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Short Stories: She, the Book Lover

Jul 2, 2012

by Alison Feldmann handmade and vintage goods

Here at Etsy, we believe that the story behind an object is often just as fascinating as the object itself. Short Stories is our series dedicated to telling the tales behind extraordinary pieces found or created by Etsy sellers. 

We recently found this painted tintype portrait and were quite intrigued by seller Studio Stebbylee’s poetic ode to the sitter:

A softly studious looking young woman posed for this tintype photograph.
A woman of consequential thought,
her right arm rests lightly on a book — perhaps a favorite…
her face, a study.

Sensibly educated and well read,
she’s an urban sophisticate
from the 1850s.

Her wardrobe, jewelry and hairstyling
— all of handsome, tho’ restrained, design —
denote a sensible and earnest background.

She: the first woman in her family to graduate from university.

More Short Stories

Have you created or come across an object with an extraordinary story that needs to be told? Email us!


  • mattyhandmadecrafts

    Matejka Max from NattyMatty said 5 years ago


  • VintageEye

    VintageEye from VintageEye said 5 years ago

    I would love to meet her!

  • volkerwandering

    Jess from volkerwandering said 5 years ago

    Love it! The words helped me to see the picture better!

  • klb00e

    Mother Lark from MotherLark said 5 years ago

    Wonderful! What a perfect description. You see her story. You want to read her book.

  • HomeStudio

    Stef and Mark from HomeStudio said 5 years ago

    Beautiful image and story. :)

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 5 years ago


  • maclancy

    Marianne Clancy from maclancy said 5 years ago

    I love love this post! I always strive to find a story either written or invented in my vintage photos, and include it in my post. I have met several authors here on Etsy who have purchased my photos and then written a short story about the image. Thanks for posting! As always teenangster.... you have an amazing ability to locate the wonderful here on Etsy!

  • gardenjewels

    Julie DeGroot from JewelsInTheGarden said 5 years ago

    I Love reading the stories behind the art ~ the inspiration, the essence of the work ~ this one is Wonderful!

  • BetaBoutique

    Beate Vitola from BetaBoutique said 5 years ago

    but this is amazing!

  • AllysAntiques

    Alexandra Domeracki from AllysAntiques said 5 years ago

    Great story - love it!

  • EmiliaFaith

    Edie Ann from OhHoneyHush said 5 years ago

    Very nice!


    Anathalia from SCAVENGENIUS said 5 years ago

    That's a great story! What a fantastic find!

  • VoleedeMoineaux

    Hillary De Moineaux from VoleedeMoineaux said 5 years ago


  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage from LivingVintage said 5 years ago

    Great story!

  • lovelygifts

    Linda from lovelygifts said 5 years ago


  • lovelygifts

    Linda from lovelygifts said 5 years ago

    Great article

  • 4EnvisioningVintage

    Tracy from 4EnvisioningVintage said 5 years ago

    Love story telling & this post. Great points to engage your customer in relating goods to them!

  • thevicagirl

    VaLon Frandsen from thevicagirl said 5 years ago

    She sounds like a great person. I love it.

  • CafePrimrose

    Amanda Gynther from CafePrimrose said 5 years ago

    Lovely painting and great story!

  • ErikaPrice

    Erika from ErikaPrice said 5 years ago

    Lovely words for a beautiful portrait :)

  • SugarRae1

    SugarRae1 said 5 years ago

    Although she is the first in her family to attain a higher education--let's hope she isn't the last. The discernment in her eyes says it all... Lovely.

  • expressyourself

    Natalia Snemis from expressyourself said 5 years ago

    Beautiful painting!

  • shannondzikas

    shannon dzikas from shannondzikas said 5 years ago

    I love the stories behind items but prefer facts without the extra fluff when I'm shopping. If there is too much to read in a description I get bored and move on to the next item. Sorry.

  • MabelandMaude

    MabelandMaude from MabelandMaude said 5 years ago

    Both the description and the tintype are smashing!

  • maggiesraggedyinn

    Mary Robertson from MaggiesInn said 5 years ago

    I love this and I love a story behind an item. I used to work in a museum and wrote an intrepretation plan for the permanent exhibition... a story for all the items brought the museum alive. I have started a blog line of stories such as this taking old photographs and giving them a voice

  • FranceGallery

    France Gallery from FranceGallery said 5 years ago

    Lovely piece!

  • Iammie

    iammie from iammie said 5 years ago


  • HappyWhoos

    Jessie Friedman from HappyWhoos said 5 years ago


  • RinVinJewelry

    M Basile from RinnovatoJewelry said 5 years ago of the wonderful things I love about vintage and antique objects! They do speak to each of us in their own way. Though sometimes - and the same goes with my adopted shelter dog, I wish they could truly tell me about their past lives! : )

  • LittleWrenPottery

    Victoria Baker from LittleWrenPottery said 5 years ago

    Beautiful, such a poised portrait : )

  • inapigsear

    Maria Corey from sowsearjewels said 5 years ago

    What an elegant description of a lovely photo!

