Women with an ornamental star in a garden

By: usermattw

May 29 2019

Tags: , ,

Category: Pairs, Women


Click here to view it larger.

What it is:

Photo measuring 3.5 x 2.5 inches.


What I know about it:

Written on the lower right corner is 9-41, which I assume to be the date September, 1941.  Otherwise no information.



I’ve hesitated to post this one because it’s a bit blurry and damaged, but I keep going back to look at it, so I thought maybe others would enjoy it, too.  The small little photo actually looks rather dull in my hand, but when I enlarge it, I see so much interesting detail.  Besides all the usual questions with anonymous photos (who are they? where are they?  what is their relationship to each other? what is their relationship to this location?, etc.), I am drawn especially to that star, since it’s obviously meant to be the feature of this image.  Is it made of flowers or something like rocks?  If it is made of flowers, shall we assume they need to be flowers that bloom in September, if 9-41 is indeed the date?  What color are they?  Does the star have some symbolic significance, or is it just pretty?  (I looked at this a couple days ago when putting together my Memorial Day post, wondering if it might be in honor of a Gold Star Mother, though it’s aligned strangely if that’s the case.)  Assuming these women are responsible for the garden in some way, they seem proud of it, and understandably so.

14 comments on “Women with an ornamental star in a garden”

  1. Sorry but it’s me again.
    Apparently mother and daughter, the mother in black (mourning). The houses in the background like the above-ground power lines and the white fence look like rural American and of course in 1941 the encircled star ment the symbol of the US Army. But this makes it interesting: Roosevelt publicly confirmed the “shoot on sight” order against German submarines on 11 September 1941. Maybe, the mourning was not for a military victim but the encircled star of white gravel (in use in the lawn in front of most US military objects) was a clear sign of American patriotism and support for Roosevelt.

    • No need to apologize, Günther. I’m always happy for the information you provide, and happy to hear everybody’s interpretations of the photos I post. I agree with most of your ideas about the picture. I assume it’s a mother and daughter in their backyard garden in rural America. But since I don’t KNOW this, that’s only a guess. For instance, they might be niece and aunt, or cousins. One of them might be a visiting neighbor who helps out with the gardening. There’s even the (less likely) possibility that it’s not a backyard, but a sort of community garden, maybe behind a church or social hall. And yes, it looks like an Army star, but I always see an Army star aligned with one point straight up, unlike the star here. It seems odd that they would put that kind of care into creating this without matching the logo exactly. If it is an Army star, constructed before the US entered WWII, then they are definitely showing strong patriotism, though there aren’t the other usual signs (flags and things). If only we could see it in color.

  2. It does look like an Army star. There seem to be wooden toys in front of the women. Great photo!

    • Thanks! Yes, I noticed those, too. They look like toys, but I suspect they might actually be garden decorations. At least one of them looks like it could even function as a planter box.

  3. If you came along one of the garden paths (down right to center resp. down left to center), one point of the star would be straight up! The only problem was the photographer’s perspective (he wanted the ladies to stand in front of the fence).

  4. While I’m not American so can’t comment on whether it’s the US army star, it seems rather unlikely in a garden and this does look like a garden (yard, in American English, garden in British English), in fact it looks like what we’d call a rockery with the star made from small, smooth rocks or large pebbles. There are little wooden carts – might be toys but might also be planters for putting flowers in, in soil. Though the one on the left looks to me like it’s got simple representations of cattle pulling a cart, so might be a toy plough (plow). The picket fence is an unusual design – you might have some luck researching that. The flowers in the foreground (near the bottom of the photo) look to me like wild primroses, but if it’s November then that would be the wrong month for them. If a rockery then they’ll be small flowers that are happy to grow in uncultivated soil (dirt).

    It looks like the part of the garden in front of them is beyond an outer circle with a small narrow path running through it.

    There’s an archway to their left whose fencing has a different formation at the top so that’s probably a gate.

    The orientation of the star (upside down) is strange. It’s actually a pentacle – a five pointed star – but presumably not ‘magical’!

    My guess is the star is replicated on the other side of the garden or that there are other forms.

    I disagree with Günther about the older woman’s clothes being mourning because they’re black. In monochrome photos black can be red, dark blue, dark green – all sorts of colours. If you take photo that’s normally in colour and desaturate it you’ll see that instantly.)

    On the other hand, it could be a garden of remembrance. Maybe a churchyard?

    It’s probably American, but if it were British, rockeries have always been popular here with these sorts of feature – apart from the star. That sort of formation is normal here, too, but usually in the same of a flower or a (working) clock with flowers on top of the moving hands.

    • Hi Val. Thanks for all your thoughts on this! It makes sense that the star is made of rocks, given how many other rocks are arranged around the place. And I suspect the wooden items are decorations, since I doubt they would be posing for a photo in such a carefully arranged garden if it were strewn with misplaced toys. Since the one on the left is figurative, I wondered if they were actually creating a scene, like a sort of garden diorama, but I don’t think so. I was also skeptical of the idea that the woman on the right is in mourning, though I see Günther’s point. And thanks for pointing out that the fence under the curved structure is different. I had assumed it was some sort of trellis, but now I see it’s likely a gate. And I’m amused by the idea of the star being magical, as if I’ve stumbled upon a photo of a coven. 🙂

  5. Oh, and I’ve just noticed that there’s another five-point star at the top of the archway curve – the right way up this time.

    • Oh, I had completely missed that! Thanks for pointing it out. That makes me feel it’s likely a symbol of some significance, rather than just a pretty design. It also makes me wonder again if we’re looking at a garden behind a private home, or behind something more community-oriented, like a church or fraternal hall.

      • My husband said ‘Texas’ to the stars and then, looking at the area behind them, said ‘France or Holland’… he’s usually good on locations, so maybe some more food for thought? To me it looks European but as I’ve never been to America… well.

      • A star of Texas! That’s another intriguing possibility I hadn’t thought of. And it certainly looks like the flat, empty landscape you can find in parts of Texas. Thank your husband for the suggestion.

      • Will do. 🙂

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