Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends of Mount Auburn A Landscape of Lives - Page 9
Figure 1 Figure 2
captured both the solicitous , nurturing yet somewhat anxious mother and the eager , self-assured , but fleetingly hesitant child about to cross the threshold of the room , and life .
A photogravure of Blessed Art Thou among Women appeared in the July , 1900 , issue of Camera Notes and a platinum print was hung in the October , 1900 , Philadelphia Photographic Salon , receiving unanimous praise . One critic noted that it captured both the mother ’ s duty to delight , educate , and encourage her child as well as the child ’ s duty to draw strength and confidence from the relationship while stepping boldly toward adulthood . Tragically , before the image had been either printed or hung , Peggy had died of juvenile diabetes after a few weeks of acute illness . She was interred on May 15 , 1900 in the Lee family plot at Mount Auburn . It is not known whether her parents intended to place a piece of statuary at Peggy ’ s grave but none was erected . Perhaps it was a memorial gesture too painful to complete .
They did find a way to commemorate their loss , however . Käsebier ’ s image was among the last photographs taken of Peggy . Shortly after it appeared in Camera Notes , Francis Watts Lee wrote to Alfred Stieglitz ,“ The reproduction of my wife and the dear little one whom we see in the flesh no longer is very beautifully done ,” and the grieving father inquired if he might purchase fifty copies of it with margins suitable for framing , obviously preparing to give the portrait to relatives and friends . Despite its intrinsic beauty and the iconic place it holds in American photographic history , then , Blessed Art Thou among Women remains a very personal portrait of a particular mother and her child . And , more than a century after it was posed , Agnes Lee continues to lean protectively toward her daughter , Peggy , who is eternally seven years old looking expectantly into the future .
[ More information on the Lee family can be found in the recently published Artful Lives : The Francis Watts Lee Family and Their Times by Patricia J . Fanning ]