Another Woman Photographer: Edith Watson of East Windsor


Side view of John Watson House, East Windsor. Photograph by Edith S. Watson. The Connecticut Historical Society.

Last week the Connecticut Historical Society opened an exhibition celebrating the achievement of three Connecticut women photographers. Of course, Marie Kendall, Harriet Thorne, and Rollie McKenna weren’t the only women to take photographs in Connecticut. Another woman photographer, who is not well- represented in our collections, but who has always fascinated me, is Edith Watson of East Windsor. Edith (1861-1943) was roughly contemporary with Marie and Harriet. She was an adventurous traveler, who visited Mexico and the Caribbean and traveled up and down the eastern seaboard. Her best-known photographs document rural life in Canada, especially Newfoundland and Labrador. Her work was published in the New York Times, the Toronto Star, and the Newfoundland Quarterly. She always insisted upon receiving a credit line, so it seems surprising that her photographer’s stamp, “EDITH S. WATSON / EAST WINDSOR HILL / CONN.” appears on only one photograph in the CHS collection, a side view of the Watson House in East Windsor Hill. It seems likely that she may also have taken some of the other photographs of the house, which were given to CHS by her sister Amelia, a talented watercolor artist. Although Edith’s photograph was probably part of a series of views taken to document the appearance of the house, the photograph is artfully composed; the shadows of the trees in the foreground take up as much space as the house itself. The John Watson house, on Main Street, East Windsor Hill, was built in 1788-1789 for a wealthy merchant. Edith and Amelia, who were both fascinated by genealogy, would have been well aware of its history.