Emma Jane Gay|
(1830 - 1919) U.S.A.
E. Jane Gay was born in Nashua, New Hampshire in 1830 and was educated in New York. In 1856, she traveled with her friend Catherine Melville to Macon, Georgia to found a school for young women. Gay taught at the school until its closing in 1860, and went on to administer a Washington, D.C. school for children with Melville until the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War in 1861.
From 1861 to 1865, Gay worked alongside Dorothea Lynde Dix as a nurse tending to wounded soldiers for the Union Army. After the war, Gay worked first as a tutor to President Andrew Johnson's grandchildren, then as a clerk in a dead letter office (1866-1883).
In 1888, Gay began teaching herself photography. In 1889, she was hired as the photographer and cook for an expedition led by anthropologist Alice C. Fletcher, an old friend and agent for the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs. From 1889 to 1893, Gay traveled as the photographer with the expedition to the Nez Perce Indian Reservation in Idaho. Gay's letters and photographs vividly capture the expedition's experiences with the Nez Perce in the American West.
After her return from the West, Gay lived in Washington, D.C., until 1906 when she traveled to Europe with one of her nieces, Emma Jane Gay (1859-1924). While in England, Gay and her niece published her photographs, illustrations, and letters from the Fletcher expedition to the Nez Perce in a two-volume book entitled Choup-nit-ki, with the Nez Perce. Besides providing a first-hand account of U.S. policy toward the American Indians under the Dawes Act, Choup-nit-ki, with the Nez Perce is an excellent window into the social conditions on the American frontier in the late nineteenth century.
After publishing Choup-nit-ki, with the Nez Perce, Gay decided to remain in Somerset, England, where she lived with her friend Dr. Caroline Sturge. Gay died in England in 1919 at the age of eighty-nine.
Emma Jane Gay photographs depicts Nez Perce reservation life. The photographs were taken between 1889 and 1892. In the Idaho State Historical Society there are 425 prints, 425 glass plate negatives.
Photograph of Emma Jane Gay by Julius Ulke - Washington D.C. 1875 - Schesingler Library, Radcliffe Institute