Among my Victorian ancestors, this lady really appeals to me. She is not pompous or rigid or bolt upright, due to boned corsets.
She is not interested in highly fashionable, feathered hats. She had not spent ages doing her hair. She is not pretending to be more important than she is, or posher, or richer, or anything - just herself.
She is my great great grandmother, Margaret, whose surname was Laver - which means to wash. Fittingly, before she married, in the 1850s, she earned her own living - as a laundress to the British navy.
I've reconstructed her life story which gives an insight into the kind of life that ordinary women lived in Victorian England. This photo was probably taken at the end of the 19th century. At
first, I thought she was too poor to be photographed in
anything but ragged clothes, with holes. On closer inspection, her clothes are not
ragged, at all. The apparent holes are caused by the quality of the old photo. She worked hard and was not on the breadline. She supported herself most of her life, even after she married - taking in lodgers.
A favourite motto of women in her day was "Happy the girl who buys her own cherries" i.e. who earns her own living and does not rely entirely on her husband.
Above all, she is holding a Bible, proclaiming that her life, though hard work, was lived joyfully, relying on God, going to church, relying on faith.
She died aged 77, in 1900.