  • LineaLina

    Susanne Major from LineaLina said 5 years ago

    Penny for her thoughts! Lovely!

  • xnedra

    xnedra said 5 years ago

    I love this! I always want to know or imagine the story about objects that i see out & about or that i purchase.I love the story that the seller has imagined for this woman,it seems perfect :) As a side note i know a lady that looks a lot like the lady in this picture:)

  • eclectivist

    Kasia from Eclectivist said 5 years ago

    Beautiful portrait and a striking description! I wish I was as creative describing my vases... I should set a challenge now - work on my English while polishing my listings description! In my fine art photography practice I use wet plate collodion a lot – tintypes are collodion images taken on metal – and thought I'll share this poem with you. I hope I'm not breaking any law! Hiawatha’s Photographing (By Lewis Carroll) From his shoulder Hiawatha Took the camera of rosewood, Made of sliding, folding rosewood; Neatly put it all together. In its case it lay compactly, Folded into nearly nothing; But he opened out the hinges, Pushed and pulled the joints and hinges, Till it looked all squares and oblongs, Like a complicated figure In the Second Book of Euclid. This he perched upon a tripod - Crouched beneath its dusky cover - Stretched his hand, enforcing silence - Said, "Be motionless, I beg you!" Mystic, awful was the process. (...)

  • lauraprilltoo

    Laura Prill from lauraprilltoo said 5 years ago

    SO beautiful Kasla! I'm finding this post and your poem to be quite inspiring today, thank you:) There's something very touching about remembering the lady in the portrait.. all these years later we are saying that she is of value.

  • thewomensrepublic

    Sara Brazil from SararaVintage said 5 years ago

    Wonderful description and object. I love such pieces which tell the story of someone's life without saying a word. The history and sense of being is part of the human story and appeals to our curiosity! Preserving the story of such earlier women is important as well. Love it!

  • sewlola

    lola from dearvintagecupboard said 5 years ago

    No, I haven't. This one is beautifully described! :)

  • taisijasalnikova

    Taisie from taisijasalnikova said 5 years ago

    Beautiful portrait.

  • windycitynovelties

    Windy City Novelties said 5 years ago

    Love the back story!

  • elitas

    Carol from elitasvintage said 5 years ago


  • buenobookshop

    Jo and David from buenobookshop said 5 years ago

    This is a great idea; I love coming up with stories behind some of the books we's the ideas of "where did it come from" or "where all has it been" which are so fascinating!

  • cutezyclips

    Cutezy Clips from CutezyClips said 5 years ago

    Nice, if only you could make up the background story for a hair bow ;)

  • HoneysuckleLane

    Lana Manis from HoneysuckleLane said 5 years ago

    I always enjoy reading a story about the item I am considering for purchase. Great pick! :)

  • Zalavintage

    Zane Saracene from Zalavintage said 5 years ago

    a celebration of the life of the woman who sat for this portrait, I think She was about to write her own book.. a great way to celebrate the 4th! celebrating independence...

  • GoldenSpiralDesigns

    Lola Ocian from GoldenSpiralDesigns said 5 years ago

    I love it when people can read stories into paintings. I suppose that's success for the painter - when the image portrays so much more than is visible at face value.

  • Pastecchi

    Pastecchi from TheAmazonBazaar said 5 years ago

    Oh I love, love this...It makes me feel proud of my mother. She was the first woman to attend college in my family. I was so proud of her! I remember in her 40s and I as a teenager when I had attended her graduation ceremony when she received her Master’s in Education. I followed her lead attending college after high school and pursued a Master’s degree a few short years after. My son was in her lap watching me graduate. It’s a happy tradition. This Independence day I salute all you ladies who have earned your degrees!

  • wheatleypaperworks

    M Wheatley from wheatleypaperworks said 5 years ago

    I think there is a little of both the sitter and the writer, as it were, in this description. Fun bit of speculation. I was certainly drawn in.

  • LCooperDesigns

    LC Cooper from LeMaisonBelle said 5 years ago

    How Fun!!!

  • yogiodie

    yogiodie said 5 years ago

    great story!

  • HulaGirl1922

    Margarita from HulaGirl1922 said 5 years ago

    ... and yet she found herself within the pages of the book.. a hint of Alice in her own wonderland. Dreams of things yet to be and of days gone that faded as each page was turned. Every chapter brought a new adventure for her to experience again..and again.... yes..she, the Book Lover ♥ .... oh Etsy... way cool :)

  • liddysopretty

    liddy sopretty from liddysopretty said 5 years ago

    Love this!

  • Sunshineapple

    Sunshineapple said 4 years ago


  • ginasart8

    Gina Hammond from McGillhandmade said 4 years ago

    I love old photographs and use some in my collage work. So glad to see another one with a story. Thanks, gina hammond

  • studiostebbylee

    studiostebbylee from studiostebbylee said 4 years ago

    I just found this today! Many thanks to those who enjoyed my imaginings. I, too- would have loved to meet this woman.

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