but with a name change – Moravian College.
Education was a key influencer in Gertrude’s activities going forward. And then there was Eduard Käsebier, the up and coming twenty-eight year old businessman who was financially secure and could offer Gertrude a high social standing and the means to pursue her artistic aspirations in later years. On her twenty-second birthday, she married Eduard and subsequently bore him three children in quick succession. For most women of that time, this would have been the highlight of their existence: married, mother and financially secure. But more was to come…
“If my husband has gone to Heaven, I want to go to Hell. He was terrible…Nothing was ever good enough for him.” Gertrude Käsebier