My great-grandmother Charlotte has never seemed like a cow person to me. So when I found this picture in a pile of photos at my aunt’s house, I thought it was pretty amazing. It is sort of clear from her stance — and from the fact that she is posing for a picture with a cow in the first place — that she did not think of herself as a cow person either.
This image and its companion below were taken in East Haddam, Connecticut, possibly in 1923, when Charlotte was (as the back of the second photograph indicates) on “vacation.” It is unclear where she may have been vacationing — her son thought it was possible she was visiting rich cousins who had a farm in Connecticut, while one of her grandsons is fairly certain she was actually staying at a holiday camp/resort type place also frequented by Yiddish writer Sholem Asch and maybe even Leon Trotsky.
Though I have been unable (as yet!) to find any definitive information about Asch and Trotsky’s possible travels in Connecticut, it is true that East Haddam was a major hub of resorts and holiday-making in the early part of the 20th century. Indeed, it is estimated that in the 1940s, there were 52 resorts in East Haddam, a large number of them catering to Jewish clienteles.** Moreover, though it may seem surprising, East Haddam and the rest of Connecticut were home to a large population of Eastern European Jewish farmers who had found their way their thanks to the Baron de Hirsch Fund. Many of these farmers also opened their homes and land to summer boarders. And this all explains city girl Charlotte’s presence in fields with cows and stone walls and blurry plows in the background.
** Janice P. Cunningham and David F. Ransom. Back to the land : Jewish farms and resorts in Connecticut, 1890-1945. Hartford : Connecticut State Historical Commission, 1998.