Victorian Halloween: Black-Face

Helene and Mrs. Faucher had the best of intentions when they dressed up for Halloween, 1916, in blackface — little did they know that, ninety-one years later, people from all over the world will be sending off disgusted electronical-correspondences to a writer in North Dakota who published their photo for everyone to see.

No, please, withhold your electronical- correspondences; It’s Halloween, a time when, even though a few buck the system and go as princesses and Batmans (and the stores are full of slutty pirate-wench outfits for pre-teen girls, but that’s another issue entirely), we encourage our kids to dress up as murderers and the murdered, thieves and monsters, and all sorts of terrible and horrible beings. If Halloween is about being scary, evoking fear of harm, who can think of something more monstrous, recalling more violence and pain, than these costumes?

Helene and her partner-in-crime were probably trying to be funny — and how outgoing! These ladies were born around the time the Civil War was ending, growing up at the height of Victorian conservatism, and here they were dressing up as popular media characters of the time. Too bad they picked something that their great-grandkids would wince at whenever the photo album was brought out. Helene and her girlfriends were tech-savvy for the time: they took many candid, personal photos of themselves, some of which ended up in my Victorian Ladies Gone Wild section.