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Photograph of 1930s womenshopkeepers

Shelf Appeal likes the outsides of shops. And the insides. This photographic postcard is one of a very few images I have collected of shop interiors. I try not aspire to owning the world’s best collection of anything; working in museums has all but cured me of the acquisitive bug. But occasionally something cheap catches my eye and tugs at my heavily disguised and disused kleptomaniac heart. And it comes home to live on the shelf.

Shop keeping was for so long, and still is, something women do. Men become butchers, bakers and, probably, candlestick makers. But women do the serving in shops. This trio of women have posed for their mid-late 1930s moment in their smart white canvas overall coats. The woman on the right has a couple of badges, and a super felt flower brooch pinned to her blouse. She looks to be in charge, indeed her overalls are a tad smarter than the other two are wearing.

The tidily stacked grocery goods around them remain blurred and anonymous. Except for a large jar of Horlicks, something Heinz-y in a tin, and a small tower of Marmite jars on the counter. I have a feeling that there might have been travelling photographers who took images of shop fronts, as so many photographs have the owners stood outside their own shop, and must have been taken by other people.

A lovely ordinary point in time, working women’s time.

One Comment

Katherine C. James

Love this, Jane. Wonderful image, made yet more entertaining by seeing it through your discerning eye. I didn’t note the Marmite until you mentioned it. The woman with the felt flower brooch does seem to be in charge. She is distancing herself from the other two more modestly plumed birds.


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