Saturday, May 25, 2013


This beauty is Fanny Edna Applegate Howell.

She was born in Dayton, Ohio, on March 25, 1869, the second child of Selah and Nanny Applegate Howell. Her younger brother, William, was my grandfather.
Her father had left college (Antioch) to join the Union army; he drove an ambulance for the Sanitary Commssion during the Civil War and was in the thick of it during the Wilderness Campaign. After the war, he finished his Antioch degree (a history major), married Nanny Applegate (daughter of the manager of the Antioch farm) and started a family.
By 1880, the family had moved to Watertown; by 1900 they were in Roxbury, where Fanny’s father taught history at Boston Latin School.
Her father kept a small diary; on August 5, 1902, he wrote, “My darling daughter was married in Jamaica Plain at half past two in the afternoon to Prof. H.O. Hofman.” (Henrich Oscar Hofman was a professor of mining and assaying at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.)
She was a widow by 1924; she raised her two children as a single parent.

I remember Fanny Edna Applegate Howell Hofman, but I knew her as Fantine, a nickname given her by her father (who was a Victor Hugo devotee – think Les Miserables).

This snapshot was taken in 1952, when I was six years old. Fantine was older than rocks and dirt to me – and slightly scary due to her age – but always sweet. I remember that she smelled of lilacs and had a great smile and laugh.
Fantine died on August 5, 1958 in Boston, Massachusetts.

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  1. What a wonderful post - and a face that seems to be a kind of historical cellotape, fastening together the centuries.

  2. What a lovely photograph. Her eyes draw you right in. She was a beautiful woman.

  3. What a striking woman Fanny was - and I loved the middle name Applegate - made me think of a rural cottage in the north of England with blossom in the garden.

  4. Fantine is an interesting name. It reminds me of my Aunt Fae. I learned long after she died that she had been Fanny when she was young.

  5. What a beautiful girl! Isn't it funny how scary old people are to young children? When my daughter was just a little girl, she didn't want to go to the nursing home to visit my grandmother. She said, "It looks like Halloween in there." And it did!

  6. Such nice comments from you all! A distant cousin sent me the early photograph of Fantine; I remember catching my breath at her beauty.
    I agree, Kathy, it's her eyes!
    Fanny was a popular name back then. I always thought it was a nickname for Frances, but apparently not.
    And, Wendy -- the Halloween comment is both funny AND sobering!

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  8. She was stunning! And such great looking legs even into her 80's. And still wearing a little heel! As someone who has poor balance, I admire older women who can still "strut their stuff" in good looking shoes.

  9. I don't remember her as stunning (she died when I was 12; much too young to appreciate "stunning") but she certainly was, Helen. Perfect word to describe her...and you're right about her legs: there's hope for us all!

  10. We do see things in such a different light when we are younger that is for sure. She was a lovely woman!

  11. Absolutely beautiful. I have a vague memory of my maternal grandmother as a matriarchal figure all in black, It must be hearsay because my grandparents died before I was born.

  12. This face is stunning! Absolute beauty - above fashions and trends, I guess whenever Fanny lived with face like that - she always was considered to be a beauty - from ancient times to the future, in all epochs.

    1. I have this photograph on a bookshelf in my living room; she is absolutely arresting to me -- she seems to speak to me...thanks for the comment...