Women's History in the Collections
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"Aunt Effie" apparently worked in the household of W. L. Smith of Newburgh, Orange County. She probably was born into slavery, or at least into bond servant status, since complete legal emancipation in New York did not go into effect until 1827. It is perhaps significant that her portrait was painted in an era affected by Uncle Tom's Cabin (published in 1852) and the Civil War, and in a place--the Hudson Valley--which harbored abolitionist sentiment and Underground Railroad activity. Dignified in presentation, Aunt Effie's portrait exhibits, in addition to her race, an iconography - of ladder back chair and clay pipe - at odds with formal portraiture but very much in keeping with her status in society.
Contributed by: Ronald J. Burch, Associate Curator
For questions or comments relating to this entry, contact Ronald Bruch at email@example.com
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