A photograph by Marie Kendall in the current exhibition at the Connecticut Historical Society depicts Sarah Bishop’s Cave, a hollow in the rocks overlooking a deep valley on West Mountain in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Who was Sarah Bishop and what was she doing in this cave? According to historian Samuel Goodrich, who remembered meeting Sarah in his youth, she was a female hermit, who took refuge in the cave during the American Revolution and spent the remainder of her life as a recluse on the mountain, surviving on roots and berries and the charity of the inhabitants of Ridgefield. Goodrich recalled her as “a thin, ghostly old woman, bent and wrinkled.” She died about 1810 or 1811. In the late nineteenth century, the cave was something of a tourist attraction. The lovely young woman shown peering into it in Kendall’s photograph was the photographer’s daughter. Kendall was a professional photographer who sold her photographs to summer residents and tourists in her native Norfolk, who presumably would have been familiar with Sarah’s story.
Through a Different Lens: Three Connecticut Women Photographers will remain on view at the Connecticut Historical Society through March 29, 2014. An illustrated booklet is available for purchase.