The Hubbard Sisters, 1860

The Hubbard Sisters, 1860

The look on the little girl in the middle kills me, what a cute expression from a baby over 150 years ago!

The girls from left to right are: Gertrude, Roberta, and Mabel Hubbard.  The Hubbard family was a prominent American family from Massachusetts. In particular the little girl on the right is the most well-known; Mabel ended up marrying Alexander Graham Bell. Scarlet fever caused Mabel to lose her hearing at age 5 and her parents made sure she was well educated. They helped to open a school for the deaf which taught students to talk (and not just sign) which was a revolution at the time in the schooling of deaf children.  The girls as adults are known by their married names of Gertrude Hubbard Grossman, Roberta Hubbard Bell, and Mabel Hubbard Bell.

It’s neat how you can trace someone’s life from infancy to adulthood, even though they lived more than a century and half ago.  The letters Mabel and her husband sent to each other are quite numerous and show a couple that joked with each other, debated intellectual subjects, and who were genuinely interested in each other’s lives.  Here’s page two of a ten-page letter from 1875, sent from Alexander to Mabel before they were married. Alexander teases his wife (jokingly, in order to goad a response out of her) for supporting women’s rights:

“I never suspected that you were one of these people who think women have rights. Do you actually suppose their wishes are to be considered with the same respect as those of men?”


Sources: Library of Congress Prints and Photography Collection, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, Library of Congress Bell Family Papers

Image | This entry was posted in Family Life, Historical Photos, Modern History, Museum Artefact, U.S. History, Women's History and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Hubbard Sisters, 1860

  1. itwasjudith says:

    not strictly related, but on the theme of tracing/imagining people’s lives in the past, this is an interesting article about some famous characters of last century and their living at a point in time pretty much all in the same area…
    I love Austrian cafes and their atmosphere – one of my favourite places when i used to live in that country

    • What a great article! BBC’s Magazine has a lot of really great stuff, but I hadn’t seen this one yet. Thanks for sharing! This sentence got me: “I saw nothing in his eyes that resembled friendliness” – even early on Stalin’s personality was evident. And the Café Central looks MUCH nicer than the café I frequent near my house. I’m super jealous!!

      • itwasjudith says:

        Unfortunately I haven’t been able to visit the Cafe Central in Vienna yet… but there must be one in any major city in Austria because we had one in the place I used to live – not as grand, but still it had the newspapers hanging for free for patrons, a piano evening and tea, coffee and cake in the best tradition (I couldn’t avoid to order ‘apfelstrudel’). It’s an interesting atmosphere and tradition they have 🙂

      • My café is always filled with students studying, who glare at anyone that evens makes the least bit of noise! It’s sad that it’s filled with smart, intelligent people who are all in silent mode. The Austrian tradition is a great one – I love when people talk and share their ideas and opinions, more so when it’s between strangers. So jealous that you got to live there!

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