Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In A Woman's Handbag

Since we have been having more unusually warm weather I have been working more on my project of emptying boxes that were stored in the garage. Some of the boxes contain things other than just books and papers. In one of the boxes I opened this weekend was a woman's handbag. The box was one of the moving boxes that was packed back in the late 50's when my great uncle moved from Flushing, NY up to Grand Isle, VT. The box was then brought down here to CT in the late 90's. It had never been unpacked. So this handbag would have belonged to my great aunt Lou, whom I never met.
Here you can see some of the contents of the box. That thing with an old fashioned telephone dial is a neat phone number file. You dial the first letter of the name of the person you want to call and the thing opens to that page.
And here is a closer look at the hand bag. Could my great aunt have been the woman with the alligator purse that we used to sing about?
On the inside of the bag is this interesting second purse frame attached to the big one. It pivots and has two extra pockets but it is not attached at the bottom so the main compartment is not split in two.

I found it interesting how many different thoughts and feelings looking through the items in this purse generated. First, as with any of the small boxes or fat envelopes I find, there is the feeling of excitement wondering what treasures I will find within. But then came a kind of feeling like I was violating some unwritten rule. A woman's hand bag is so personal. I almost felt like a kind of voyeur, especially since this woman was a stranger, a relative that I had never met and hardly ever heard much about. And what I had heard was not very flattering. My impression of her was that she was someone who really cared a lot about material things.
One of the things that struck me was how little things have changed over time in terms of what women carry with them. I laughed out loud when I found something that most women have in their purses...
yes, it is the crumpled, possibly used, tissue! How many of us have been so thankful for that tissue on various trips to a public restroom.
One of the tissues had been used by the woman to blot her lipstick. There were several different tubes hiding in the bottom of the purse. I really like the slim oval one.
And of course to go with the lipstick there are compacts
Many times the bottom of a woman's purse also holds some sort of jewelry...often a broken piece such at this elephant which I believe came off of an earring.
Of course there was some change, though not many of us still carry mercury head dimes. There were things to fix her hair, like combs, hairpins, ribbons, and hairnets. Buttons, safety pins, mirrors, key chains, pens, a ruler to measure things, and many pieces of paper.
There were a couple of things that I don't think you will find in many hand bags now, I don't even know what two of them are.
I recognize the garter and the button hook, and I know that is a bolt but even Dad didn't know what it was for. And that brass thing winds so that the shaft with the point is hidden in the tube. I almost cut myself when I twisted the darn thing. Dad didn't know what that was for either, so I decided it was for self-defense since that thing is so sharp!
There was also this cool souvenir from Rigi Kulm. It is a note pad made of celluloid with a tiny pencil on a string. There are still notes on some of the celluloid pages.
But I have to admit that my impression of my great aunt was not much changed when I really looked at some of the scraps of paper. Most of them were ads from newspapers of things she wanted to buy.
I wonder what kind of impression the belongings in my own purse would make on a stranger 60 years from now.


  1. Great post...like modern anthropology .

  2. Very interesting, makes me want to go clean out my purse!

  3. How wonderful! Thanks for sharing your discovery with us. Great post.

  4. Thanks for the comments ladies. It is nice to know that my ramblings strike a chord for others.

    Lindy, What have you discovered in your purse? I hope yours is made of felt! ;)