Photographer: Selma Jacobsson
Sitter: Ada Eugenia von Böös
Provenience: Stockholm, Sweden
The teenage girl posing for this photo in Stockholm, Sweden is one of the the approximately 1.3 million Swedes who left their native country for the US. The main reason for emigration was to avoid poverty, and even though this girl never worked in a field on the brink of starvation, it was the financial situation which forced the girl and her mother to leave for a new home.
The girl was born as Ada Eugenia von Böös, circa 1870 (I don't have her birthdate, but when she died in May 1966 she was 93 years old), and over in the new country she was generally known as the countess Eugenia von Boos - she was of noble birth, the title was not just a scam to sound more interesting. She would later marry and add the name Farrar to her own, a name she kept after the divorce from her husband. She was a great singer, her singing was what kept her and her mother fed and dressed for several years, and at the turn of the last century she was a well-known opera-singer in New York, famous for her charity (primarily aimed at families of convicts) and on friendly terms with, among others, Buffalo Bill (a.k.a. William F. Cody). But her greatest claim to history was she was the first person to sing on a wireless radio-broadcast, in New York in 1907 - she sang 'I love you truly'.
The photo must, considering the sitters age and the place the photo is taken in, be from the 1880's and I would venture a guess to the middle of the decade. She is wearing a dress in a sturdy material, probably wool, but she wears some jewellery - rather simple in design, but this was not a time when it was very common at all, and it says something about her position in life. Her hair is cut very short, like a boy's hair-cut, which was very uncommon. A young girl at this time most often had long (preferably curled) hair hanging down on their back and bangs - and Ada only has the second part right. A common reason for cutting a girl's long hair off was if the girl was ill and in bed, when the hair really could get in the way - but it's impossible to tell if that is the case here.
Ada, to the family known as 'Great Ada' (to separate her from her cousin with the same first name, but who was born a few years later), was my maternal great-grandmother's first cousin. She was to live the rest of her life in the US and died in New York.