Sisterhood on ice

A circle of girls and young women on the ice.
As ice-skating became a leading pastime in the 1860s, pictures of ice-skating and ice-skaters proliferated in the popular press, recording its impact on society.  Looking at such pictures, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that skating represented something special in the lives of women, while also violating existing norms.  If skating let women escape a certain social confinement, it rendered them more vulnerable, too.  Ice-skating, though fun and bold, exposed women to certain perils, among them a mixing of classes and sexes that nineteenth-century society was set up to avoid.

This print by Winslow Homer (1836-1910) encapsulates such strains.  Continue reading

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