Old Maid Hanging on the Wheel


I found this photo in an antique shop and although the sticker with the sitter’s name covers the information at the bottom of this cabinet card, I could see enough to recognize that the photographer was Lacey of Angola, Indiana.

I gleaned from newspaper snippets that Callie Brandeberry’s life was full of friends, travel, and success.  During her 65 years on this earth, she visited the Pacific Coast, Washington, Ohio, New York City, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Niagra Falls, Chicago, and Indianapolis.  I have to imagine there were also trips taken that didn’t make the local news.

Callie was born in 1873 and grew up in Metz, Indiana with her mother, Amelia (nee Goodale), step-father, Abraham Stevens, and younger brother, Oliver Stevens.  Her father, William, died when she was just seven months old.  Callie graduated from Normal College in Angola in 1897, a time when highly exaggerated poofy dress sleeves were in fashion, which leads me to believe this image was captured about that time.

Teaching was a profession Callie jumped into at the age of seventeen, prior to continuing her education at the Normal school, and was a career path she followed until her early forties when she turned her attention to her Uncle Orville Goodale’s abstract business.  Smart and driven, Callie eventually became a partner in the Goodale Abstract Company, where she worked until her health no longer allowed.  When she wasn’t working, Callie played the piano,  volunteered at the Steuben County Red Cross, was involved in church activities, and entertained her many friends.

Callie’s sense of humor was on display during a club meeting where she was tasked with giving a talk on “What I would do for Angola if I had a million dollars.”  She made the case for buying herself a new automobile in order to beautify the city streets and recited a poem.

Twin Lizzies
The same old auto chugging down the street,
The same old tires she’s wearing on her feet,
She’s twenty years old and never missed a meal –
With the same old maid hanging on the wheel.

I have to say that Callie referring to herself as the old maid from the poem made me quite sad.  The term old maid isn’t a nice way to describe someone.  It comes from a time when women were expected to marry and if they did not they were often harshly judged by society, a truth that I’m sure Callie was well acquainted with.  In fact, in the Victorian card game, Old Maid, the queen was considered the old maid and the object of the game was to avoid being left holding this card.

1939 Jun 30 BRANDEBERRY Callie OBIT Angola Herald IN
June 30, 1939 ~ Angola Herald (IN)

Callie’s self-deprecating humor left me to think long and hard about how little I really learn about the people I research.  I’m only looking through the smallest window into their lives and who they were while they walked this earth.  This doesn’t make me want to quit researching because sharing even a glimpse of a person is better than sharing nothing.  I simply need to be more mindful about this truth.

Heart disease claimed Callie’s life in 1939 and she is buried in the Metz Cemetery.  I hope she knew that her worth wasn’t tied to her marital status.  I hope she lived her life the way she wanted and that she didn’t see herself as an undesirable old maid.  I hope she loved herself.

Census records
Angola Herald newspaper, Angola, Indiana
Steuben Republican newspaper, Angola, Indiana
University of Vermont ~ Dating Women’s Clothing

3 thoughts on “Old Maid Hanging on the Wheel

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