Alice Austen

Alice Austen

1866 - 1952

 

Photograph of Alice Austen.
Photo of Alice Austen by Oswald Muller. Photo courtesy of Collection of Historic Richmond Town

 

Photographer Alice Austen highlighted the extraordinary nature of everyday life in New York and across the world, and refused to conform to traditional societal and gender norms typical of her time.

Photography came naturally to Austen, who was born into social prominence in Staten Island. She met her lifelong partner Gertrude Tate in the late 1890s.

In 1929, they lost nearly everything in the stock market crash, including Austen’s cherished family home, Clear Comfort. Soon, the pair could not afford rent for their apartment. Austen declared herself a pauper and handed over much of her work to the Staten Island Historical Society.

Years later, the group realized the value of her photographs and helped Austen profit from them. Today, Clear Comfort is the Alice Austen House Museum, an attraction in New York State’s Path Through History heritage tourism program. In 2017, Governor Cuomo expanded the home’s National Register listing to recognize Austen’s significance in LGBT history.

 

Alice Austen and three friends embrace, 1891.
Alice Austen and three friends embrace, 1891. The group was said to have been given the nickname “The Darned Club” by young men of the neighborhood, who felt excluded by the women’s close friendship. Photo courtesy of Collection of Historic Richmond Town